The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/01/14 at 01:01 AM ET
Updated 4x at 5:27 AM: For many Red Wings fans, May involved taking a break from hockey, occasionally reading about the exploits of the Grand Rapids Griffins, and then Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs and Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm, and going back to watching the NHL playoffs.
Over the next 35 days, the Red Wings' management will get down to the business of shaping the face of the 2014-2015 Wings roster, and the roster for years to come.
Between tomorrow and the draft in Philadelphia, which takes place on the 27th and 28th, the Wings' amateur scouts, pro scouts, coaches and management will hold several organizational meetings to outline the team's plans regarding its restricted and unrestricted free agents-to-be, its draft strategy and its free agency outlook.
The first of several meetings will take place from June 2nd to June 4th at Joe Louis Arena, and the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the team's first order of business involves determining which free agents to bring back, which free agents (please see: Capgeek's lists of forwards, defensemen and goalie UFA's-to-be) to target on the open market, and which players might be available via trade:
The Wings estimate they have $20 million in salary cap space headed into next season, but some of that will go to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan and defenseman Danny DeKeyser.
Per Capgeek, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco and the currently in-limbo Joakim Andersson will be restricted free agents a summer from now, as will Petr Mrazek...
And again, the team can choose to retain the services of or cut ties with nine more restricted free agents-to-be by either submitting qualifying offers or letting the following players walk--and you can be certain that the first one is a goner: Cory Emmerton, Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan, Trevor Parkes, Will Coetzee, Gleason Fournier, Max Nicastro, Andrej Nestrasil and Trevor Parkes constitute a fair portion of the Griffins' roster, and some of them won't be back.
As noted on Saturday, there's the whole issue as to whether Bill Peters or Tom Renney will leave to coach another team, too (and again, as Holland told MLive's Ansar Khan, he's going to try to extend the contracts of both Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill), but for the present moment, it's about the UFA's-to-be:
Of the team’s unrestricted free agents - forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, David Legwand and Mikael Samuelsson, defenseman Kyle Quincey and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson - almost all are expected to be gone. Holland will be reaching out to the players’ agents following the three-day council. The Wings are waiting to hear if Alfredsson, 41, even wants to play another season, but if he does, there’s interest on their part. As for the others, it’s a good bet Quincey will see what he can get on the open market because UFA defensemen tend to reel in big money, and in Gustavsson’s case, the Wings will have to determine if they’re not better off having prospect Petr Mrazek serving as backup to Jimmy Howard.
It's getting down to crunch time for Alfredsson, and while he's remained in Detroit--the Red Wings' players with school-age children are still around for the most part--he's going to learn in a hurry that the organization tends to demand stay-or-go decisions prior to July 1st. The team will have to weigh Gustavsson's desires into the equation as well, but there's certainly no sense that Quincey's going to return at this point, especially if he pulls the, "I'm going to survey the market and circle back and check in" maneuver.
“I want to hear what our scouts think of our young players, talk about what we need, and formulate a plan,” Holland said. He spent this past week in Toronto at the NHL combine to prepare for June’s draft, which sees the Wings pick all the way up at 15th overall.
If you read NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale's discussions with former Wings director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell (who now works for Jim Nill's Dallas Stars) or New Jersey Devils amateur scout David Conte, there's little to no consensus as to "who goes where" after picks 1-5, so if Holland is going to take a "skater" (as he told Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Matt Dery), your guess is as good as mine as to which of the North American or European "skaters" are on the team's radar, or whether the Wings may end up trading down to snag a lower first-round pick and grab a 2nd-rounder given that the Wings' 2nd round pick belongs to Nashville this year.
“It’s going to be an important three days,” Holland said. “I respect the opinions of our pro scouts, I want to hear how they evaluate our team, and go over the other 29 teams, especially the ones in the east. We’re hoping to be active, we’re planning to be active.”
St. James continues, and in addition to dropping the usual UFA names, she adds this:
There’s also the possibility of trading, especially if Vancouver makes available Alexander Edler, a defenseman in whom the Wings have considerable interest.
I'd prefer Christian Ehrhoff over Edler at this point, but Edler's gone from a top-tier defenseman to a reclamation project and a half, and it bears repeating that the Wings' status as an Eastern Conference team makes it much easier to deal with far-off Vancouver than it is to send prospects toward a divisional and possible playoff rival in Buffalo.
There's also the whole, "The Wings wanted to pick Edler with the draft pick they ended up using to snag Johan Franzen in 2004, but the Canucks had seen Edler play and grabbed him a few picks before Franzen" (though the Wings would've picked Franzen in the next round anyway) dynamic, but you already know that.
Otherwise, I kind of emptied out the notebook for the afternoon and evening posts; if you wish to see more pictures of Jimmy Howard and Kris Draper taking part in Adam Henrique's street hockey tournament, the Windsor Star's Joel Boyce provides a few of 'em;
The Free Press's Carol Cain also noted that her March 30th conversation with Darren McCarty had more than a few people criticizing someone who's an admitted alcoholic and former drug addict still both drinking the not-so-occasional Bud Light and smoking marijuana to alleviate chronic pain...
But what qualifies as "less than sober" is as good as it's going to get for McCarty, so I'll leave the judging as to whether McCarty's setting a good example, a bad example or a human example up to you.
Long story long, I know that some of you may feel hockey-deprived, and I may still feel a little hockey-burnt-out after having covered the Griffins, the World Championships and the aforementioned Mantha and Bertuzzi over the past month, but the vast majority of the coaching, personnel and prospect changes that will define the shape of the Red Wings and Griffins' rosters will take place over the next five to seven weeks, and as the last week of June and first week of July approach, the changes will be taking place very quickly, so enjoy the respite and buckle up.
Update: So this is what it looks like when the OTHER press corps wonders about Wings prospects--just so you know what happens when the shoe is on the other foot.
The Dallas News's Mike Heika believes that Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is being "overworked," and as one of the faces of the franchise, he feels that Lehtonen can become the next Henrik Lundqvist if Lehtonen's actually given some solid back-up goaltending support...
Henrik Lundqvist has been the key to getting the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals, and he is known as one of the world’s elite goalies.
But his numbers during the regular season weren’t that different from Lehtonen’s. Lundqvist played 63 games (fourth most in the NHL), went 33-24-5 and had a 2.36 goals against average and .920 save percentage. Lehtonen played 65 games (most in the NHL), had a 33-20-10 record with a 2.41 GAA and .919 save percentage.
While many worry that Lehtonen’s heavy load cost him in the playoffs, Lundqvist has managed. The 32-year-old has gone 12-7 in the postseason with a 2.03 GAA and .928 save percentage, and he closed out the Eastern Conference finals against Montreal with a 1-0 win.
And Heika argues that the Stars would benefit from going away from the, "Just find a veteran back-up" model and move toward the model espoused by, oh, say the Kings, the Ducks and the Canadiens, who are (theoretically--this is all Heika-talk as opposed to, oh, I dunno, reality) allowing multiple younger goaltenders to "push" their starter:
Yes, having Jack Campbell around is great. If he could just get healthy, he could be close to becoming an NHL back-up at age 22. Yes, Philippe Desrosiers seems a great prospect at age 18, but he’s years away. So instead of trying out veterans such as Tim Thomas, Dan Ellis, Andrew Raycroft or even Cristopher Nilstorp, maybe the Stars should find a younger goalie to battle with Campbell for the backup spot.
Anaheim has done it with John Gibson, 20, and Frederik Andersen, 24. Montreal did it with Dustin Tokarski, 24.
So can the Stars find that guy? Chad Johnson, 27, is a possibility. He’s an unrestricted free agent after going 17-4-3 as Boston’s back-up this season. Devin Dubnyk, 28, is another possibility, but he’d need a rebuild after being traded twice this season and ending up with Hamilton of the AHL, where he went 2-5-0 with a 3.33 GAA and an .893 save percentage.
Or the Stars could go after someone else’s top prospect. Would Boston trade Niklas Svedberg or Malcolm Subban? Would Colorado trade Sami Aittokallio? Would Detroit trade Petr Mrazek or Tom McCollum?
This is what happens when somebody starts throwing around names without looking at an organization's depth or the lack thereof at a particular position, and when they don't look at Capgeek to see who's locked up and for how long.
This is also why I kind of make uncomfortable faces when people tell me that the Wings should just throw money at restricted free agent-to-be P.K. Subban because one of the NHL's biggest moneymaking franchises surely wouldn't match a $9 or $10 million salary (of course they would), or people ask me what it would take to, oh, I dunno, get Marian Hossa "back from Chicago" or Drew Doughty or something.
Um, a superstar of equal value in return, AND a deal-sweetener, if they were available at all (and they're not), especially with Hossa locked up for a Zetterberg-like amount of time and Doughty earning fine bucks for anothe five years.
Would I like to see the Wings be able to acquire a 30-goal-scorer or a top-pair defenseman who isn't Edler? Sure, but the players many of you very understandably dream of aren't available to begin with, and if they were to be available, well holy shit, you'd be selling all the horses, the barn and the farmhouse. It doesn't work that way. You can't just go out and grab players in a salary-capped league anymore, and you can't attempt to out-spend a Montreal if the *#$%@&' Nashville Predators are willing to match offer sheets to keep their "franchise" players.
The landscape's changed, and in the Red Wings' case, there's certainly no way that the Wings would just surrender Mrazek for someone who isn't a sound goaltending prospect to "help" the Stars. Not with Jake Paterson just about to turn pro, Jared Coreau having endured an incredibly rough pro debut and McCollum actually on an AHL-only deal (the Stars could certainly offer McCollum an NHL deal, but if there ever was an over-valuing of someone who's redeeming his pro career and isn't waiver-exempt anymore...).
Throwing names around is fun and it's easy. But it tends not to foster realistic discussion as to which teams possess an overabundance of actual players at a certain position and/or teams which may have contractual or cap concerns and are actually in need of jettisoning some salary.
Fun is fun, but our dream rosters reflect an NHL that doesn't exist anymore.
Part the first: I'm not about to apologize for the previous comments, nor am I going to edit them or delete them, but I'm going to try to explain why I feel the way I do about wild and crazy (albeit fun) speculation:
For people like Paul and me, who try to report factual stuff and try to keep level heads, the period leading up to free agency is the least enjoyable part of the entire year. It's worse than the trade deadline, by far, because the cap goes up (inevitably) and rumors spread like wildfire (inevitably) and some of them are conveniently dropped by agents to the press, and some are conveniently dropped by GM's to receptive press outlets (see above: Edler).
Then UFA day actually comes, and it turns out that a teeny tiny minority of people actually get their hunches right, and they lord around their guesses and/or occasional actual inside information (see: former player agent Brian Lawton saying that Parise and Suter to Minnesota was a done deal the night before the pair finally quit dithering), and we have to say, "Yes yes, well done for throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks" most of the time.
It's an aggravating time of year. The fact that I'm a partisan fan makes it worse because I'm just as worried about the Wings "getting better" as you are, and I'm just as put off by the repetitive "back-up plan" signings and Ken Holland's baffling belief that re-signing alumni players won't remind you why you didn't re-sign them to begin with. But I have to try to keep a level head and write about what happens regardless of what I think about it, and while some people might call me complicit or an apologist for not protesting more loudly because the GM did not do exactly what I wanted him to do, I'm just not that kind of blogger, and I'm generally incredibly busy on and around July 1st, so I have to be honest and say, "Well, I guess this is what happened, and here are the pluses and minuses" instead of freaking the hell out.
So the honest-to-Pete truth is that the best part of the year for me is when the Wings make the signing if it's a good one and I'm excited, and when it's over and I can finally get in some actual rest when things don't go as well.
Part the second: in the evening report I noted that Zach Nastasiuk came out with quite the haul at the OHL's Owen Sound Attack's end-of-season team awards gala and/or barbecue, and he spoke with the Owen Sound Sun-Times' Bill Walker about the season that was (and if you can take a hint, it appears that Nastasiuk is heading back to Owen Sound given that he's the team captain):
"These awards are a testament to how good my teammates are," Nastasiuk said on Saturday. "It was a fast year in the sense that I was always moving and it was very busy. It's nice to finally be able to relax."
Nastasiuk received the Butch Keeling Memorial Award for playoff MVP, the Jerry Reid Memorial Award for regular season MVP, the Society of Energy Professionals award for Players choice, the Dave McComb Memorial Award for leadership and perseverance, and the Attack Pak Fan Club award for fan club favourite.
"It's very humbling to get these awards," said Natasiuk. "I certainly couldn't have done it without my teammates. These awards are for them too. It's not just me. It's them and the coaching staff and the city of Owen Sound. It's an honour."
As Nastasiuk said, it was a busy year for him as he entered his first season as an NHL draft pick and his first season as captain of the OHL's youngest team. He also took part in the OHL-Russia Series.
"We wanted to make sure we hit a home run (with a captain) ... and I think the proof is in the pudding," Attack coach Greg Ireland said. "That he was able to come in and garner these award is a testament to us getting it right."
I also need to mention this: Today, June 1st, is when 2012 draft picks' who aren't enrolled in NCAA colleges have to be signed, and again, the Wings will let Rasmus Bodin wander back into the Swedish minor leagues. Yes, he's 6'6," but he was less physical than Jakub Kindl on a bad day and never really got his stuff together.
That's okay. Not every 6'6" guy becomes a power forward. It happens. The Wings will deal with it.
Update #3: Via RedWingsFeed, We All Bleed Redd on YouTube posted quite the comment from Mike Babcock:
Update #4: GP.se's Mattis Wikstrom penned an article about Mattias Janmark's tour of the SHL on Friday evening, and apparently Janmark's a little bit closer to making a decision as to where he's going to play for the 14-15 season. What follows is roughly translsated, and it sounds like he may end up playing for the Frolunda Indians:
Hunted by the whole SHL, but is very close to signing with Frolunda
He's been hunted by the entire SHL, but after a visit to Gothenburg, Mattias Janmark, 21, is close to signing with Frolunda.
"I've ruled out several teams. Now it's between three or four--and Frolunda is one of them," he confirms.
Frolunda's lookng for a new center, and at the top of their wish list is Mattias Janmark, 21, who registered 30 points for AIK Stockholm last season, where he played as a first-or-second-line center.
Now it's a race to sign him. But Frolunda's at the forefront, having given Janmark a tour of Gothenburg on Thursday.
"It was great fun to see the town a little more," says the Stockholm resident. "And above all, the practice facility--first-class. And it would be great to play in the Scandinavium [Stadium]. Frolunda had a really good team last year, and I'm sure that will be the case in the fall. The team has plenty of good things to offer," says Mattias Janmark.
He's been part of Par Marts' national team several times, but unlike several 90's-born players, not [Frolunda coach] Roger Ronnberg's. Janmark never got to play for the Junior National Team.
"No, unfortunately I never played for Ronnberg--but I've heard very good things. My friends who played for him say he was very energetic, spent a lot of time and energy coaching. They gave me a very good picture of him.
Among the teams Janmark has visited, according to GT's information, he's visited HV71 (Jonkoping) and Linkopings HC. One of the main issues is that the team must be the best springboard to take the 21-year-old forward.
He's been drafted by Detroit, but not yet signed to a contract.
"Hopefully that happens next season. I of course want to go over sometime," says Janmark, as it relates to the NHL. "It doesn't matter when--right now my focus is on the next season."
When will you decide?
"Hopefuly sometime next week. I'm not rushing anything, but it would be nice to make a decisoin so I can start really focusing."
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.