The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/29/11 at 09:26 AM ET
Aside from the usual international press whopper (Brad McCrimmon will coach Lokomotiv Yaroslavl next year), this morning’s crop of Sunday columnists’ conversations offers good discussions of the respective states of the Red Wings’ blueline and crease going forward—including Jonathan Ericsson talking about his desire to remain with the Wings, albeit in Swedish:
Wings GM Ken Holland spoke to the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson about the Wings’ belief that their blueline should survive Brian Rafalski’s departure because it’s time for Niklas Kronwall to truly shine—and as such, Holland tells Matheson that the Wings might look for a solid #3 guy instead of a top-two defenseman on the free agent market:
“We’re not going to find a Brian Rafalski on the open market but I think we can move (Niklas) Kronwall up to take Brian’s spot on the power play. We haven’t let him be Brian Rafalski for the last four years. Any time we had a No. 1 power play out popped Brian and (Nicklas) Lidstrom. Late in the game, out popped Lidstrom and Rafalski or four-on-four. Those situations now, Kronwall will be there. Nik’s only 30 years of age. He might not be quite the puck-mover Brian was, but he’s got a physical dimension to his game that Brian didn’t,” said general manager Ken Holland.
“If we get Nick (Lidstrom) back and I don’t have any idea if he is, we’ll still have two world-class puck-moving defencemen to run a power play. We’ve got Brad Stuart, so that’s three guys, but, yes, if Kronwall replaces Rafalski, we need somebody to replace Nik. We might need a second-pair defenceman,” said Holland, who will scour the free-agent list. Jonathan Ericsson (also unrestricted) hasn’t yet proven he can be a No. 4 guy. Young Jakub Kindl looks like a No. 6. The wild card is Brendan Smith, who has superior offensive skills, but is only 22. Maybe he’ll turn into a Cam Fowler.
The Wings hope that Kindl will become a sort of non-physical version of Jiri Fischer if he can regain the kind of form he displayed during his junior hockey days, and Smith isn’t exactly Cam Fowler—he’s much bigger and not as fast—but the Wings believe that he could very well develop into Kronwall’s successor.
Also regarding the Wings’ long-term plans, Matheson essentially confirms Hakan Andersson’s suggestion that, when he is finally ready to come over, Calle Jarnkrok won’t need any seasoning in the AHL:
For the doomsayers who feel the Detroit Red Wings are bereft of young prospective high-end forwards, they have an excellent Swedish centre, Calle Jarnkrok, who played in the Swedish Elite League this season, and Finnish winger Teemu Pulkkinen, who’s in the Finnish Elite League. Both are 19. Jarnkrok, a dogged worker at both ends of the ice and a right-handed centre, is only 165 pounds, but there are whispers he’s better than the Washington Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom was at the same age. And Pulkkinen (183 pounds) was rookie of the year in the Finnish men’s league, finishing in the top 10 in scoring. Jarnkrok was a second-round pick and Pulkkinen a fourth-rounder last June.
Now this is just an educated guess, but I think the Wings will probably look for a speedy winger (I really like Alex Khokhlachev, who the Wings’ website profiled on Saturday), a goaltender (more on that in a minute) and the usual crop of puck-moving defensemen to re-stock the cupboard in this year’s draft.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock knows they need to improve the back end, but he surprisingly went a step further in a radio interview, saying they need a top-six forward, too. They need a younger guy to push Todd Bertuzzi and Tomas Holmstrom. Jiri Hudler isn’t a top-two-line guy; in fact, he may be trade bait. As free agents go, the best two free agents by age and price might be Washington Capitals’ Brooks Laich and former Wing Ville Leino, who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers two years ago in a cap squeeze when his progress stalled. The other possibility: Alex Tanguay in Calgary.
Flames GM Jay Feaster told the Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall that he’s going to re-sign Tanguay, so that’s not going to happen.
As for the trade-Hudler-versus-trade-Filppula equation?
Three factors play into the equation here:
1. The first involves the depth chart. The Red Wings may go into the 2011-2012 season with only five real centers in Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm. If Kris Draper returns and/or Cory Emmerton makes the team, things change, but at present I can’t imagine the Wings wanting to get rid of Filppula as he’d be the Wings’ 2nd-line center if Datsyuk and Zetterberg play together.
Danny Cleary and Johan Franzen can play center in a pinch, but doing so negates their effectiveness as forecheckers, and they’re not particularly seasoned at taking faceoffs. I don’t see the Wings asking Darren Helm or Justin Abdelkader to center their second line over the long haul;
2. In terms of risk versus reward, Hudler’s assets are more tangible. Hudler once posted 23 goals and 57 points, and the season prior to that he posted 42 points. Even this season, Hudler registered 37 points, so he’s a consistent 15-to-20 goal and 40-to-50-point guy with 30-goal and 60-point potential. Everybody knows he can dart in and out of scoring positions on the right wing and that he’s pretty decent at sniping and setting up teammates.
Filppula has never exceeded hitting 40 points on the dot and registered 19 goals a few years ago, but he’s generally established himself as a 10-to-15 goal-scorer and 35-to-40-point producer. Filppula’s speed, adaptability to play on the wing and defensive abilities make him an intriguing player, but at this point, it looks like Filppula will never become the 50-to-70-point-scorer that the Wings envisioned him to be.
In terms of adding scoring punch to your team, if you’re interested in making a trade, for all his frustrating inconsistency, Hudler’s rewards are more tangible than Filppula’s;
3. Most importantly, we’re going into a potential lockout year, and while Hudler makes $3 million real-world dollars, he’s got a cap hit of $2.78 million and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. If Hudler doesn’t work out for a team, poof, he’s gone. Filppula’s cap hit of $3 million belies the fact that he makes $3.5 million in real-world dollars for both the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons, making Filppula a longer-term investment who might screw up a team’s cap figure if there is a lockout which reduces the players’ share and chops ten million bucks off the cap’s upper limit.
Let’s add a #4: I don’t believe that the Wings can get anything more than a mid-round pick and/or a depth player for Hudler—think the Ville Leino trade, where the Wings got a mid-round pick and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen—if they plan on dumping his salary, but the truth of the matter also involves the fact that Filppula had a very good playoff showing and essentially bought himself one more year to prove to the Wings that he’s worth the investment, while Hudler did very little to impress the Wings’ brass.
I don’t see the Wings parting with Filppula without having to take on the same salary they’re giving up (and you can bet that whoever would acquire him would demand that the Wings take an underachiever in return), whereas Hudler’s both an easier salary dump and a more intriguing player in terms of getting something for very little, and earning a possible return on one’s investment without a long-term relationship in the offing thanks to the single year remaining on Hudler’s contract.
I just don’t see the Wings moving Filppula, if they move anybody (it’s entirely possible that they’ll stick with Hudler’s “known quantity”). Hudler’s easier to move to dump salary and he’s more interesting in terms of adding a concrete high-risk-high-reward player to another team’s roster while committing less than half the capped dollars that are due to Filppula over the next two seasons.
Whenever one is attempting to play GM and make a theoretical trade, you have to work from the opponent’s perspective, because there’s no such thing as a deal that’s made to “help” your team. I’d also argue that, as the Sporting News’s Craig Custance suggests, this year’s thin crop of free agent forwards only includes three real targets for the Wings if they are to not shop in the bargain bin—Brooks Laich if they’re looking to spend bucks and Tomas Fleischmann or Radim Vrbata if they’re willing to take on players with red flags.
You can toss out the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont’s, “well, the Wings would like to bid for Shea Weber” spiel via Custance, who confirmed that the Predators plan on matching any offer sheets for Weber, and Holland himself, who told MLive’s Ansar Khan that he simply won’t toss an offer sheet to a restricted free agent to begin with.
At the other end of the ice, Custance also let us know that Chris Osgood is fully healthy and, like Kris Draper, he’s weighing family concerns and the Wings’ willingness to take him back as he decides whether he wishes to continue playing.
There’s good news in the blue paint, regardless of whether Osgood returns, however, via the Free Press’s George Sipple: Joey MacDonald would very much so like to return to the Wings, giving Detroit a superb #3 goaltender or #2 option of they choose to replace Osgood on the cheap:
MacDonald was 5-5-3 in 15 games with the Wings and had a 2.58 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. In 20 games with the Griffins, MacDonald was 10-9-1 with a 2.78 GAA and an .894 save percentage.
“This is where I want to be,” said MacDonald, who will be an unrestricted free agent again this summer. “Fortunately ... I spent pretty much the whole year here and got an opportunity to play and played pretty well.”
MacDonald played in Grand Rapids from 2002 to 2007 and appeared in eight games with the Wings during the 2006-07 season. He left the organization in 2007 to go to the Bruins and ended up playing with the Islanders and Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliates before returning to the Wings last summer.
If he wants to stay, I’m sure the Wings will have him…
And as for Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce, Sipple believes that the Wings would attempt to sign another veteran to helm the Griffins’ crease and help McCollum regain his confidence…
McCollum, the 30th overall pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, struggled this season, splitting time between Grand Rapids and the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League. The Wings will likely need to sign a veteran netminder in Grand Rapids to help with McCollum’s development when goaltending coach Jim Bedard isn’t in town.
But I’d argue that, especially if MacDonald ends up in Detroit, the Griffins will simply allow McCollum and Jordan Pearce to battle it out in the Griffins’ crease. Pearce was fantastic over the second half of the season for Grand Rapids, and there’s no reason to believe that he’ll be anything less than their starter next year unless McCollum unseats him.
Somewhat ironically, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan suggested that Detroit remains a place where free agents want to play, and both MacDonald and Jonathan Ericsson are reiterating the fact that Wings players want to stay in Detroit, even if doing so means they’ll earn less than they would somewhere else.
Ericsson has repeatedly stated that he wants to remain a Red Wing in both English and Swedish, and today, he tells Folkbladet’s Par Andersson that he still wants to stay with the Wings if at all possible.
Keep in mind that this article’s written in the classic Swedish “tabloid” form, so it’s overdramatic. Ericsson was pissed off when the Swedish press reported that his agent’s decision to turn down a $2 million contract offer was turned into “Ericsson’s leaving the Wings!” headlines, and his dad hasn’t spoken to the Swedish press since that time, either, so Ericsson’s probably not buying the line that Andersson’s selling, either:
“Jonte” at the crossroads
His hockey career in Detroit might be over. Jonathan Ericsson recently moved out of his house in Michigan and temporarily moved to an appartment in Trotzelligatan in Norrkoping.
“It’s a little uncertain where I’ll play next season,” he says.
After three successful seasons with the NHL’s Swedish team, the Detroit Red Wings, Jonathan Ericsson is at a crossroads. The question is how much—and at what price—Detroit’s biggest boss, Ken Holland, wants to keep the giant defenseman from Lindo?
The issue’s complicated by the fact that NHL teams have to take the salary cap into account. The Red Wings are also a team with quite a few older and more expensive players.
Wants to stay
“The Red Wings are my first choice. I like the organization, and everything about the team,” said Jonathan during an interview in Vasa Park.
So it’s not that the city of Detroit’s the main attraction. It’s not exactly a tourist magnet.
“No, there’s not much to see there,” he admits.
Vita Hasten-trained “Jonte” feels at home in Novi, the suburb outside the city where he’s lived for the past three years, and where he has several teammates who are his neighbors. At the same time, he can’t rule out a move across the North American contract to a team that offers him a gold-lined contract.
“I know there are teams that are interested, so whatever happens, I’ll probably remain in the NHL. And Detroit has the first say,” he says. “I think everything will work itself out in late June or early July.”
You’ve seen parts of the United States. Where would you like to live if you could choose on your own?
“I’ve always loved Chicago, though hit can be cold and windy at times. It feels like a bigger version of Stockholm. And I like Florida’s climate.”
In this season’s playoffs, the Red Wings lost to the San Jose Sharks, who defeated Detroit 4 games to 3. It was a difficult result.
“When we were eliminated I just wanted to come home and I did so pretty quickly, though the moving company had forgotten to carry out the order. It was a pain before it got worked out.”
At the last moment, Jonte found a firm that could take away his possessions for safekeeping. He gave some things away.
His new car—a Corvette—is being shipped across the Atlantic by boat.
“Yeah, it will show up soon and I’ll drive it fast,” he says.
Bought a house on an island
Jonathan doesn’t look like an extravagant fellow, but of course he’s invested the millions he’s earned from hockey.
Aside from some cars, he’s also bought a house on an island off Arkosund. A full house which must be renovated.
“I could see myself living out there in 50 years, but there’s a lot that needs to be figured out in the near future.”
The work leaves him with warm hands. While his dad Sven is a woodworking teacher, Jonathan’s skills with a hammer and saw are limited.
“But I helped my brothers build a bridge last summer,” he points out.
His big brother Jimmie plays, as we know, with Skelleftea AIK and on the Swedish national team.
“Jonte” has another brother (Jesper, playing in Finspangs AIK) and two sisters. And a mom and dad.
Follows the Wolves
His summer schedule is understandably jam-packed. There’s much to catch up upon. Possibly also a charter trip with Evelyn, who met Jonathan during his playing time with AIK Sodertalje. He hopes to watch an IFK Norrkoping [soccer] game, hopefully watching the Wolves play by the speedway.
Wolves? You don’t say?
“I’ve followed them since I was little. I follow the Wolves on the internet when I’m in the U.S.,” reveals the 27-year-old
There’s a wedding, too. But not Jonathan’s. Instead, it’s his friend from Grand Rapids and HV71, national team goalie Stefan Liv, who’ll get hitched this summer. Last year, Henrik Zetterberg and Emma Andersson married. Many of the Red Wings showed up and it was a memorable weekend.
Jonathan Ericsson is hoping to play for at least another decade in the NHL. If his 195-CM-long body is able. Then he’ll probably return home to Norrkoping for good. To finish his career with Vita Hasten.
“As it appears now, I can imagine playing for Vita Hasten at the end of my career,” he assures us.
Finally, Jonte, who’ll win the Stanley Cup?
“Vancouver. They deserve to win it this time.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: The Free Press’s George Sipple reports that Mike Babcock, Chris Osgood and Ted Lindsay attended Ian Jenkins’ memorial game;
• For the record, Severstal Cherepovets picked Calle Jarnkrok in the KHL’s entry draft. It doesn’t mean much as Jarnkrok will remain with Brynas IF;
• For the record, part 2: Igor Larionov’s prize pupil, Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, won the CHL’s rookie of the year award;
• The New York Post’s Larry Brooks doesn’t believe that Brian Rafalski was one of the five best American-born defenders…
So there are Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch, Mark Howe, Rod Langway and Derian Hatcher as the five best American defensemen in NHL history.
That’s a fact.
Question. Who completes the third pair: a) Rafalski; b) Phil Housley; c) Mathieu Schneider; d) Mike Ramsey?
• And Red Wings social media coordinator Jake Duhaime picked Game 5 of the Wings-Sharks series as the 2nd-best Wings game of the 2010-2011 season (for whatever reason, the NHL disabled the embedding feature on its video clip of highlights from the game):
May 8, 2011
Red Wings 4, Sharks 3
On this night, the comeback kids could not be denied.
Trailing 2-0 and 3-1, the Red Wings received a trio of third period goals from Jonathan Ericsson, Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom, forcing a Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena.
Jimmy Howard made 39 saves, including a perfect 8/8 while shorthanded. Niklas Kronwall also scored for the Wings.
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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.