The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/28/14 at 02:02 PM ET
I'm just getting back into the swing of things after dealing with a severe anxiety attack a couple of days ago (I tend to talk about my depression more regularly, but my anxiety's more debilitating, and yes, 36 on a one-to-ten scale can indeed leave you in need of sensory depravation), but even having been out of the loop for a bit...
Assets: A polished two-way performer, he displays both offensive acumen and shutdown capability. Can play wing if need be and has tremendous determination. Has the size teams crave at the center position. Gets under opponents' skin. Is money standing in front of the opposing goal on power plays.
Flaws: Is a little inconsistent when it comes to both producing points and playing the body. Will occasionally cross the line in his attempt to get opponents off their game, and has become increasingly reluctant to drop the gloves. Injuries have crept up due to his rugged style of game.
I believe Kesler's statements suggesting that he wants to remain a Canuck, and as he grew up an Avs fan and went to Ohio State while turning down scholarships from U of M and MSU (Hometown ties for the Livonia boy? Not so much), I'm going to defer to JJ from Kansas on Winging it in Motown regarding what a certain Ken Holland had to say to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun about his trade deadline priorities:
"The phone lines seem to be heating up," Holland told ESPN.com Thursday. "We would prefer to do a hockey deal -- meaning a player that's on our roster going forward [past this season]. Unfortunately, we're on the bubble. It's hard to risk that if we miss the playoffs, to trade a high draft pick or a real top prospect for not even a playoff run. At the same time, we feel that the kids that we've got -- Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Jurco -- they have really made a positive impact on our hockey team. Looks like they're going to be around here for a while and they should be getting better."
And there's more coming from AHL Grand Rapids, as well. The Wings have done a sensational job of building the base back up without having to finish in the basement of the standings as most organizations do.
Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and Adam Almquist aren't waiver-exempt next season, where Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi have disappointed, Daniel Alfredsson's excelled, "The Monster" may end up buying Petr Mrazek more developmental time in Grand Rapids, and while Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet are no longer at the top of the, "Holy crap fast learner!" news pile, they're both doing well, as are Teemu Pulkkinen and Calle Jarnkrok.
And then there's the whole, "Everygody is going to be asking for what might be a draft-lottery-eligible 1st rounder if the Wings don't make the playoffs as well as those Mantha and Athanasiou guys" scenario...
So the delicate balance right now is that the Wings have a shot if they get in, but they don't want to send away future assets for a short-term fix.
Holland was careful not to mention any names, but I think it's safe to say that the Wings would not entertain the likes of rentals Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson or any other high-profile, pending unrestricted free agents. I suspect the Wings would be open to a rental on the blue line in terms of paying a small price for a depth defenseman.
Now what about a hockey deal, as Holland suggested? Again, Holland wasn't specific, but to me, center Ryan Kesler is the type of player the Wings would have interest in, if the price was right. He's signed past this year, he's a two-way stud, and he's a Michigan kid.
My sense is the Wings will keep an eye on that situation in Vancouver between now and Wednesday's deadline.
Yeah, but LeBrun goes on to say that the price for Kesler is FRICKIN HUGE, and lest we forget, between a healthy Henrik Zetterberg/Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Joakim Andersson, as well as the, "Center-in-a-pinch-able" Johan Franzen, and the Wings aren't hurting up the middle.
Now we're finding that in addition to Alex Edler being available on the line, Christian Ehrhoff had to submit his, "Don't trade me there" list, as reported by TSN (previous link) and ESPN's Craig Custance (paywall article)...
“There’s still good interest in another four or five guys,” [Sabres GM Tim Murray] said. “Nothing specific -- kicking tires.”
There have been inquiries on defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, for good reason. He’s a legitimate top-4 defenseman with a low cap hit of just $4 million through 2020-21. His actual NHL salary is on the decline since his deal was heavy on bonuses early on. He has a relative Corsi (per behindthenet.ca) of 11.0 on a team that is outshot 34-27 each game, on average. He’s underappreciated and that happens sometimes on bad teams. He’d be a great addition for a team looking for defense but because of the new CBA’s cap recapture penalty, the Sabres would get crushed if they traded him and he retires early.
According to the handy cap recapture calculator on CapGeek.com, if the Sabres traded Ehrhoff to the Philadelphia Flyers today and he retired at the age of 37 in 2020, the Sabres would get hit with a $10 million cap penalty during the 2020-21 season. The return on trading Ehrhoff would have to make it worth the risk.
“Part of the return would have to, I guess you could say, recapture the recapture,” Murray said.
Would I like to see the Wings add, say, a Steve Ott, a big net-front presence? Yes, definitely, I said so earlier this morning, but trading with an Atlantic Division rival may be tricky, and I really do believe that the Wings are going to go with youth unless they can snag a top-four defenseman--assuming that the Wings aren't crossing their fingers that a Niskanen, Meszaros or Andrew MacDonald might hit the unrestricted free agent marketplace this summer (which is the Red Wings' historically preferred method of adding a significant roster addition).
Via RedWingsFeed, 97.1 the Ticket's Jeff Riger is also trying to throw some water on the, "I don't care what it takes, Bring Kesler Home!" chatter that's lit up social media and sports talk radio of late, too (and let's not forget that Kelser is famously 1. Moody/distant and 2. Sometimes requires a Mule's worth of cattle-prodding to play up to his potential):
I think it’s safe to assume that if the Canucks were to deal Kesler, they wouldn’t want guys like Drew Miller, Luke Glendening, Kyle Quincey or Joakim Andersson. Instead players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan would be the targets and it would be a bad idea for the Wings to part ways with them. All four forwards have already shown great promise and skill in their short time with the Wings. In fact, you can make the case that it has been the young guys that have helped put the Wings in a position where they can make the post season for a 23rd consecutive time. The ice time of Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelson and Todd Bertuzzi has gone to the “kids” and this team is much better for it. In fact it should have happened earlier.
Also Nyquist, Jurco, Tatar and Sheahan don’t make anything. They’re perfect players for the salary cap era. They contribute, they’re young and they’re cheap. The four forwards combined have a salary cap hit of just over $3 million while Kesler alone has a cap hit of $5 million.
And one of above four players is just a third of what Vancouver will want. Detroit would still have to offer up a 1st round pick and a prospect or worse, maybe two of the above forwards depending on how bad Holland would want Kesler.
The pick doesn’t bother me all that much but the potential prospect might.
By now you have heard about Anthony Mantha, the 18 year old winger that has 50 goals and 55 assists in 50 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Mantha is 6’5 and has the potential to be the next big thing. Sure, I might be wowed by his 105 points and yes he’s not even playing in the AHL yet, but dealing him for anybody at this juncture of his career would seem very foolish. Despite Detroit having a ton of very talented forwards and defenseman in their organization, it would seem that Vancouver might ask for Mantha and if he’s not available you have to wonder how many other quality prospects it might take to acquire Kesler? The price just seems way too high.
The Wings are in a great place, they’re playing extremely well right now and their future is very bright. They have the best of both worlds. A trade for Kesler; because he is such a big name and would command such a high price is not a good idea. Stick with what you have, continue to develop the younger players, don’t break up what seems to be a very good chemistry and see if you can make a run in the playoffs.
As Riger duly notes, those of us who are Red Wings prospect supporters and want to keep Ken Holland away from free agents (at least non-prospect-aged ones) with a 50-foot pole for the next couple of summers unless any more Daniel Alfredsson, "Hey guys, I wanna come play for you" scenarios occur (see: jury is out on Weiss, Colaiacovo had to be bought out, Tootoo will probably be next, and the team's history with Samuelsson/Conklin/Williams/Quincey/Bertuzzi/Cleary suggests that over half the time, when the Wings bring a former player or a nearly-signed-elsewhere player back into the mix, they're reminded of the reasons why the team and player "broke up") are definitely assuming that more players than not will pan out--and that's just not true, prospect development is an art more than a science, and the players have more to do with determining whether they're going to turn out to be the next Derek Meech or the next Gustav Nyquist than the team does...
But there really is a sense around the team that things shouldn't be screwed up unless the Wings can add what many of you would call a "real top-pair defenseman" aas some of you don't think Niklas Kronwall's up to snuff, and regardless of your opinion on Kronwall, I think we can all agree that Ryan Kesler would not solve the Wings blueliners' inability to produce offensively outside of the first pairing.
And as more contentious developments in what seem like an inevitable court date for a retired Todd Bertuzzi simmered and percolated in the Canadian-based press, the Globe and Mail's Roy MacGregor (their "Canadiana" reporter) noted that the Red Wings took a bite out of Ottawa's attempt to snag that final wild card spot (and no, Chris Phillips to Detroit = no way in hell under Bryan Murray's reign) by stealing the, "Olympians return to NHL" show on Thursday:
Detroit was the story of the night, with fully a dozen representatives on hand from the Sochi Games, including a remarkable six for the silver medal-winning Swedish team: Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyquist and Jonas Gustavsson. (Another Swede, Johan Franzen, was chosen for the Olympic team but did not recover from injury in time to play.) Other Wings involved included Russia captain Pavel Datsyuk, U.S. goaltender Jimmy Howard, Slovakian players Tomas Tator and Tomas Jurco, Team Canada coach Mike Babcock and Team Canada executive Ken Holland.
There were even players on hand with things to prove to those who went to Sochi. Senators forward Bobby Ryan was on the ice to show the American hockey brain trust that, had they only trusted in his hands, they might have answered the single goal that Canada needed to defeat U.S. in the semi-finals.
Three minutes into the game, it appeared as if Ryan might have done precisely that: giving Ottawa an early, and important, lead as the puck ended up behind Gustavsson following a goal-mouth scramble that left Ryan lying on the ice and the puck in the net. Unfortunately for Ottawa, video review showed he had kicked the puck in. That early hope, however, soon dissipated into despair as the Wings took over the game and the Senators settled into what is arguably their worst effort of the season.
Promising Ottawa rookie Cody Ceci set the debacle in motion when the young defenceman inexplicable tried a blind drop pass in his own end, leaving the puck on the blade of Riley Sheahan for a quick wrist shot that beat goaltender Robin Lehner glove side.
Then, the Olympians took over. Another Ottawa giveaway gave Franzen his 10th goal of the year. A perfect pass by Alfredsson gave Franzen his 11th. Jurco scored on a lovely behind-the-net pass from Tatar.
Franzen completed his hat trick to make it 5-0 before, wouldn’t you know, Ryan scored a real goal. Less than a minute later, Tatar from Jurco took it to 6-1 on only 16 shots.
The Wings are going in the right direction, and yes, perhaps adding a bottom-pair defenseman (Tom Gilbert?) or an Ott might help their cause for the present moment, if not going forward in the, "They don't have that in the system" senses of the term regarding a real top-pair defenseman or net-front guy...
But trade deadline prices are usually "INSAAAAAAANNNE," and the Wings don't need to damage their long-term future for the sake of making a run for a playoff spot with the players currently on their roster.
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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.