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The Off-Season Plan For The Detroit Red Wings

from Scott Cullen of TSN,

Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Red Wings roster that has some talent, but now has to actively try to get younger because the core of older players isn’t good enough to maintain what they had been doing for more than a generation.

This isn’t necessarily going to be an easy process, either, because Detroit has committed some long-term contracts to players who aren’t very productive, so it’s going to take time to get out from under all of those commitments. 

But, the approach is what matters. If the Wings can start the process of shedding some of their pricier deals and replenish the prospect pool, then they can start looking to the future with some sense of optimism. 

The challenge in doing that is that it will require moving out players that the organization has been committed to for a long time and while that loyalty has been a strength in the past, it’s part of why the Red Wings are in the position that they find themselves now.

HEROES

Henrik Zetterberg – The 36-year-old centre had 68 points, his most since 2011-2012, and had strong possession numbers on a weak team. 

read on (covers all the bases)....

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Comments

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I think I agree with every single word of this article.

Posted by VPalmer on 05/17/17 at 07:07 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

Cullen hits close to Wings needs/problems/players. Unfortunately a TSN writer can see what KH can’t or doesn’t want to.

Sad long term situation!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 05/17/17 at 07:44 PM ET

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WR….that is the most disturbing aspect of this whole scenario. KH made some deals that the league later basically reneged on but t he last couple of years have been real boners. The money and term for Abby, Helm, DDK, and so forth, was uncalled for. He’s have been better off to trade them at the TDL than to sign them for a premium.

For the next 2-3 years, it will take more than luck to correct these errors and I have to question now whether KH is the right person to correct his own mistakes. His recent moves don’t create much confidence.

Posted by NewfieWing on 05/17/17 at 09:44 PM ET

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Off-season plan:

1) Hire competent GM
2) Things will slowly get better due to point #1

Posted by fatsavage on 05/17/17 at 10:18 PM ET

AzWingsFan's avatar

A new GM isn’t going to fix things because the guy who would hire the GM needs to go as much as Holland.
Chris I needs to go the Toronto route, move or retire Jimmy D, bring in a new President to run the team. Let the
New president watch for a year and assess things and build an action plan and next summer start it. Let Holland
Goto the Leafs and let the Wings get a new GM who can rebuild the team. Leadership starts at the top and Mr I.
Was that and it was carried down to the players. We have to hope that Chris cares like his dad did and wants a
Winner, because if he doesn’t doesn’t matter who the next GM the team will still be a bubble or less team.

Posted by AzWingsFan on 05/17/17 at 11:18 PM ET

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KH can still possibly rebuild the team if he can admit (not publicly, but at least to himself) the stupidity of the long term contracts he signed in the last 18 months. But my biggest concern is that he might be the only person who still does not think that signing bottom 6 forwards to long term lucrative deals is bad management.
For all we know KH might still be thinking the reason we missed the playoffs last season was that Abby, Helm and Howard were injured for long stretches of the season. Those 3 healthy, a better year from DK. another veteran D (Brendan Smith?) and forward (Vanek?) and we will be “in the thick of things”.  That type of thinking is my major concern.

Posted by VPalmer on 05/18/17 at 08:50 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Spot on assessment, the only thing the article avoids is the elephant in the room, and that is that hockey is not only a sport, but a business, and the owner just made a significant investment in that business, and investments of that magnitude do not usually coincide with tearing down the operation.  I think that would be true for any NHL owner, not just Mike and/or Chris Illitch.

The mistake that we will painfully live through, was the unwillingness to rebuild when the window opened in 2013–14. That’s when the sell of should’ve began, and allows you to move into a new arena with a much better pool of prospects in your system, and cap space available to retain them.

The other thing he overlooks is the void of leadership Zetterberg would leave if we traded him, and how important that is in a team full of kids, not to mention the retirement recapture penalty that stays with the Wings. Wings have more options to LTIR or hide Z’s deal if he’s with the team in 2-3 season than if he’s not.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 05/18/17 at 09:34 AM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

hockey is not only a sport, but a business, and the owner just made a significant investment in that business, and investments of that magnitude do not usually coincide with tearing down the operation

Unless you are the Miami Marlins, who re-branded and built a new stadium on the backs of loaded contracts from the free agent market as the owner looked committed to building a winner.

That still really cheeses me off.

Posted by ilovehomers on 05/18/17 at 09:40 AM ET

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The other thing he overlooks is the void of leadership Zetterberg would leave if we traded him, and how important that is in a team full of kids, not to mention the retirement recapture penalty that stays with the Wings. Wings have more options to LTIR or hide Z’s deal if he’s with the team in 2-3 season than if he’s not.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Hey Hey Hockeyfart on 05/18/17 at 09:34 AM ET

So without Zetterberg we’re a team full of kids? Isn’t this why we re-signed Abby and Helm, to go along with a few more years of Kronwall and Ericsson, while Nyquist, Tatar, and Glendening are all going to be 27-29 years of age next year, not to mention the UFA additions like Nielsen and Green, the former who will be here for 5 more years. Yeah, without Zetterberg we’re like a group of teenagers.

Posted by fatsavage on 05/18/17 at 09:57 AM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

Posted by fatsavage on 05/18/17 at 09:57 AM ET

Larkin, Mantha, AA, Jensen, XO, etc. I am sure MC was using some form of hyperbole, but without Z, there is NO leadership on that team, besides Kronwall. None.

Take a chill pill and read into some context clues. If you examine every word anyone ever types…oof.

Posted by ilovehomers on 05/18/17 at 10:19 AM ET

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What troubles me is that Holland might look at Nashville’s and Ottawa’s success in the playoffs and keep that “we just need to get in” mentality without looking at just how different those two teams are from the current Detroit team/coaches. Those teams finished way ahead of the Wings in the standings for a reason and the only reason it wasn’t worse is because the Wings picked up so many shootout points.

Posted by evileye on 05/18/17 at 10:19 AM ET

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There would be a leadership void if Zetterberg was traded. Any team losing a player of that magnitude would have a void. But the likes of Abby, Helm, Tatar, Nyquist, Green, Dekeyser and dare I say Ericsson should be filling carrying on that role by now.

I’d hate to see Z traded and it would have to be something he’s agreeable to but the Wings need to explore all long-term options. Can he duplicate the results of last season. If not, this might be the best time to trade him.

Posted by evileye on 05/18/17 at 10:25 AM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

the likes of Abby, Helm, Tatar, Nyquist, Green, Dekeyser and dare I say Ericsson should be filling carrying on that role by now.

I just don’t see it. Maybe I have a hard time grasping the concept, but how do you go Yzerman -> Lidstrom -> Zetterberg -> any one of those guys?

If Z retired today, which ONE guy do you think would be captain? Kronwall, okay. I would prefer to have 3 A’s instead. Give the C to Larkin when he is ready.

Posted by ilovehomers on 05/18/17 at 10:29 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Posted by fatsavage on 05/18/17 at 09:57 AM ET

To clarify for you again, I said, a Zetterberg trade would create a void of leadership, not that his departure makes us a grade-school team.

Who considers Abby, Helm, Kronwall, Ericsson, Nyquist, Tatar, and Glendening leaders? Is that talked about locally and nationally like it is with Zetterberg? Maybe Kronwall?  Abby will grab a mic, and I have heard some guys mentioned Glenndenning.

Seems like you really like to put words in people’s mouths, and also disappear from threads when you have no argument back, internet trolls tend to do that, your not a troll are you fatsavage?

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 05/18/17 at 10:32 AM ET

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I just don’t see it. Maybe I have a hard time grasping the concept, but how do you go Yzerman -> Lidstrom -> Zetterberg -> any one of those guys?

If Z retired today, which ONE guy do you think would be captain? Kronwall, okay. I would prefer to have 3 A’s instead. Give the C to Larkin when he is ready.

No doubt, moving from Z to any of those guys is a downgrade. I don’t even bring Kronwall into the equation because he’ll be gone before too long. But Kronwall would get the C with Tatar/Abby/Larkin/Dekeyser in the mix for As. Evaluate it again after each season. The Wings will need a true leader to emerge.

 

Posted by evileye on 05/18/17 at 10:40 AM ET

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The other thing he overlooks is the void of leadership Zetterberg would leave if we traded him, and how important that is in a team full of kids,

You suggested that the rest of the roster was “a team full of kids”. Sorry. That just isn’t true…Kronwall, Ericsson, Green, Nielsen, Helm, Abby, etc…Are any of these guys in the same level as Yzerman to Lidstrom to Zetterberg? No. I never said that. I merely refuted this exaggeration that our roster is Zetterberg with a team full of kids. The end.

Posted by fatsavage on 05/18/17 at 10:54 AM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

Posted by fatsavage on 05/18/17 at 10:54 AM ET

Well, here at KK/TMR we like to have discussion that are valid, insightful, and a sparring of rightly held opinions. Please get in line.

Posted by ilovehomers on 05/18/17 at 11:02 AM ET

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” Xavier Ouellet– How the Wings set their protected list will be interesting. Would they leave someone like Kronwall or DeKeyser unprotected? If so, Ouellet is just waiting to be taken as a cheap option to play on Vegas’ third pair.

Nick Jensen– Signed for two seasons on a relatively bargain deal, Jensen may be bait for Vegas to avoid other Red Wings in the expansion draft.”


Scott Cullen gets it and, yes, this was a pretty solid analysis for a guy who is trying to cover all NHL teams.

But I was a little puzzled by the above analysis regarding expanion targets.

Yes, we could lose Ouellet - in fact, as of now, it seems most likely. Which is pretty senseless when you
consider what Cullen said about Ouellet above: has some upside, is at least as solid a defender as most if not all of the more expensive guys. So we lose him for nothing, right when the main goal has to be off-loading bad contracts.

But the part I don’t understand is about Jensen. Jensen may be “bait” for the Wings to “avoid losing other Red Wings in the expansion draft”.  ?? Like Nick Jensen?? Like Xavier Ouellet? If you think Jensen has more upside and value to the team than Ouellet, then you protect Jensen. I guess Cullen ends up doing that. But if you also think what he seems to think about Ouellet, and one of the biggest goals is moving out big contracts, you expose DeKeyser.

Maybe Vegas takes him. There’s a decent chance. And I seriously doubt Holland would ever admit error on such a recently signed deal, and especially for a home-state find like DeKeyser. But exposing him is still the most rational approach, according to Cullen’s criteria. Or see if there’s a trade market for DeKeyser (with the expansion draft looming and many teams already concerned about whom to protect, maybe not).

So, he has us moving out Howard, somewhere, somehow. And LV taking Ouellet. And we add Tommy Wingels and an aging, Kevin Klein who’s had a diminishing role in New York. I guess it doesn’t really matter - the Wings aren’t going anywhere anyway. But they’ve lost Ouellet for nothing, their better goalie as of now for??? And no other contracts have been moved out. The Wings are pretty stuck and Holland is not the GM to get them unstuck. But I’m still underwhelmed.

Posted by Lefty30 on 05/18/17 at 12:03 PM ET

SnarkinLarkin's avatar

Wow. So based on his depth chart the best we can hope for without a trade is…

Tatar - Z - Mantha
AA - Nielsen - Nyquist
Abby - Larkin - Svechnikov/Frk
Bert/Glendenning - Nosek - Helm

I’m thinking high 2018 draft pick.

Posted by SnarkinLarkin on 05/18/17 at 01:33 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Posted by Lefty30 on 05/18/17 at 12:03 PM ET

Dekeyser is certainly not a top pair dman, and he’s certainly over paid, but he’s not breaking down old pile of bleep with no upside that must be moved at all costs either. 

The problem with DDK to me, is that he was exposed too soon on top pair duties due to Kronwall’s decline as a viable hockey player.  He is probably a #3 type of guy right now, and was thrust into a position he was not ready for. That was only his 4th professional season as a player, the kid came right from college, and I think putting him in a position to fail, impacted his growth.

You look at this season, Kenny at best is going to trade for a 2nd line dman, nobody is trading us a top line guy, they’re too valuable. if he does than maybe DDK is a moveable option.

But if not, I don’t believe at this point, any dman we have is better than DDK, sad but true.  So if we blow him out, who replaces him?  Do we move Jensen up in his 2nd year, (1st full)  and have him and say Ericson and/or Green be our top pair? My god, Jenson might quit hockey. Go after and overpay Shattenkirk with the freed up money? 

I don’t mind losing salary of say Helm and Abby because they have no more upside to grow into their deals, and we have guys who can replace them, but I’m not sure we have someone ready to replace Dekeyser, even if he is overpaid and even if he is playing higher in the pecking order than he should, and even if he only marginally improves.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 05/18/17 at 01:57 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

I’m thinking high 2018 draft pick.

Posted by SnarkinLarkin on 05/18/17 at 01:33 PM ET

I hope your right, add to that trading Nyquist Green and whatever 1 year UFA Holland adds at the deadline and that is the best outcome for the Wings can hope for!

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 05/18/17 at 01:59 PM ET

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Murray,

While I agree with you that it is not just a sport it is a business.  I disagree with you on the timing.  A new arena buys them one year of attendance at Wings games.  There really isn’t a better time than now to blow it up.  After the newness of the arena wears off, people are not going to pay the higher prices that came with it to watch a losing team full of late 30’s players clogging cap space. 

This arena is part of a much larger business deal.  The wings are becoming a filler for the arena and a means to attract other business.  Frozen four, NCAA final 4 hockey, Pistons, All star weekends for NBA and NHL, The arena is already booked for the fist year, and it isn’t near finished.  It concerns me that the Wings may not be a business focus for Chris I. after the arena opens and the next phases come on line.  Until they loose money it might not be that important.

Posted by murph1jj on 05/18/17 at 02:55 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Posted by murph1jj on 05/18/17 at 02:55 PM ET

One year is not enough in the NHL though, its is not the NFL.

Rebuilding in a sport with guaranteed contracts and drafting kids that are not pro ready beyond the top round if that, take seasons to do, and seasons before they show results, not a single season.  Toronto seems to be what people think of but they failed for multiple years.

I agree, we could dress an 80s hair band in wings gear next season and the seats will sell, but the time it would actually take? I’m not sure the new arena smell can last that long.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 05/18/17 at 03:51 PM ET

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Posted by MurrayChadwick from Hey Hey Hockeyfart on 05/18/17 at 03:51 PM ET

Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that one year would fix it, but one year would be enough to show encouragement that the team is rebuilding and heading in the right direction, and possibly give young talent a chance to grow and the fanbase something to look forward to.  It will be a number of years before we will be a truly cup competitive team.  I just think Blowing it up may be the shorter route when we look at the cap issues we have.  Keep the young future core players and move as many others as you can.  Even if you have to throw in a later pick or two just to clear up salary so we can afford to keep our performing youth.  One year of really bad with at least the hope of things getting better, rather than looking at several years of bad to worse before we drop off contracts and have flexibility, and possibly losing out on a star, either homegrown or FA because we cant afford them.

Posted by murph1jj on 05/18/17 at 05:54 PM ET

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That is a pretty good case for protecting DeKeyser.

But the Wings are nowhere close to being able to slot Dekeser correctly.
Maybe he has a bounce back season. Maybe
he is still young enough but experienced enough that we could use
him as a mentor/stabilizing presence once Kronner is gone and Green is hopefully traded for decent value.
Maybe he is young enough to be a solid second pair vet once the Wings have finally added some top-four
youth on D and are on the upswing.
And maybe we would be damaging guys like Jensen and Ouellet if they are overexposed - assuming DeKeyser is exposed and taken by LV.

It’s all pretty academic as I think we all seriously doubt Holland would ever expose him.

But the counter argument basically boils down to something MC has written a lot:
“Burn it all down”.

We are in long term cap hell. And have to find some way to shed some of those deals.

It’s not going to be easy. And if not DeKeyser, then who - and how?

Cap space for a bad team is itself an asset. We could get a good young prospect
or pick etc in exchange for taking someone else’s bad shorter term contract.

And also maybe be closer to picking top three than say top ten.
Maybe we even win a lottery and get a franchise player.

It’s entirely possible that as you say, Dekeyser is currently the best we have
and last season was growing pains in a very challenging role.

But his offensive, defensive and possession numbers were all
pretty poor. No super-partner for him is likely on the way.
Next season could be more of the same for him. Is he worth 5M
for four more seasons of taking a beating on the top pairing while the team goes nowhere?

Posted by Lefty30 on 05/18/17 at 07:38 PM ET

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Posted by MurrayChadwick from Hey Hey Hockeyfart on 05/18/17 at 01:57 PM ET

I generally agree here

Posted by VPalmer on 05/19/17 at 10:20 AM ET

Colin's avatar

I just think Blowing it up may be the shorter route when we look at the cap issues we have.  Keep the young future core players and move as many others as you can.  Even if you have to throw in a later pick or two just to clear up salary so we can afford to keep our performing youth.

We are in long term cap hell. And have to find some way to shed some of those deals.

It’s not going to be easy. And if not DeKeyser, then who - and how?

Cap space for a bad team is itself an asset. We could get a good young prospect
or pick etc in exchange for taking someone else’s bad shorter term contract.

Posted by various

It’s all fine and dandy to want to blow it up and start over. It’s a great idea and would definitely work for an NHL team, just not this one.

It’s unfortunate, but we have to face reality here: we can’t blow up this roster.

Let’s take a look at our big money players.

Forwards:

Zetterberg: 4YL | $6.1M
Nielsen: 5YL | $5.3M
Nyquist: 2YL | $4.8M
Abdelkader: 6YL | $4.3M
Helm: 4YL | $3.9M

Defense:
Green Excluded because of pending UFA status next year and it’s basically a sure thing he gets traded at the deadline anyway.
DeKeyser: 4YL | $5M
Kronwall: 2YL | $4.8M
Ericsson: 3YL | $4.3M

Goalie:
Howard: 2YL | $5.3M

Now, of those players, ask yourself two questions:

1. Do you really want to trade this player? For Zetterberg, DeKeyser and (IMO) Nielsen, no. Each of those players bring value to the team and are low on the list of toxic contracts on this team. Along with that, you’re not going to get much for them because of the term of their contracts, age, and/or performance. Anybody with half a brain shouldn’t want to trade Zetterberg anyway because his assured retirement would leave us with a big fat cap recapture penalty, and dead money doesn’t help rebuilding teams.

2. Will anyone actually want this player? Excluding the players listed above, any GM that likes their job would be a hard pass on anyone but Nyquist. All of these players are either very clearly in their twilight years (Kronwall), were never really that good to begin with, are declining, and have bad injury histories (Helm, Ericsson), or have a VERY long contract for a replaceable player who struggled this season (Abdelkader).

That leaves us with two players: Nyquist and Howard.

Nyquist could be moved this year, but you can’t expect all that much as he is thoroughly average in measurables for his contract and brings little in terms of intangibles (physicality, great 2-way play, PK ability) which makes his best value as a rental after next season for a team looking for scoring depth at the deadline for a playoff push.

Howard is more likely to be picked up by Las Vegas than traded this year. Teams that are looking to acquire goalies aren’t really interested in a guy with a bad injury history who had a year that can only be described statistically as an anomaly. A Calgary will only take one Brian Elliot and we’re hardly in a seller’s market for goalies anyway. Howard should really be moved after next season as a rental player, where his contract won’t matter as much and he could provide value to a team looking for playoff depth or who has goaltending issues themselves.

So we could force a move, maybe?

I wouldn’t recommend it in the slightest. Trading Nyquist or Howard now would be leaving potential future trade value on the table (2018 & 2019 offseasons) to clear cap space in a bad free agent AND draft year (2017 offseason). So really you’re just being impatient with a process that demands patience and you will likely pay for it in the long run.

Moving any of the other truly bad, emergency bad contracts (Helm, Abdelkader, Kronwall, Ericsson) will require, as the second person I quoted pointed out, the attachment of a good asset in a trade to get things done, or retained salary. Either of those options push back a rebuild because they eat into the best parts of our existing prospect pool or reduce the number of future prospects we can acquire or salary that we can take on in coming years, when the draft and free agent market will be MUCH better than this year.

In all, as much as I hate to say it, we need to sit on our hands for the next 2 years now more than ever. This team is bad enough that we will get the tank we want regardless of who gets traded, and with the biggest chunks of cap relief coming in 2 offseasons from now we will actually be in an excellent position to go after some seriously good Free Agents and will have 2 or 3 years of drafting and developing high 1st round picks as well. Franzen’s and Ericsson’s contracts come off the following year, and Zetterberg’s and Helm’s the year after that. By 2021, the only remaining albatross will be Abdelkader.

It’s great to look at a team like Toronto as a model of a successful rebuild in the making, but as Murray pointed out, we have a lot more pain to go through before that happens. We don’t have a Phil Kessel to trade for great assets, we have middling-at-best players who may in some cases cost more to trade than we get back.

Posted by Colin from Ken Holland's new yacht, "Incompetence" on 05/19/17 at 01:08 PM ET

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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.

 

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