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The Jiri Hudler issue, part 2: why he might choose to explore free agency and leave the Red Wings

Updated with Parise/Suter talk at 1:16 PM: The comment section went a little crazy after I posted an article in which the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggested that, despite the Wings’ need for a goal-scorer, they may not retain Jiri Hudler’s services, and MLive’s Ansar Khan provides a corollary to St. James’ argument:

Put simply, given the incredibly thin crop of goal-scorers available in this summer’s free agent class, Hudler will probably be able to earn much more than the Wings could slot him in for, and that’s why Khan believes that Hudler will leave the Wings to cash in

[D]espite making coaches happy by going to the net, Hudler remains one-dimensional. He’s not strong defensively, can’t kill penalties and doesn’t skate well.

The Red Wings would like to retain him, but probably at no more than around $3.3 million per season. They won’t pay Hudler more than Johan Franzen, whose cap hit is $3.95 million. They also aren’t going to give Hudler more than what they project paying Filppula on his next deal.

Filppula is coming off a breakout season with career highs in goals (23) and points (66), even though he struggled in the playoffs (no goals, two assists). He’s strong defensively, he kills penalties, he’s a fast skater and a more complete player than Hudler. Entering the final year of his contract at $3.5 million (with a $3 million cap hit), Filppula could make a case for being slotted ahead of Franzen on the pay scale. Regardless, he’s ahead of Hudler in the pecking order.

The Red Wings won’t fret if Hudler leaves. They could use the money to pursue somebody like Semin, Jones, PA Parenteau of the New York Islanders or Ryan Smyth, if he doesn’t return to Edmonton. That’s assuming Parise stays in New Jersey.

Plus, it would provide promising Gustav Nyquist with a greater opportunity to log more ice time and play on a top-two line. They also have Tomas Tatar, a grittier, better-skating version of Hudler, waiting in the wings.

After the Red Wings were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs, Hudler told M-Live, “Obviously, everybody knows how I feel about Detroit. I like it, the fans. I don’t know (about the future). We’ll see. It’s a great group. It’s a great hockey team.’‘

As Khan suggests, given that Hudler might be able to make $4 million or more on the open market, just as it’s hard to imagine the Wings retaining him, it’s hard to believe that Hudler’s agent, Petr Svoboda, has any intention of allowing his client to do anything less than cash in as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Update: Speaking of free agents looking for greener pastures, ESPN’s Craig Custance pondered whether Zach Parise or Ryan Suter might choose Minnesota over Detroit in his latest subscriber-only insider blog entry:

The influx of high-end talent will also be a selling point on July 1. Fletcher can’t say it, but expect the Wild to make a serious run at Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, armed with the salary cap flexibility created during the past year. Money won’t be an issue, but convincing these players that they can win in Minnesota will be.

Parise has Minnesota connections, which may help the cause with him, but why would Suter leave a perennial playoff team in Nashville to take a chance on the Wild? Why would he roll the dice with Minnesota when the Detroit Red Wings can offer salary and a track record of deep playoff success?

That will be the challenge this summer for [GM Chuck] Fletcher and the Wild.

“When you look at our team, we think there could be potentially a confluence of several positive factors for us going forward,” he said. “The infusion of the young players with an awful lot of cap flexibility. We feel certainly this summer and the years going forward, we have our best opportunity yet to dramatically improve our team.”


I found it interesting that Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison would talk so openly about his interest in joining the Vancouver Canucks, especially since he’s still in talks with the Panthers about a contract extension and won’t hit the market until July 1. When I spoke with Panthers GM Dale Tallon about it, he said not to read into the comments too much, and he remains confident a deal can be completed before July 1.

“I have no issue with what he said,” Tallon said. “He said he’d prefer to stay in Florida. We feel the same way about him. We have to make sure it’s right for both parties. We like his development and what he brought to the table playing with [Brian] Campbell. We’re looking forward to continuing the relationship.”


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J.J. from Kansas's avatar

When was the last time a Selke winner played in his team’s bottom six?

Also remember that was the year that Datsyuk and Zetterberg were both Selke finalists.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/25/12 at 01:26 AM 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.