The Malik Report
Updated big time at 9:21 PM: It appears that the Red Wings may in fact bring back Chris Osgood as Wings GM Ken Holland tells the Associated Press’s Larry Lage that the team’s top priority this week involves either signing or trading for a back-up to Jimmy Howard—or standing pat:
“The market for goalies is pretty picked over,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’re comfortable with Chris Osgood if we have to do it.”
Osgood has won three Stanley Cups, two as a No. 1 goalie, and 401 games, mostly with Detroit. But he played in only 11 games last season, recovering from sports hernia surgery in January. Holland might re-sign Osgood, bring back Ty Conklin, who won a career-high 25 games for the Red Wings during the 2008-09 season, or trade for someone to spell Jimmy Howard.
“I have gotten calls from teams, looking to trade a goaltender,” Holland said. “I need to do something and I probably will this week.”
The Wings definitely have limited options on the free agent market in terms of finding a back-up—Conklin, Marty Turco, Ray Emery
and Curtis McElhinney
(whoops, McElhinney signed with Phoenix today) are the best available options out there—so a trade might make sense (and if the Wings choose to move Jiri Hudler, that opens up a spot on the roster for the team to get a little bigger and/or faster)...
The Red Wings’ moves both immediately prior to and shortly after the start of free agency this past weekend have, at least in theory, stabilized the team’s blueline and afforded the team the ability to rebound from the loss of Brian Rafalski via committee, with cap space at the trade deadline to spare (just in case), and while Ken Holland went back into stealth mode on Sunday, the Wings’ press corps reviewed Holland’s brief body of work in detail, starting with a somewhat bold assessment by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
Suddenly, there are nine NHL-worthy defensemen on the Wings’ roster. There’s certainly not much concern anymore. [Ian] White and [Mike] Commodore join Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Doug Janik on the blue line.
“We feel good with the people we have,” Holland said.
Smith is the Wings’ top prospect but he, now, likely won’t be on the Wings’ roster when the season begins. That’s ideal. The Wings like their defensive prospects to be “over-ready,” and Smith, who starred in Grand Rapids last season, will get one more season to refine his skills. Janik is a veteran depth defenseman who can be shuttled between the Wings and Griffins.
There was no way that the Red Wings would or could have been able to replace Brian Rafalski via the unrestricted free agent market, not in one of the available players, anyway, but Ken Holland managed to both plug the gaping hole on the Wings’ blueline and save a significant amount of cap space for the Wings’ future endeavors over the course of the past three days, first re-signing Jonathan Ericsson to an inflated contract to stave off another subtraction and then making amends for it by retaining Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller and adding bite to the Wings’ defense via depth defenseman Mike Commodore and would-be journeyman Ian White.
For a grant total of $1.25 million more than Rafalski earned last season, Holland’s investments signal a bit of a shift in terms of philosophy in the best sense of the term, and to put the theory bluntly: when you’re missing an element from your team, it is best to pursue the players that annoy you the most.
More than a few fans and executives aren’t exactly delighted by the fact that the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres have jacked up the free agent marketplace’s asking prices by paying through both nostrils—in the form of front-loaded and signing-bonus-loaded contracts—to attract marquee talent, but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks essentially makes an argument for both the salary cap floor and its inevitable rise forcing general managers to at least attempt to make their teams competitive:
[T]he willingness shown by franchises in Columbus, Buffalo, Florida and Calgary to spend and then spend some more if necessary is a good sign for the league, which instead of seeking to use the next round of labor negotiations to pound every team down to the lowest common denominator by reducing the cap and eliminating critical tactics such as front-loading on long-term deals, should be seeking ways to direct more revenue to small-market teams with small-minded owners who live for charity and sympathy.
Overspending for overspending’s sake, which is what it appears the Panthers did to reach the floor, is silly, especially when the spree concludes with Jose Theodore as the team’s No. 1 goaltender, but at least general manager Dale Tallon seems to recognize that the onus is on management to build a winner in order to get people to come to the building.
The math adds up as usual, in both personnel and term. On July 1st, about sixty players signed with new teams as unrestricted free agents, following up two high-profile trade-and-sign moves (Ehrhoff and Wisniewski) and half-a-dozen guys beating the deadline to re-sign with their own teams. On Saturday, I rolled out of bed early after a 16-hour day because while the fireworks happen on Canada day, and while my co-worker Alanah so wisely noted that signings happen but aren’t necessarily reported on the 2nd and 3rd because reporters in the U.S. and Canada are taking time off for our respective national holidays, the moves that make your eyebrows rise happen on the second day, usually including the biggest-profile player of the bunch (Richards) making up his mind, as well as a mix of subtle (White, Bergenheim), shocking (Vokoun) and just plain silly (Connolly) signings hit the wires in staccato fashion.
From here on out, however, all bets are off. There are some years when July 3rd yields an, “Okay, the biggest guy (Richards) signed and the other guys have made their, ‘If we didn’t get the guy(s) we want, we’ll go with plan B, C or D moves’ (Connolly, Gagne, White), so it’s time for us to get the best of what’s left” day, and other years, it seems like the GM’s go golfing until the fifth or sixth.
A solid assessment of the “Where we go from here” state of things comes from the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby, who spoke to Maple Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis about the shape of things to come for the Kaberles, Arnotts, back-up goalies and attractive restricted free agents still out there…
As mentioned in the Ian White post, both MLive’s Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirmed that the Red Wings are kicking the tires regarding possibly bringing Ty Conklin back to Detroit as Jimmy Howard’s back-up, and Pleiness discusses the possibility thereof in detail:
“Obviously that’s our top priority over the next few days,” [Red Wings GM Ken] Holland said. “We’re not close on anything.”
Holland said that he had been in talks with a possible backup, but he felt that [the] goalie was going in a different direction. A source told The Macomb Daily the Wings have been talking with Ty Conklin, one of the few remaining viable options.
“You’re always looking to upgrade,” Holland said. “Are we comfortable once we get a goalie signed going into training camp? Yes. But we’d also like to upgrade if we could.”
Conklin played one season with Detroit, 2008-09, and went 25-11-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. He played the last two seasons with the St. Louis Blues in a backup role, struggling last year with a record of 8-8-4 and a 3.22 goals-against average GAA and .881 save percentage.
The options out there are relatively scant in Conklin, Marty Turco, Ray Emery, Curtis McElhinney and the perpetually-injured Pascal Leclaire, so it might behoove the Wings to get a deal done with Conklin unless they want to bring Chris Osgood back. I don’t see the Islanders giving away Nabokov at this point (and the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek confirmed this morning that the Isles no longer have to worry about waivers when moving Nabokov), so the best “free” goalie available is probably Conklin or Emery.
Updated 13x (!!!) at 8:50 PM: The Wings have made their move in terms of attempting to replace Brian Rafalski, per MLive’s Ansar Khan
The Detroit Red Wings have signed free-agent defenseman Ian White to a two-year contract for $2.875 million per season.
Details to follow.
The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness confirms.
Update #1: If you look at his stats via the Sports Forecaster, he’s no Brian Rafalski, but at 5’10” and 191 lbs, he’s decently big, right-handed and can probably put up 35 points for the Wings. He’s also a very good skater.
Now onto the back-up goaltender’s market.
Update #2: More text from Khan:
Updated 3x with the full presser transcript at 2:49 PM: I truly hope that someone will post a full transcript of Jaromir Jagr’s conference call with the media on Saturday, because the Twitter updates regarding his commentary suggest that he quite literally broke the bull[expletive] meter while rationalizing his decision to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers for $3.3 million dollars, spurning both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, as more aesthetically pleasing (because the Flyers have right-handed centers), somewhat selfless (more money was on the table from other teams…in…some league…) and absolutely, positively not the product of stringing anyone along or making false promises, as noted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe:
Jaromir Jagr is not apologizing for not signing with the Penguins: “I didn’t promise anybody anything,” Jagr said in a conference call Saturday. “If the Penguins feel like I did something wrong, you know, I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong. If they feel like that, I can’t change their minds.”
Jagr said he had a brief conversation with Penguins Mario Lemieux. When asked if his relationship with Lemieux was damage, Jagr did not give a specific answer: “I talked with him once,” Jagr said. “Wasn’t for very long. He talked about the organization. I didn’t talk with him since I left the NHL.”
The Detroit Red Wings made a calculated move in choosing to watch in Friday’s free agent frenzy from the sidelines, and they did so for good reason—by 3 PM on Friday, Wings GM Ken Holland’s decision to sign Jonathan Ericsson to a 3-year contract extension at $3.25 million dollars per season (as it turns out, per Capgeek.com, there’s a modified no-trade clause in there) seemed downright sane, if not cautious, given the marketplace values established by GM’s who spent money like it had an expiration date and/or was on fire.
Blink. Paul, Alanah and I worked like a well-oiled machine on Friday, coordinating our schedules down to the, “I’m going to get food” or, “Restroom break, boss?” minute, grinding out what looks like…somewhere north of 80 signings and/or entries over the course of about ten hours on the first day of UFA day, with a good forty of those entries coming over the first three hours thereof. I can’t say that it was delightful waking up after four hours of sleep to pull that kind of marathon, and Saturday will see at least another 20 guys sign, so this is definitely a working weekend, but it was fun to be part of a blogging machine.
I’ve already been pulling long days due to the Jaromir Jagr saga, and in all honesty, as soon as I read that his agent had approached the Penguins—never mind the rest of the dramatics—I didn’t want him to come to Detroit. I figured that his heart really was set on finishing his career with the Penguins, and, well, good for him. Trying to cover the Wings’ and Pens’ takes and the Czech press’s interviews after that point, about a week-and-a-half ago, was just about being thorough. But through those translations, I met someone who I can now best describe as a character from Dr. Strangelove made real in his agent, Petr Svoboda.