The Malik Report
Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave penned a lengthy column about the probability of the Wings trading their first-round draft pick (it could happen) and/or one Anthony Mantha (which probably won't happen), and he focuses on Mantha's status by suggesting that it's simply not a very Red Wings-like move to give up on a prospect with as much promise as the 6'4," 210-pound Mantha after all of one disappointing season unless there's a "perfect deal" to be had:
Regarding Mantha, anybody who knows anything about Holland and how he believes in player development also knows that it would take an awfully good offer to pry Mantha away from the Wings. And how likely are they to get an offer like that, seriously? Come on, the other 29 teams in the NHL have pro scouts just like the Wings do, and they all saw how Mantha struggled to find his game in the American Hockey League.
So when Holland is asked about Mantha's status as an "untouchable" player in trade talks, can you blame him if he hedges a bit in his comments? If you held a gun to his head, and asked that question about untouchables among players who finished the year in Grand Rapids, you're likely to get just two names: Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Both have passed Mantha on the prospect list after their performances in the Calder Cup playoffs this spring, but Holland is hardly giving up on a kid who came off a broken leg and had a rough first year.
And one more thing, Holland points out: "The kid is only 20 years old. We have to give him time."
That's why this offseason may wind up being the most important three months or so of Mantha's career. He knows he has to beef up, and get stronger and quicker in the process. He was humbled this season, and if he can put that humility to good use in the gym and develop that big body into something that can thrive -- not just survive -- in professional hockey, then he'll once again establish himself as a player of the future in Detroit.
Gave continues, and I agree with him: unless there's a deal for a better defenseman than Dion Phaneuf in the offing (and who's to say that Phaneuf won't be Mike Babcock's #1 reclamation project in Toronto, as Babcock himself suggested?), the Red Wings would trade Mantha at their peril. There just aren't many large goal-scorers with size in anyone's prospect pipeline, and as Mantha's the only one in Detroit's developmental system right now, there's no point in bailing on the one type of forward you've been looking to acquire for multiple seasons because he had a mediocre rookie pro campaign.
As the Swedish newspapers have been reporting...
Here's the Wings' press release:
Detroit signs forward Axel Holmstrom to entry-level deal
2014 draft pick was Sweden’s Junior Player of the Year in 2014-15
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today signed center Axel Holmstrom to a three-year entry-level contract. In accordance with club policy, additional details will not be disclosed.
Originally drafted by the Red Wings in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Holmstrom skated in 44 games for Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League in this season, recording 20 points (10-10-20) and four penalty minutes. The 18-year-old forward ranked ninth on the club in scoring and tied for second overall in the SHL among junior-aged players. Holmstrom helped Skelleftea reach the SHL finals and led the league in postseason scoring with 18 points (7-11-18) in 15 games, breaking the league record for playoff points by a junior player. After the season, he was named the Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year. The Arvidsjaur, Sweden, native also represented his country at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, ranking fifth on the team with seven points (1-6-7) in seven games.
The 6-foot-1, 198-lb., forward spent the 2013-14 campaign with Skelleftea’s junior club, recording 38 points (13-23-38) in 33 games and making his men’s league debut with four regular-season games in the SHL. He totaled 45 points (17-28-45) and 12 penalty minutes in 46 games at the under-20 level from 2012-15 and notched 47 points (12-35-47) and six penalty minutes for Skelleftea in the under-18 circuit from 2011-14.
Holmstrom will be "loaned" to Skelleftea AIk of the SHL for the upcoming season.
Update: MLive's Ansar Khan confirms as much:
Tomas Tatar took part in a charity tennis tournament in Trencin, Slovakia this past weekend, and TASR's interview with Tatar--even un-translated--is somewhat revelatory regarding Tatar's take on one Mike Babcock's shelf life. Here's a very, very rough translation of what he stated:
"Being on the bench for ten years is too much. There needed to be change, even though Mike is an excellent coach. With Blashill we won the Calder Cup together in Grand Rapids, it was very similar to a hockey school. His communication with the players is a little better. It's partially the youth of a younger generation, but he's very successful, he's won many championships," said Tatar of the new coach during Friday's media portion of the tennis tournament Stars vs. the Stars of the Media cup in Trencin.
Tatar had his best NHL season this past year, registering 29 goals and 27 assists in 82 games played.
"People have big expectations on me personally, but the season doesn't always end the way you want it to. Of course, I want to improve every season. It may not be in terms of points, but I want to help the team more and more from my experience," added the Slovak winger.
Update: Via DRW Prospects on Twitter:
Richard Nedomlel tells NHL.cz that he still wants to play in the NHL someday, and his goal for the next season is to play regularly for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He turned down an offer from Sparta Prague last summer, and he has no desire to play in Europe at this time.
The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that the Griffins are down to the short strokes in terms of determining their next coach, and two of the three final candidates' names aren't surprising in the least:
Toledo Walleye coach Derek Lalonde and former interim Edmonton Oilers coach Todd Nelson are on a final list of candidates to take over as coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Both are among "two or three" candidates that may be further contacted this week, Ryan Martin, Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager, said in a text Monday.
As for a timeline to replace Jeff Blashill, Martin was hopeful it would be completed and announced this week. Blashill was officially announced June 9 to coach the Red Wings after three seasons with the Griffins.
The Red Wings' front office, which is in charge of selecting the new coach for the AHL team, planned to interview six candidates. They began the interview process three weeks ago when it became apparent Blashill would succeed Mike Babcock in Detroit. Lalonde was interviewed during that period. Nelson, meanwhile, interviewed Thursday.
Other names linked to the position have been Griffins assistant coach Pat Ferschweiler, Erie Otters' Kris Knoblauch and former Boston Bruins coach and recent Vancouver Canucks assistant Mike Sullivan.
This still qualifies as a "report," but in addition to the very-reliable "Mr. Madhawk"/Johan Svensson of Kvalsposten, Aftonbladet and Expressen point us toward a report from Norran, the newspaper that covers Skelleftea AIK, in which Adam Savonen reports that Axel Holmstrom's signed an entry-level contract with the Wings:
Axel Holmstrom has signed with Detroit.
According to information provided to Norran's blog, he's signed with the NHL team. Holmstrom was a huge success during this year's SHL final and now everything should be signed according to a very reliable source.
Detroit scout Hakan Andersson previously made it clear that Detroit doesn't plan on bringing Holmstrom over [to North America] this upcoming season. The super talent, born in 1996, will probably play next season for AIK.l
Two NHL contracts have been signed [by Skelleftea players] today, and they might not be the last ones.
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
"We're probably in a better position to explore trades than we were at any point in time because of the depth of our organization," Holland said. "But I don't want anyone to think 'They're making trades' because the trades have got to make sense."
When the Red Wings' management and scouting staff gathers for their annual pro scouting meetings this week they'll discuss trade and free-agent possibilities while formulating an off-season plan.
The Red Wings could use a top-four defenseman, preferably an offensive type who shoots right. They need someone to fill the second-line center spot, either from within the organization or outside. They would like to add a decent-sized winger with scoring ability.
Free-agent possibilities include defensemen Mike Green (Washington) and Cody Franson (Nashville). Big, two-way center Carl Soderberg (Boston) and decent-sized winger Matt Beleskey (Anaheim), who emerged this season as a goal-scorer, are among the forwards scheduled to hit the market on July 1.
"July 1, 2015 is different than July 1, 2003; teams are locking up their best players," Holland said. "We've all spent 10 years in a cap world. Those players that are free on July 1, they're support players."
Of Red Wings-related note this evening/morning:
1. According to the usually-reputable "Mr. Madhawk" of Kvallsposten, the Red Wings will probably sign Axel Holmstrom to an entry-level contract before the June 15th deadline to sign players without incurring a several-hundred-thousand-dollar penalty to the IIHF kicks in, and Holmstrom will be then lent to his SHL team, Skelleftea AIK, for the following season;
2. MLive's Ansar Khan updated the Red Wings' assistant coaching search earlier this afternoon, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan confirmed Khan's report regarding Tony Granato and Chris Chelios's respective statuses...
Given all the hubbub about Anthony Mantha and his either trade-worthy or non-trade-worthy status, MLive's Ansar Khan asked Ken Holland whether Sportsnet's Damien Cox's report of the Wings' willingness to move Mantha and/or the team's first-round draft pick in some sort of trade was accurate. Here's what Holland told Khan:
Damien Cox of Sportsnet.ca tweeted on Saturday "At deadline (Detroit) unwilling to move either first round pick or prospect Anthony Mantha. Now willing to deal either or both."
Holland said on Sunday, "I don't think 'willing' is the right word. We've got some people I would consider untouchable, both on the Detroit Red Wings and within the organization. In order to explore what's out there we got to be able to consider parting with some people. I'm not going to tell you where Mantha fits in with that until we explore the trade market."
Mantha's status is sure to be a major topic during the Red Wings' annual pro scouting meetings Tuesday through Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, as the front office and scouts gather to analyze players in the organization and possible acquisitions.
Khan puts Mantha's status bluntly--and accurately, in the case of Cox's belief that the Wings might be willing to give the Maple Leafs Mantha, Smith and Stephen Weiss for one Dion Phaneuf:
The Red Wings are patient with their top prospects. They certainly haven't given up on Mantha after three-quarters of a season in the AHL. But if the right deal were proposed – for a potentially elite defenseman or a top-six forward who could help immediately – they would consider it.
Toronto wanted Mantha at the trade deadline as part of a proposed deal for defenseman Dion Phaneuf but the Red Wings refused. Talks might be revisited over the next couple of weeks, but it seems unlikely Detroit would include Mantha in a deal for a 30-year old who's seen better days.
I don't believe that the Wings would give the Leafs what they were asking for for Phaneuf simply because it's the off-season now.
The Free Press's Helene St. James is more willing to use Mantha's status as a rhretorical question:
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
"Tony Granato is the top priority because he's been on the staff," Holland said on Sunday. "He meets the resume that Jeff Blashill would like to add to the staff. Jeff Blashill would like someone who has a lot of coaching and playing experience in the NHL, someone who's been a head coach."
Granato declined his option for next season, a carryover from his contract as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is seeking a multi-year extension. Holland said they have had "good conversations."...
Holland said he would like to reveal the entire staff at the same time, not in piecemeal.
Holland said he'll talk this week with Chris Chelios, who's been an advisor to hockey operations since he retired in 2010 and might be seeking a full-time assistant coaching position. He has worked with Blashill the past couple of years, periodically going to Grand Rapids.
Chelios, however, lacks coaching experience and the Red Wings, with a first-year NHL head coach, might be seeking a more experienced staff.
"A lot of people have reached out to me, people who have been in the industry," Holland said. "I told everybody I'll see where things go early in the week with Tony Granato."
The Free Press's Helene St. James penned a column that I can only describe as...unique...in suggesting that the Wings will probably lean upon organizational depth to seek "improvement from within," but she does so after thoroughly exhausting the options the Wings have to sign free agents or make trades to alter the team's make-up:
Take [Johan] Franzen out of the lineup, and the Wings need size up front all the more. One free agent the Wings are expected to pursue is Windsor-native Matt Beleskey, a 27-year-old, 6-foot, 204-pound forward coming off a career-high 22-goal season with Anaheim. Even when he isn't scoring, Beleskey is still effective, and he would add size. The problem is 20 other teams will go after him, too, as he is one of the few attractive names available this summer. Another possibility is Joel Ward, who tops 6-1 and 220 pounds, shoots right and goes to the net.
On the back end, the Wings lack what the two teams in the Stanley Cup finals each have in Chicago's Duncan Keith and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman: A superstar. There isn't one available via free agency. The Wings could look at someone such as Mike Green, who has put up good numbers with Washington, but he is going to want $6 million a year for five or six years, which is risky.
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