Wings Pick Up Option on Hasek

The Detroit Red Wings have picked up their $8 million option on previously-retired goaltender Dominik Hasek for the 2003-2004 season.

The rumors about a possible return to the NHL by Hasek, who retired after helping the Red Wings claim the Stanley Cup in 2002, have circulated for several weeks. It was only a week ago that the Detroit organization finally revealed that they were in talks with Hasek about his comeback.

The Red Wings are now left with two $8 million goaltenders on the roster. They have been unable to trade Curtis Joseph, who signed with the Wings following Hasek’s retirement. Joseph’s contract, which runs through the 2004-2005 season, includes a no-trade clause that the Red Wings hope he will waive.

In addition to trading one of their netminders, the Red Wings must now attempt to resign star forward Sergei Fedorov, grinder Darren McCarty, and defensemen Jason Woolley and Dmitri Bykov.

Wings Come to Terms with Datsyuk

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland announced Thursday that the team had agreed upon a contract with restricted free agent Pavel Datsyuk. As per the team’s policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

Datsyuk had been offered a contract by his former team in Russia, Ak Bars Kazan, but he made it clear that he wanted to return to the Red Wings.

“We’re all very happy to have Pavel Back,” said Holland. “He is part of a group of young and talented players who are important to the balance and makeup of our team. He had an exceptional sophomore season and we look forward to his continued improvement in the future.”

The 25-year-old center scored twelve goals and added thirty-nine assists in sixty-four games with the Red Wings last season, his sophomore year. He finished fourth in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year the season before.

Ak Bars Kazan has already signed Red Wings defenseman Dmitri Bykov to a deal for next season. Detroit has until July 15 to sign Bykov or he will play in Russia next year.

Wings Shouldn’t Bring Hasek Back

A year ago, Dominik Hasek had just won the Stanley Cup, capping his first year with the Detroit Red Wings after nine with the Buffalo Sabres (and a few forgettable ones in Chicago) in grand style. Having accomplished the one thing he came to Detroit to do, Hasek retired, returning home to the Czech Republic to raise his children.

And now he wants to come back.

Hasek’s retirement last summer left the Wings scrambling to pick up a free agent netminder to replace him. They set their sights on Toronto’s Curtis Joseph and signed him to a three-year, $24 million deal. Two years of that deal still remain.

And now Hasek wants to come back. After taking a year off. To the Red Wings. Who already have a top-level goalie.

This causes more trouble than good for the Red Wings. Should Hasek return, the Wings can excercise their $8 million option on him for next season and attempt to trade Joseph. Or they can let Hasek become a free agent and sign anywhere, including with the arch-rival Colorado Avalanche, who are looking to replace retired legend Patrick Roy.

Either way, the Red Wings will be forced to give up an expensive, world-class goaltender. And it looks like Joseph will be the odd man out.

Detroit’s WXYT-AM reported Wednesday that the Wings had agreed to bring Hasek back, assuming they can trade Joseph. The same report said that Detroit was in talks with the Philadelphia Flyers about sending Cujo to them.

This is all wrong.

Hasek hasn’t played goal in the NHL in over a year. He’s thirty-eight years old. Who knows how rusty he might be?

He’s already claimed the Stanley Cup, the only goal he had left when he came to Detroit in the summer of 2001. What’s to say he’ll play with the same passion he had that year?

Joseph was blamed by many for the Red Wings’ 2003 playoff meltdown, a four-game sweep by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round. Joseph complied a 2.08 GAA in those games. He let in some soft goals but he stopped more. Still, he became the scapegoat, nevermind the Wings’ offence that couldn’t score three goals in a single game.

Now it comes down to picking between Hasek and Joseph. And it looks like the Red Wings want to make the wrong choice.

There is nothing that says Hasek is more likely to lead the Wings to a Cup next year than Joseph. Hasek’s contract would last only one year while Joseph’s is for two. It is too much of a risk to bring Dominik Hasek back to Detroit.

I’ll say that again, more strongly: The Wings should not bring Dominik Hasek back.

Scotty Bowman told Canada’s TSN that Hasek would come back only if Detroit would bring him back. That fixes everything, now there’s no need to worry about Hasek jumping ship to the Avalanche.

The Red Wings need to tell Hasek, “Sorry, Dom, you had your chance to stick with us and you didn’t want it.” There is no reason they should bring him back.

Hasek Considers Return to NHL

A year ago, after fufilling his final goal of winning the Stanley Cup, goaltender Dominik Hasek called it quits, moving his family back to the Czech Republic, far away from the NHL.

Now he may be planning to come back.

Hasek’s agent, Rich Winter, confirmed that Hasek has spoken with the Red Wings about making a comeback, but has not made a decision yet.

The Red Wings hold an option on Hasek with $8 million for next season. If Hasek returns and Detroit fails to exercise the option, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The Web site for Canadian network TSN quoted Winter as saying: “I think he’s leaning towards coming back.” Winter denied saying that, telling the Detroit Free Press, “The TSN report is inaccurate. There’s been some talk, and that’s it. We’ll see where it goes.”

Winter also said that no timetable has been set.

Hasek reportedly laughed off a question about his possible comeback during a teleconference with Buffalo-area reporters earlier this month. Hasek won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player twice while playing for the Buffalo Sabres and the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender six times.

Should Hasek return, the Red Wings will be looking at a very expensive logjam in the crease. After Hasek retired, Detroit signed Curtis Joseph to a three-year, $24 million contract. Two years remain on that deal, which reportedly also includes a no-trade clause.

Wings Pick Seven on Second Day of Draft

With only one draft pick on the first day of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings had to hope they could find a diamond in the rough to use their later picks on in the fourth through ninth rounds Sunday.

The Wings have had success with this strategy before, selecting Pavel Datsyuk in the sixth round of the 1998 Draft and Henrik Zetterberg in the seventh round in 1999.

After choosing Maine goaltender Jimmy Howard in the second round on Saturday, the Red Wings stuck with forwards and defensemen on Sunday.

In the fourth round they picked defenseman Kyle Quincey of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. The 6’1″, 194-pound seventeen-year-old was described by Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill as “a solid all-around defenseman.”

Detroit’s fifth-round pick was used on center Ryan Oulahen from Brampton of the OHL. Oulahen could have been drafted earlier had he not suffered a knee injury during the season. “Very tenacious, hard-working kid. We really like his drive, and he’s got good size. Just a real competitive kid.” Nill said of him. The eighteen-year-old stands at 6’0″ and weighs in at 180 pounds.

The Red Wings took Swedish winger Andreas Sundin with their first pick in the sixth round, acquired from Columbus. The 6’0″, 185-pound nineteen-year-old “has a scoring touch” according to Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “One of his first games in the Elite League, he got a penalty shot and scored a highlight goal. The coach said everybody on the bench was like, ‘Wow. How did he do that?'”

With their second sixth-round pick, Detroit selected underscouted Swedish defenseman Stefan Blom. The seventeen-year-old is 6’2″ tall and weighs 189 pounds. Nill says of him, “He’s getting better and better. He has good skills. You’re hoping he develops and in three or four years is on the national team.”

Tomas Kollar, a 21-year-old Swedish winger, was taken with the Red Wings’ seventh-round pick. He’s big at 6’2″ and 211 pounds and the Wings hope he will make the Swedish national team next year or the following year.

Detroit rolled the dice on their eighth-round pick, Vladimir Kutny. Scouts expected him to be a first round pick after seeing him an a tournament last August, but he joined Quebec of the QMJHL and hardly played during the season. Nill said the Wings “don’t know why” 6’4″, 195-pound eighteen-year-old winger didn’t get much ice time.

The Red Wings final selection of the draft was virtual unknown Mikael Johansson. The small (5’10”, 176 pounds) seventeen-year-old Swedish forward was another gamble for Detroit. “He’s one of those smaller, weaker guys that you hope will grow up one day and be 6-feet, 190 pounds,” Nill said.

Wings Take Goalie with Lone Day One Draft Pick

With their lone pick on the first day of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings selected goaltender James Howard of the University of Maine.

The Red Wings had no picks in the first or third rounds, having traded their first-round pick to the Los Angeles Kings in the March deal for defenseman Mathieu Schneider and their third-round pick to the Nashville Predators in return for a third-round pick in last year’s draft (used to select Valtteri Filppula).

Rounds Four through Nine will take place on Sunday. The Red Wings have picks in each of the remaining rounds.

The Wings chose Howard with the sixtieth overall pick late in the second round. The Hockey News had rated him at fiftieth overall. The 19-year-old, 6’0″, 218 pound netminder was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 2 North American goalie available in this year’s draft.

Howard had an 8-1-0 record at Maine prior to the World Junior Championship but his play tailed off at the end of the season. He finished at 14-6-0 with a .916 save percentage.

The feeling among NHL scouts is that Howard could become a top NHL goalie.

“I look at so many college goalies who are 20 or 21, and he was every bit as good as them,” said one scout.

Day One Draft Notes:
Ninety minutes into the draft, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the passing of Ottawa Senators assistant coach and Hall-of-Famer Roger Neilson. Neilson died at his Peterborough, Ontario home after a lengthy battle with skin and bone cancer. He was 69.

Several trades took place on Saturday. Florida traded their first-overall pick along with their third-round pick to Pittsburgh for the third-overall pick, a second-round pick and Mikael Samuelsson. Carolina acquired defenseman Danny Markov and a conditional pick from Phoenix for d-man David Tanabe and prospect Igor Knyazev. The Colorado Avalanche sent enforcer Scott Parker to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a fifth-round pick and got forward Andrei Nikolishin from the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations. The Atlanta Thrashers traded their second round pick to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Ivan Majesky. The St. Louis Blues picked up a second-round draft pick from Tampa Bay for forward Cory Stillman and either a fifth-round pick this year or a fourth-rounder next year from Phoenix for forward Tyson Nash.

The Penguins selected goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the first-overall pick.

Wings Defenseman Bykov Signs with Russian Team

Red Wings rookie defenseman Dmitri Bykov has signed with a Russian team in an attempt to gain leverage in negotiations with Detroit.

Bykov, a restricted free agent, can still sign with the Red Wings for next season. However, now Detroit must sign him before July 15, the deadline for NHL teams to sign players with overseas contracts, for him to be available for the 2003-2004 campaign.

“He’s told me that it’s viewed as an insurance policy,” Bykov’s agent Don Meehan said. “His heart is in Detroit. His every intention is to re-sign with Detroit.”

Bykov signed with Ak Bars Kazan, his former team.

Meehan’s partner, Pat Morris, told WDFN-AM that the deal was for $1 million tax-free across two seasons. It may be difficult for the Wings to match that offer. Bykov was paid $605,000 in his rookie campaign.

Bykov, 26, was the eighth-round pick of the Red Wings in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After immigration problems caused him to miss training camp in 2002, he joined the Red Wings and played well enough to make the roster for the year.

Three Wings Claim NHL Awards

The Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom were honored Thursday night at the 2003 NHL Awards in Toronto.

Yzerman was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an annual award presented to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Yzerman beat out Steve Rucchin from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Bryan Berard of the Boston Bruins.

The King Clancy Memorial Trophy was awarded to Shanahan. The award is annually given “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Shanahan has made a name for himself with his support of the Detroit Fire Department and for helping sick children have a chance to meet the Red Wings and come to games at Joe Louis Arena. He dedicated the award to his late father, a firefighter, and Brendan Filzek, a young Red Wings fan who died from cancer last fall.

For the third year in a row, Lidstrom was named the NHL’s best defenseman, winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Lidstrom became the first player to win the award for three consecutive seasons since Bobby Orr claimed it for eight-striaght seasons from 1968 to 1975.

Lidstrom was also a runner-up for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded for gentlemanly behavior. That award was given to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Mogilny.

Red Wings rookie Henrik Zetterberg was beat out for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year by Barret Jackman of the St. Louis Blues. Zetterberg led all rookies in scoring in 2002-2003 but Jackman impressed many by stepping into the skates of injured defenseman Chris Pronger. No Red Wing has been named rookie of the year in over thirty-five years.

Devils Down Ducks, Claim Cup

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim didn’t have a storybook ending left in them after forcing a Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Ducks were shutout by Martin Brodeur as the New Jersey Devils claimed their third Stanley Cup in nine years.

The Devils tight defensive game and stellar netminding by Brodeur left Anaheim struggling to create offense but unable to put the puck in the net. Brodeur ended the series with his third shutout of the Finals and an NHL record seven playoff shutouts.

The Ducks and Devils seemed to be off to a defensive battle in the first period. Like in Games Three and Four in Anaheim, chances for both sides were limited. The teams combined for a total of only twelve shots in the period. The score remained tied at zero after twenty minutes of play.

New Jersey broke the game open in the second period. Scoring twice on twelve shots, the Devils pulled away from Anaheim on their way to claiming the Cup.

Rookie call-up Michael Rupp scored the game’s first goal, his first goal of the playoffs and the eventual Cup-winner, just 2:22 into the period. Rupp deflected a Scott Niedermayer shot from the blue line between Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere‘s pads while set up in front of the crease.

Anaheim attempted to get their offense going but Brodeur held strong and the Devils added a second goal almost exactly ten minutes later.

At 12:18, Jeff Friesen, acquired from Anaheim in an offseason trade last summer, put the rebound of a Rupp shot past Giguere and gave the Devils a two-goal lead.

Anaheim couldn’t bounce back from the two-goal deficit. Friesen added a second goal with 3:44 remaining in the game and the Devils finished off the Ducks.

Despite his loss in the deciding game, the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP went to Anaheim’s Giguere, who led the seventh-seeded Ducks to wins over second-seeded Detroit, top-seeded Dallas and the Minnesota Wild before finally falling to the Devils.

Wings Considering Outdoor Game

The Red Wings have entered into talks with the NHL regarding playing a game outdoors at Comerica Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers.

“Nothing is imminent,” Jim Devellano, senior vice president of both the Red Wings and the Tigers, said Thursday. Devellano said he had researched the possibility of hosting an outdoor event along with NHL vice president and chief operating officer Jon Litner.

He also said there would not be an outdoor game in Detroit next season. The game would not likely be scheduled for the following season, either, as a work stoppage is expected when the collective bargaining agreement expires in September 2004.

The game “would be something far into the future,” Devellano said.

Outdoor games have been discussed all over the hockey world since Michigan State University hosted the University of Michigan in a game at Spartan Stadium on October 6, 2001. That game set a world record for attendance at a hockey game by drawing 74,554 fans.

The NHL’s first-ever outdoor game will be played in Edmonton on November 22. The Oilers will host the Montreal Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium with the hopes of drawing more than 55,000 fans. The matchup should set the record for attendance at an NHL game.

The Red Wings will not move forward if they cannot assure the quality of the game. “I wouldn’t want to do something that would embarrass our players, our team and our league,” Devellano said.

Comerica Park seats 40,120 for Tigers baseball games.