The Bad and Worse of Striking Out in Free Agency

That the Red Wings struck out in their search for a right-handed defenseman on the free agent market is bad, there’s no denying that. It’s also something that can be explained, though.

Sometimes there’s no amount of money you can throw at a player to make them sign with you. We saw that in 2012 when Ryan Suter and Zach Parise chose the Minnesota Wild over Detroit because it was closer to home for them. Sometimes you do everything you can and it’s just not enough.

Worse, though, is then compromising and making a signing for the sake of making a signing, as the Red Wings appeared to do today. For weeks the story was that they wanted a right-handed defenseman; that they wanted to upgrade. The names weren’t always the same, sometimes it was Dan Boyle and sometimes Matt Niskanen. And then they missed out on Boyle. And Niskanen. And Anton Stralman. And the left-handed Christian Ehrhoff.

As the list of players spurning Detroit grew longer, the goal seemingly changed. It no longer became about getting a right-handed defenseman or an upgrade but about signing someone, anyone, for the sake of making a signing.

With the signing of Kyle Quincey, Detroit has not found a right-handed shot (something that could have been done by simply not signing anyone and promoting Ryan Sproul from Grand Rapids). The blueline has not been upgraded as it’s the exact same septet as skated there last season.

Bad is not being able to draw in free agents. When you’re not a destination, you have to do more to pull people in. We saw that in 2008 when the Chicago Blackhawks had to overpay to bring in defenseman Brian Campbell. In that case, money was enough. Sometimes it takes something else.

Worse is not knowing what the something else is.

“We made pitches to a number of defensemen,” general manager Ken Holland said. “For a variety of reasons, they opted to go elsewhere. I don’t know why they’re not coming here.”

The NHL now has an interview period prior to the opening of free agency. It’s no longer a matter of throwing your best cash offer out there on July 1 and hoping it’s good enough, you’ve got an opportunity to sell the player on your team.

But it works both ways. GMs have the opportunity to talk to players, see what fit they’re looking for, see what makes them tick. And if July 1 comes around and you’re left saying that you don’t know why a player isn’t coming to your team, it means that you didn’t do your job in the lead up to free agency.

Red Wings Bring Back Quincey

After missing out on several other free agent defensemen on Tuesday, the Detroit Red Wings brought Kyle Quincey back into the fold with a two-year deal reportedly worth $8.5 million for an annual salary cap hit of $4.25 million.

The deal represents a raise for Quincey, who made $4 million and carried a cap hit of $3.775 during the 2013-14 season.

The Red Wings had been set to part ways with Quincey, looking instead to add a right-handed shot on the blue line. After missing out on Dan Boyle, Matt Niskanen, and Anton Stralman – as well as other left-handers such as Christian Ehrhoff – Detroit circled back to Quincey and made an offer.

Quincey played in all 82 games for the Red Wings last season, scoring four goals and nine assists for 13 total points.

He was originally drafted by Detroit in the fourth round (132nd overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Lost on waivers to the Los Angeles Kings at the start of the 2008-09 season, he was reacquired at the 2012 trade deadline for a first-round draft pick.

On Going All-In on Dan Boyle

There’ve been a handful of reports today basically stating that the Red Wings are targeting free agent defenseman Dan Boyle and only Boyle, having determined that Matt Niskanen will be asking for too much money (though recent reports say the Wings are on his shortlist) and Christian Ehrhoff is too left-handed (and maybe also asking for too much term).

No (or little) mention of Anton Stralman. Same for Mike Weaver or Tom Gilbert.

It’s all-in on the 38-year-old Boyle, which worries me significantly.

Boyle isn’t my first choice, I’ll admit, but that’s not my concern. That the Wings seem to have only one plan is what bothers me. It reminds me of 2012, when they watched a number of feasible backup plans sign elsewhere while waiting for Ryan Suter, then ended up whiffing on him, too, when he chose Minnesota.

It’s all reports as of right now. And until noon tomorrow we’ll probably hear a lot of things. With the Red Wings on Niskanen’s shortlist, maybe he’s more likely to come to Detroit than anyone thought today. But Boyle being the only target was a serious red flag for me.

Thoughts on Trading as a Fall Back Option

It’s been known since before the 2013-14 season was even over that the Red Wings would be looking to upgrade their defense this summer and their best opportunity to do some comes tomorrow as free agents become eligible to sign contracts with new teams at noon.

The costs are expected to be high, however. Even with the late additions of Christian Ehrhoff and Ed Jovanovski to the free agent pool (due to buyouts by Buffalo and Florida, respectively), there are roughly fifteen teams legitimately thought to be in the mix for only six or seven players.

If Detroit were to miss out on Ehrhoff or Matt Niskanen or Anton Stralman or whoever (as they did when they were unable to woo Ryan Suter in 2012 and had to settle for Carlo Colaiacovo), they would be forced to turn to the trade market, where their history isn’t quite so successful.

The Red Wings haven’t traded for a roster player signed beyond the end of the current season since acquiring Robert Lang from the Washington Capitals in 2004, when he was two years into a five-year deal.

Oh, sure, they picked up Brad Stuart at the deadline in 2008 and managed to sign him just before he became an unrestricted free agent that summer. They also got Kyle Quincey – likely departing in the coming weeks – in 2012 and re-signed him as a restricted free agent, as they expected to do when they paid the hefty price of a first round draft pick to get him.

By and large, however, Detroit’s method of acquiring players for the last decade has been via free agency, which means that if they miss out in the next few days they’ll be entering relatively-uncharted territory for the club.

Trade Deadline Thoughts: Robidas, Draft Picks, and Kesler

In the final twenty-four hours before the NHL’s trade deadline I want to talk on a couple points based on some of today’s news.

Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland has said the team is looking to make a “hockey trade” and that they want a top-four defensemen. “Hockey trade” apparently means that they’re not looking for a rental, or that they’re not willing to give up big assets for one.

That likely means the price tag for a player like Christian Ehrhoff from Buffalo or Alexander Edler from Vancouver will be too high. Andrew MacDonald was dealt from the Islanders for a fifth rounder this year, a third next year, and a forward prospect. Stephane Robidas was different, however.

Robidas went from Dallas to Anaheim for “just” a fourth round pick. Hardly an exorbitant amount for a right-handed shot on the point and a veteran with a mean streak. The Stars say they’re not selling assets off and that Robidas was an exception, so maybe the seemingly-low price was driven by that. Maybe Robidas wanted a deal to Anaheim, for example.

If Detroit could have had him for a fourth-rounder, though, I have a hard time saying I wouldn’t make that move. It would be a rental, yes. Robidas is 37, he wouldn’t be the long-term acquisition that Holland seems to be looking for. But at that cost, I do the deal. Especially given that the kind of deal Holland says he wants looks less and less likely.

Trading draft picks is a crapshoot, especially a fourth-rounder. No pick is a sure-thing. The fourth round is early enough that you can still find some good talent but late enough that it’s not easy to do so. Recently, the Red Wings have used fourth round picks to select Andreas Athanasiou, Teemu Pulkkinen and Gustav Nyquist. I wouldn’t trade any of those players for Robidas.

Before that, though, the fourth round brought Mattias Ritola, Evan McGrath, Johan Berggren, and Miroslav Blatak. I’d dump all of them (or equivalent players) for a Robidas rental. It would appear that Holland wasn’t willing to take that chance. Or he didn’t get the option.


To jump back to Ehrhoff’s name for a minute… The word is that Buffalo wants prospects in return for him, not picks. I think that, should the Wings decide to make a move, that favors them. Holland won’t want to dump his first-rounder but the Wings have some prospects that could be deemed extraneous. I’m still not sure it’d be worth it but it depends on what Buffalo wants. Trade a defenseman for a defensive prospect or for the best player you can get? I’m not sure I’d move a Pulkkinen but what about Ryan Sproul?

I mean, I’d prefer Ehrhoff for Kyle Quincey, straight up, but we’ve gotta be a little realistic.


After missing out on (or never being in on, or whatever) Robidas, we’ve still got reports that the Red Wings are going after Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler. There was a specific Tweet I wanted to reference on that but I lost track of it.

I just can’t see how this deal makes sense for Detroit. Vancouver wants a top young center plus prospects and picks. Maybe I’m biased against Kesler, he grew up in Livonia hating the Red Wings and I see that as a character flaw, but I wouldn’t deal any of the Wings’ young roster players for him. Dump some vets for him, sure. A couple draft picks? Yeah. The Canucks aren’t going to do that, though. As I said, we’ve gotta be a little realistic.

That said, if Holland somehow swings a deal for him, I’ll probably be able to justify it to myself somehow. As I said awhile ago, a slightly-dirty player who hates the Red Wings? Fifteen years ago that was Chris Chelios and it worked out okay when he came to Detroit.

Free Agent Preview 2011

We’ve got under four hours until the NHL’s 2011 free agency season kicks off, so I’m going to take a quick look at the Red Wings’ roster, where they stand with their own free agents, and who they might be looking at on the market.

Forwards
Four forwards who were with Detroit last season are set to become free agents.Mike Modano won’t be back with the Wings but he’s not ruling out playing another year somewhere. His departure seems to have been a mutual decision as the team doesn’t have room for him and he didn’t have a particularly fun year in his hometown.

Kris Draper wants to return but has been told he won’t be offered a contract immediately. If the team can replace him they will.

Patrick Eaves is supposedly close to a deal to stay in Detroit but little is known about that. Reportedly, his concern is more about playing time than money.

Drew Miller has an offer on the table from the Wings but wants to test the open market. Like Eaves, he supposedly is looking for a place where he won’t have to worry about being a healthy scratch on a nightly basis.

Defensemen
The Red Wings kept Jonathan Ericsson in the fold, signing him to a (some might say ridiculous) three-year, $9.75 million deal last night. I don’t agree with the money but it gives Detroit six defensemen signed to NHL contracts for next season.

Detroit will look to replace the retired Brian Rafalski via free agency but their options are becoming limited. Christian Ehrhoff signed with Buffalo yesterday and James Wisniewski – long believed to be the Red Wings top target – seems to be set to sign a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tomas Kaberle is available as a third option from the top-tier talent but the Wings may have to look for a cheaper, less-talented player to round out their blueline corps. The name most mentioned to that extent is Ed Jovanovski.

If the Wings are looking to go cheap and roll the dice on defense, I’ve got a feeling about Sheldon Souray. Assuming a low contract, he’s the kind of low-risk, high reward guy Ken Holland likes to go after.

Of the team’s own free agents, neighter Ruslan Salei nor Derek Meech will be offered deals.

Goaltenders
Like Kris Draper, Chris Osgood won’t know if he’ll be back until the Red Wings are done shopping elsewhere. After injuries the last two seasons, the team is worried about Osgood’s health. With a relative glut of goalies on the market, he could be easily replaced. Former Osgood backup Ty Conklin is a possibility, among many others.

Joey MacDonald will not return to the Detroit organization. He’s looking for a one-way deal in the NHL or he’ll head to Russia. The Wings wanted him on a two-way deal so he could continue mentoring Thomas McCollum in Grand Rapids and be called on in Detroit if needed.

Shorthanded Red Wings Fall to Sharks

The Detroit Red Wings were shorthanded in more ways than one on Tuesday night as they dropped a 5-1 decision to the San Jose Sharks in both teams’ first game back.

The Red Wings were without Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg, the Swedish gold medal winners who had not yet returned from a celebration in Stockholm. With only 17 skaters on the Detroit roster, they were further undermanned by penalties, with all five San Jose goals coming with the man-advantage.

Nils Ekman opened the scoring just 3:34 into the game, getting the puck along the goal line to Detroit goalie Manny Legace‘s left before moving in on goal and bouncing a shot off Leagce’s arm and into the net.

Jonathan Cheechoo extended the San Jose lead at 6:54 of the second period, lifting a shot over Legace after a cross-crease pass Joe Thornton while on a five-on-three.

The Red Wings drew within one with their only goal of the game when Brett Lebda beat Vesa Toskala with a shot from the left circle after an end-to-end rush by Pavel Datsyuk with 1:31 remaining in the second.

Legace stopped Ekman on a penalty shot to start the third period but the Wings never got back in the game.

Patrick Marleau put in a rebound from the side of the goal with 9:24 remaining in the game and just 1:05 later Christian Ehrhoff scored on a blast from the right circle.

Thornton closed the scoring with 6:12 remaining in the game, putting a shot from the right circle between Legace’s pads.

The Sharks finished the game with goals on half of their ten power plays, while the Red Wings were scoreless on six chances.

Legace made 27 saves on 32 shots and Toskala made 28 saves on 29 shots.

The Red Wings return to the ice on Wednesday when they visit the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, where their Swedish Olympians will rejoin the team.