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.

Miller Scores Only Detroit Goal in 5-1 Preseason Loss to Penguins

Drew Miller scored the only goal for Detroit on Wednesday as the Red Wings dropped a 5-1 preseason decision to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.

Miller avoided being sandwiched by defensemen Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland at the Penguins’ blue line but lost control of the puck, giving goalie Marc-Andre Fleury a chance to race out. Miller beat Fleury to it, though, and chipped a shot over the diving netminder and into the vacant net with 7:11 remaining in the middle period to make it 3-1.

It would not be the start of a Detroit comeback, as Chris Kunitz stole the puck in the neutral zone and broke in alone on netminder Petr Mrazek, rifling a shot from the slot past him with 2:34 left in the second.

Kunitz would add another at 9:28 of the third, roofing a shot over Mrazek from in close after being left all alone on a Pittsburgh power play.

Jussi Jokinen had opened the scoring with 4:54 remaining in the first. Jokinen got in behind the Detroit defense at the Red Wings’ blue line and took a long pass from Matt Niskanen, breaking in alone on Mrazek before putting a backhander past him.

Pascal Dupuis made it 2-0 2:29 later taking a feed from Sidney Crosby on a two-on-one before snapping a shot past Mrazek from the slot.

Craig Adams tipped a blast by Evgeni Malkin past Mrazek at 3:14 of the second to make it 3-0 before Miller finally got Detroit on the board.

The Penguins got two power play goals to Detroit’s zero, with each team having three tries with the extra attacker.

Mrazek made 32 saves on 37 shots against. Fleury stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced.

The Red Wings wrap up their preseason schedule this weekend, facing off against the Maple Leafs at home on Friday and in Toronto on Saturday.

Datsyuk Leads Red Wings over Malkin’s Penguins

Pavel Datsyuk scored Detroit’s first goal and made a slick stick play to set up another as the Red Wings earned a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh’s lone goal as the countrymen appeared locked in a duel early in the game.

Malkin got the Penguins on the board with just five seconds remaining in the first period. Racing down the right wing on a two-on-one with Chris Kunitz, Malkin snapped a quick shot to the wide side of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, off the post and into the net.

Datsyuk pulled the Red Wings back even with 3:59 left in the second period. After Todd Bertuzzi took the puck away from Matt Niskanen in the left corner he got it to Datsyuk at the top of the left circle. Datsyuk slid across into the high slot and flung a backhander back across Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, beating him stick-side.

Johan Franzen‘s power play goal at 5:15 of the third period put Detroit out in front. Datsyuk knifed an attempt to clear the Pittsburgh zone by Matt Cooke out of the air and worked the puck down to Franzen in the left faceoff circle. Franzen wristed a high shot past Fleury to make it 2-1.

Danny Cleary added an insurance goal with 4:24 remaining. On a rush with former Penguin Chris Conner, Cleary drove to the net and tipped a pass through Fleury, giving Detroit a 3-1 lead.

Cleary’s empty-net goal with six second remaining rounded out the scoring.

Franzen’s goal was the only power play tally of the night. The Red Wings had two tries with the extra attacker while the Penguins had four.

Howard finished the game with 25 saves on 26 shots while Fleury stopped 21 of 24 chances.

The Red Wings are back in action on Thursday when they visit the Nashville Predators.


Healthy scratches for Detroit were Cory Emmerton and Mike Commodore… The Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek.