Free Agency 2012: Day 2

The Red Wings opened free agency on Sunday with four signings but on Monday it was all about who was leaving the team.  Jiri Hudler and Chris Conner are both now former Red Wings, with Hudler heading on to the Calgary Flames and Conner going to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Neither’s departure is a surprise.  Conner was looking for a place where he might be able to latch on full-time (and as I said yesterday, Detroit already has too many forwards) and Hudler was essentially replaced by Detroit’s signing of Mikael Samuelsson.

I honestly don’t think the $4 million per year for for years that Calgary ponied up for Hudler is awful, but it’s still too much.  I joked on Twitter today that Hudler and the Flames are a perfect dysfunctional fit so it’ll be interesting to see how that works out.

It’s tough for the Wings organization to lose Conner but you can’t blame the guy for leaving.  I expect the same from most of the veterans the Wings have had in Grand Rapids.

With no decisions (at least none made public) from Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Wings are in a holding pattern on the buying front.  I think they’re going to miss out on Parise but I’m not certain about Suter.

Suter’s the one they need, there’s no one else like him available.  If Parise goes elsewhere, the Wings will look at Alexander Semin, but Semin is smart enough to know to wait until Parise signs to get his own bidding war.

Free Agency 2012: Day 1

“Trust, but verify.”

One of my co-workers loves that phrase.  So did Ronald Reagan.  Vladimir Lenin liked its Russian form.

It comes to mind because of my reaction to today’s news that the Red Wings had signed Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo as free agents.  I’m not the only one who had the same kind of reaction.

Neither player has been a favorite of late among Wings fans, so to see both of them suddenly on our team (in Samuelsson’s case, again), signed in a matter of minutes, was a shock.

I trust Ken Holland to make the right moves for the team.  That said, I don’t blindly believe everything he does is perfect.  I question these moves and I want to see how they’ll work out.

Trust, but verify.

Logically, I know that Tootoo was a pain for the Wings to play against, so having that on “our” side is a good thing.  The Wings haven’t had someone like him in quite awhile.

That said, because the Wings hadn’t had someone like that, they were able to (most of the time) play like they were above what Tootoo brings to the table.  Maybe they need to lower themselves to that level, maybe being above that is what they’ve been missing, but it leaves a bad taste.

Logically, I know that Samuelsson is a cheap replacement for Jiri Hudler, who’s bound to get $4 million or more from a team like the Canucks or Capitals or Sabres.  He plays a similar game for significantly less money.

That said, it wasn’t that long ago that he basically had his house for sale before the season ended in Detroit.  We still make jokes about how often he’d miss the net on drives from the point.  While he replaces Hudler, it kind of seems like a role that didn’t need to be replaced.

Lost in all of that are the signings of Jonas Gustavsson and Damien Brunner.  Brunner was a known – announced a week ago but not official until today.  Gustavsson’s deal I initially questioned but only for the financial side and the reality is that $1.5 million for a backup goalie isn’t that bad.

And no news on the big fronts, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.  Depending on who you believe, any number of teams – Detroit included – are the frontrunners for either or both of those two.

Regardless of what happens with the big-names, it’s hard to ignore the math facing the Wings’ lineup right now.  There are simply too many forwards to fit into the lineup next year.

Assuming that Hudler is gone (as it seems that he is), Tomas Holmstrom doesn’t return, Brunner makes the lineup and Justin Abdelkader is re-signed as a restricted free agent, the team has fifteen forwards.  That’s with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and a handful of others sent back to Grand Rapids, which (at least in Nyquist’s case) should not happen.

It sure looks to me (and to TPL and WIIM) like a trade is in the works.  I won’t speculate on who it could be for but I do want to look at who could be going the other way.

Abdelkader is an unsigned RFA, probably due around $2 million, which just happens to be how much the Wings brought Tootoo in for.  Given that they play similar games, it sure seems like Abdelkader was just made expendible, even if he’s the hometown kid.

Todd Bertuzzi isn’t going anywhere, he’s got a no-trade clause.  Same for Danny Cleary (and Pavel Datsyuk if you think the Wings would deal him).

Patrick Eaves could be moved but lost nearly a season to post-concussion syndrome so good luck finding a taker.

Cory Emmerton was used a lot as the fourth line center last year but that’s a replaceable position.  That said, because he’s replaceable it should mean he wouldn’t bring much in trade.

Valtteri Filppula has been labeled a future leader of the team but has an acceptable contract, is relatively young and scores a little bit.

Johan Franzen has a contract that should make it nearly impossible to move him if the Wings even wanted to.  Darren Helm also won’t be moved as he just signed his contract.

Drew Miller and Jan Mursak are in the same boat as Emmerton.  Solid bottom-six guys who are ultimately replaceable, which devalues them.

Samuelsson and Tootoo just signed (and Samuelsson got a no-trade clause) so they’re staying put.  Henrik Zetterberg is the next captain so he’s going nowhere.

Ignoring prospects (counting Nyquist and Tatar among them), that means that Abdelkader (or at least his rights) and Filppula are the Wings’ most movable, valuable forwards.

I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the start of the season but looking at that roster crunch, I have a hard time thinking that all of those guys are going to be wearing the Winged Wheel come October.  This was just the first official day of NHL summer.  We’ve got a lot coming up.

On Free Agent Splashes

With about fourteen hours before NHL free agency opens up, Hockeytown anxiously awaits what Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland will do to address the holes in the team’s lineup.

Holland has gone on the record saying that he’s looking for a defenseman to help offset the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, possibly a top-six forward (especially if Jiri Hudler bolts) and possibly a goaltender (either to back up Jimmy Howard in Detroit or to take Joey MacDonald‘s spot in Grand Rapids, with MacDonald as Howard’s backup).

There is an expectation that the Red Wings will make a “splash” given those holes to fill and approximately $20 million of cap space to use.  The primary targets are expected to be Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter and New Jersey forward Zach Parise.

Here’s what terrifies me:  Considering who Detroit has already lost this summer, would signing Suter even be a splash?

That move seems more like signing Brian Rafalski when Mathieu Schneider left the team, or Curtis Joseph to replace Dominik Hasek when he retired the first time.

As much as we talk about the Red Wings being big spenders, aside from Marian Hossa in 2009, those are the kind of moves they’ve made since the last lockout.  Their big signings are still somewhat lateral overall.

To make a splash, the Wings can do no less than sign both Suter and Parise.  I’d love to see it but I’m less and less convinced that it’s possible,

I’ve decided to lower my expectations.  There’s no replacing Lidstrom and it’s hard to replace Stuart, but it’s impossible to do that by promoting from within given the Red Wings’ current blueline.  That means that Suter is a must.

Parise?  I hope so but it’s not enough without Suter.  I’d rather Suter and Alex Semin or Shane Doan than Parise without Suter.

Of course, 24 hours from now I might be saying something else entirely.  We’ll see what Holland does for us.

Wings’ Trade Deadline Recap

The 2012 NHL Trade Deadline may not have brought what Red Wings fans wanted but that doesn’t mean the Wings made the wrong moves.

As far back as last summer, fans were salivating over the idea of having virtually unlimited cap space at the trade deadline. With over $22 million available to spend, there would be no player Ken Holland would be unable to afford. After years of Detroit being unable to add a significant piece on the final day of NHL trading, the shoe would be on the other foot.

And then nothing happened.

With cap space to spend, Holland couldn’t find any trading partners. Unlike in previous years, there were no superstars on non-playoff teams in the last year of their contract to be had as rentals. No Ilya Kovalchuk, no Marian Hossa.

The Washington Capitals weren’t set to trade Alexander Semin, the New Jersey Devils had already stated they wouldn’t move Zach Parise and the surging Anaheim Ducks weren’t going to give up Teemu Selanne.

With those options unavailable, the Red Wings stuck to smaller moves. In two deals with the Tampa Bay Lightning, one last week and one today, Holland turned Mike Commodore, Sebastien Piche and a first round pick into Kyle Quincey and a conditional seventh-rounder. It’s an upgrade at the blue line with the potential to be more than a rental, as Holland has already stated that the Wings will at least tender Quincey a restricted free agent qualifying offer.

Detroit’s rivals made more moves, notably the Nashville Predators.

The Predators had acquired Hal Gill on February 17, then added Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad up front today. They paid a hefty price, giving up Blake Geoffrion, a first-round pick, and two second-rounders.

In essence, Nashville paid as much for fourth-line, free agent forward Gaustad – a rental – as the Red Wings did for restricted free agent defenseman Quincey – a non-rental.

So I’m okay with Holland standing pat. I would have liked a move for a depth forward; I’d been thinking former Wing Mike Knuble could be a good fit for cheap but as he wasn’t moved at the deadline, I have to think either he wasn’t available or the Capitals were asking too much from everyone.

I’m also not going to lie – I am concerned that Nashville, Chicago, Vancouver and San Jose all added players while the Red Wings didn’t. Those teams got better and got deeper. The Red Wings got better but are not a deep team.

That last note will be proven tomorrow in Columbus. Jonathan Ericsson is already out with a broken ankle and now Quincey has a sore groin. Brendan Smith has been called up and will be in the lineup, along with Jakub Kindl. Another defensive call-up could be necessary if Nicklas Lidstrom, who didn’t practice today, can’t go.

Or maybe these late-season injuries will prove the depth the team can call on from Grand Rapids and show that a trade wasn’t necessary.

Red Wings Rally but Fall to Devils in Shootout

The Detroit Red Wings rallied after falling down 2-0 in the first period Saturday night but could not get past Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils in the shootout, dropping a 4-3 decision.

Brodeur stopped Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi and Ville Leino in the tiebreaker, only allowing a goal to Pavel Datsyuk on Detroit’s first shot.

Patrick Elias won the game for New Jersey, beating Chris Osgood in the fourth round. Zach Parise scored on the Devils’ first attempt before Osgood stopped Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac.

Langenbrunner and Johnny Oduya put the Devils on the board with goals less than two minutes apart late in the first period.

Langenbrunner opened the scoring with 4:31 left in the period, sneaking in behind the Detroit defense to take a pass from Parise and put it into a wide open net.

Oduya extended the lead 1:56 later, beating Osgood five-hole on an odd-man rush. Osgood got a piece of the shot with his stick but it wasn’t enough to keep it from slipping through.

Kris Draper scored Detroit’s first goal at 9:23 of the second period, crashing the net to bang home the rebound of a Darren Helm shot from the right wing.

The teams traded late-period goals. Rob Niedermayer knocked a loose puck in the crease past Osgood with 5:17 left in the second to restore New Jersey’s two-goal lead. With 30 seconds left in the period, Tomas Holmstrom tipped in a Brad Stuart power play shot to cut the lead back to a goal.

At 9:30 of the third, Patrick Eaves deflected a shot by Justin Abdelkader past Brodeur to tie the game.

Both teams had chances to add another goal in the third. Brad Stuart cleared a puck out of a wide open Detroit crease in the first minute of the period and Brodeur dove on a loose puck in the game’s final seconds, saving almost-sure goals.

Osgood finished the night with 23 saves on 26 shots. Brodeur stopped 28 of Detroit’s 31 chances.

Detroit went 1-for-3 on the power play for the night. New Jersey was 0-for-2.

The Red Wings return to the ice Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

The Red Wings were without Brian Rafalski, who missed his first opportunity to play in New Jersey since leaving the Devils for Detroit in 2007. Jakub Kindl played in his place for the second consecutive game.

Hossa Scores Twice as Red Wings Down Devils

Marian Hossa scored two goals and Chris Osgood made 24 stops to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 win over the visiting New Jersey Devils Saturday night.

Hossa’s first goal came just 3:30 into the game, disproving the idea that the Red Wings might need time to get their legs back after five days of rest following a ten-day West Coast road trip.

Former Devil Brian Rafalski shot the puck in off the end boards behind goalie Kevin Weekes. Hossa jumped on the puck and put a quick shot to the near side off of Weekes and in.

New Jersey tied the game at 4:15 of the second period when Zach Parise tipped a shot by Johnny Oduya past Osgood.

Hossa scored his second of the night with 9:19 left in the middle frame, breaking into the New Jersey zone on a two-on-one with Tomas Holmstrom. Hossa faked a pass across and then snapped a shot between Weekes’ pads to put the Wings back up by a goal.

Osgood was called on to preserve the lead with three minutes remaining in the period and the Devils on the power play. Patrik Elias drove to the net to deflect a Jamie Langenbrunner chance but Osgood dove across the crease, knocking the puck out of the air and grabbing it before it could cross the goal line.

Kirk Maltby added an insurance marker for Detroit, scoring his first of the season at 4:11 of the third period.

The Devils lost forward Brian Gionta with just over seven minutes remaining in the second period. Gionta moved to hit Detroit defenseman Derek Meech but Meech braced himself and put a shoulder into Gionta, who went down, hitting his head on the boards.

Shanahan Doubles-up on Former Team to Carry Red Wings over Devils

New Jersey Devils draft pick Brendan Shanahan helped the Detroit Red Wings defeat his former team, scoring twice as the Red Wings earned a 5-2 win over the visiting Devils.

The Devils made Shanahan the second overall pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, an event which took place at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. Shanahan played four seasons with New Jersey.

The Devils opened the game’s scoring just 4:04 in when a hard shot from the blue line by Sean Brown bounced around on its way to the net. By the time it came to Viktor Kozlov to the right of Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, Osgood had lost track of the puck and Kozlov was open to put it past him.

Shanahan’s first goal of the night pulled Detroit even with 7:00 left in the period. He got the puck on the far side of the left circle and outwaited New Jersey netminder Scott Clemmensen, getting him to come to the near post and drop down before firing a shot over his shoulder to the far side.

New Jersey regained the lead on a goal by rookie Zach Parise. Osgood stopped a long shot by Vladimir Malakhov but kicked the rebound out to Parise to his left. Parise had an open net and didn’t miss as the Devils went up, 2-1, at 8:34 of the second.

The former Devil Shanahan tied the game again 3:23 later with the Red Wings on a power play. Taking a pass from Mikael Samuelsson, he fired a one-timer from the inside edge of the right circle to beat Clemmensen.

The Red Wings controlled the game from that point, scoring twice more in the period.

With 3:18 left in the middle frame, Tomas Holmstrom beat Clemmensen on a 2-on-1 with Dan Cleary.

Jason Williams put Detroit up by two with 1:39 left in the period. Henrik Zetterberg won a hard fight for the puck along the end boards behind the New Jersey goal and sent it out the Williams, who scored on a one-timer highly similar to Shanahan’s.

Slumping Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman scored the game’s final goal. As the Devils cleared their zone, Holmstrom dropped to a knee to stop the puck just outside the blue line and get it to Cleary. With the Devils scrambling to get back on defense, Cleary gained the zone along the left wing boards and sent a pass to Yzerman, breaking into the slot all alone. Yzerman went in on net and faked out Clemmensen, skating around him to put the puck in the net for his fourth goal of the season.

Detroit snapped a two-game home losing streak with the win.

The Red Wings went one-for-three on the power play while stopping all five New Jersey chances with the man-advantage.

Osgood stopped 25 of 27 shots on the night, including two highlight-reel saves in the third. Clemmenson made 39 saves on the 44 shots he faced.

Detroit will be back in action on Friday when they visit the Washington Capitals.

The game was the 1000th scheduled regular season game at Joe Louis Arena.

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