Friday, June 29, 2007

Cap Is 50.3M: Hello Ryan Smyth

Well, the cap has been set, and to the delight of Wings fans, it is 50.3M. I would expect some moves in the very near future by the Wings, since they have been planning on a 48M cap. I think this potentially paves the way for the Wings to sign Schneider. From what Holland has been saying it seems like their cap for him was 5M, but when you look at the Timonnen and Markov deals, his value looks like 6M. Now that they've got an extra couple million, they can think about going back and giving him market value instead of hoping for a hometown discount (which I don't think will happen).

Or, the Wings could think a little more seriously about Ryan Smyth. In any case, the opportunities are many, so here are four scenarios that could play out for the Wings. I assume Ansar Khan's numbers of 3M for Todd Bertuzzi, and 2.5M for Dominik Hasek, and I will assume 6M for both Schneider and Smyth, and 3M for Markov. (click the images for full size)

The Current Situation

Here's what the Wings would look like if they went to camp today. As you can see, 13.12M to work with (also figure Jimmy Howard and Kyle Quincey won't be on the roster).

Wings Sign: Schneider, Markov, Bertuzzi; (Trade Lilja)

This is pretty exciting since it keeps essentially the entire team together. Lilja has to be traded to maintain the salary cushion, and even so it is only 1.3M in this scenario, whereas KH likes to have it at 2M. That being said, he said he might dip into it if it means getting everyone he wants. So, not a shabby roster. However...

Wings Sign Smyth, Markov; Keep Lilja; Lose Schneider, Bertuzzi

Here you upgrade team defense by replacing Schneids with Lils. Then you hope Ryan Smyth and Igor Grigorenko can offset Schneider's loss. Looks pretty damn good. And there's a hefty 3.3M cushion for grabbing a puck-moving D-Man at the deadline. Hell, you could grab Chris Pronger at the deadline with that piggy bank. Not that I would. I would rather die in a fire. However, let's dream even bigger...

Sign Smyth, Bertuzzi, AND Markov, Lose Lilja, Schneider, and Hudler

Damn! And still a decent 1.38M in pocket-money. Just humor me for a second. Take a look at these lines.


Holy shit. I think the thing that excites me the most is how good of a 4th line that is. I am literally salivating.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hasek and His Effect

Ansar Khan seems to think the Wings are going to sign Hasek for a base salary of 2.5M. That's about 1M more than I expected, and from the sound of it, about 1M more than Holland expected. Anyway, whatever it takes to get Dom back, so let's look at where it leaves the Wings.

With both salary-cap scenarios I assume Dom gets 2.5/1yr, and that we trade Lilja (my reasoning; in short, saves a little salary, makes room for the kids, his value is high after the playoffs, and he'll leave next summer). The Wings can either keep Schneider and Bert, or keep Markov and grab Smyth. Here's the math:

Bert, Schneids in, Markov out

Holland has said 5.25M is the max for Schneider, but as you can see they can fit him at 6M, which I believe is his value and which I believe he will certainly get on the open market (maybe from the Ducks... blech). The only problem is that Schneider probably wants more than one year, but the Wings must sign him (or Markov) to a 1-yr deal to maintain flexibility for the impending Lidstrom FA and Zetterberg extension in 08.

Schneider out, Markov, Smyth in

If the Wings go with Markov they have room for Smyth, who I estimate at 6M. They must give Markov only a 1-yr deal, however. With Markov's, Draper's, and Hasek's contracts expiring in 08, it frees up 7.63M to extend Zetterberg, potentially give Lidstrom a raise (I doubt it but they have to be ready to do so if needed), and also re-sign Dan Cleary who will be a FA.

This all also assumes a 48.5M cap, so if it is closer to 51M, that's just more emergency money and makes things easier next summer for extending Zetterberg.

If I had to pick one of these, it would be Schneider/Bertuzzi, although I don't know if it will happen because of what Holland has said. If it doesn't, Markov/Smyth doesn't look bad at all.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Central Is Just Going To Be Depressing This Year

Edit: Story, TSN.

Just heard on ESPN that the Preds fucking traded Tomas Vokoun to the Panthers for a bucket of picks. I figured that they would trade one of their tenders but I thought it would be the cheaper Chris Mason. Actually this isn't that crazy, Mason is a very good goaltender. But the Preds salary purge continues.

Good News For People Who Like Trades

Boy. Lots of trades and trade talk going on, and not just in the NHL. In the NBA, talk of Kobe and KG on the move is reaching a fever pitch, and as far as Detroit is concerned, rumour (or maybe just wishful thinking) has it that Joe Dumars is trying to deal Rasheed Wallace for the likes of Shawn Marion.

In the NHL, with the Draft tonight, GMs are getting ready to sign pending free agents, deal for cap space, and work out their draft choices. The biggest deal of the summer yet just went down, with Toronto grabbing Vesa Toskala in exchange for first, second, and fourth round draft picks, and also taking on Mark Bell's 2M salary. This should solve their goaltending issues and perhaps will set off a chain reaction as far as goalie deals. With JS Giguere off the market, there are now no high-quality goalies ready to become UFAs, and the names of Ilya Bryzgalov and Manny Fernandez will get tossed around at about Mach 5 tonight.

And hell, even the Tigers are getting in on it. After dealing Fredo to the Braves, the Tigers have now also dumped Mike Maroth. I'm really hoping we got something serious in return (there's no word as of now on what the Cardinals sent back). Anyway, it looks like the Tigers may go with a rotation of Bondo-Rogers-Verlander-Robertson-Miller, with Durbin and de la Cruz hopefully bolstering the bullpen.

But back to hockey, Wings fans should watch the draft tonight (or, if you don't have Versus like me, constantly refresh to see whether the Wings do anything. Most likely if they pull a deal it will be like last year when the moved back to pick up more selections. It worked out last time, as the Wings got Cory Emmerton, now #5 on RWC's prospect rankings, and Shawn Matthias, who was #11 before getting dealt to the Panthers for Bert.

Speaking of Bert, tonight also might be the night the Wings finally sign some UFAs. After yesterday's incredibly surprising news that Robert Lang would not reutrn, the Wings are focusing on Bert, Schneids, and Danny Markov. As I've said, before, Schneider's value is approaching 6M, and now Ansar Khan believes that if Scott Niedermayer retires, his value may increase. (Personally, I think Scott Niedermayer retiring is a no-win situation. If he leaves, he will not only drive up the price on Schneids, but who will Val Filppula tear up in the playoffs next year?)

Things are looking worse and worse for the Wings bringing back Schneids. I've been warning about him since the end of the season, but now it's really starting to look like he may go elsewhere. Still hoping he takes a sweetheart deal and the Wings can keep him, though.

(In random news, does anyone else watch as much ESPN/ESPNEWS as I do? I like to keep it on as background noise, but every once and a while there's something that annoys the shit out of me every time it comes around. Today it's been the Vince Young interview where he talks about Pac-Man Jones. In the interview he uses the phrase "at the same time" at least 5 times, meaning I've heard him utter it circa 100 times in the past 24 hours.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Schneider Alert: Kimmo Timonen gets 6.3M

Mathieu Schneider's projected market value is continuing to zero in on the 6M mark. From TSN:

Because of Nashville's uncertain ownership future and an expected tight budget in the coming year, the Predators arranged with the Flyers to give them exclusive negotiating rights to two coveted free agents - defenceman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell. Sources tell TSN the Flyers have now signed both Hartnell and Timonen to long-term contracts.The Flyers also agreed to terms with Timonen on a 6-year, $37.8 million contract for an annual cap hit of $6.3 million.
(Also noticed by Christy at BTJ)

I'll eschew any dicussion at the moment on how absolutely batshit insane giving a 31-year old a 6 year deal is, instead focusing on why this is important for the Wings. Timonen's stats are comparable to our own Mathieu Schneider's, and this deal is another one for Schneider's agent to point to when making salary demands for his client. Take a look at Schneider, and two D who rank slightly below and above him, and what they got from their teams.

Andrei Markov (6-43-49 +2) 5.75M
Mathieu Schneider (11-41-52 +12) ???M
Kimmo Timonen (13-42-55 +20) 6.3M

With the slighlty inferior Markov getting 5.75M, and the slightly superior Timonen getting 6.3M, it's not exactly brain science to deduce that Schneider's worth on the open market is 6M. Hesitance about his age may knock that down a bit, but probably no lower than 5.5M in my mind. I'll reiterate again what I think about Schneids, which is that he will have to agree to take less than market value to stay with the Wings.

Friday, June 15, 2007

How the Wings Can Get Ryan Smyth

(Scroll to the bottom for the quick version...)

Ken Holland has been saying for a while now that he needs: one forward, two defensemen, and a goalie. Well, the goalie's Hasek, and the two defenseman are almost certain in my mind to come from the Wings' system, whether it's our UFAs or our kids or some combination. As I discussed earlier, the one forward is also very likely to come from the Wings 2006-2007 roster, in the person of Todd Bertuzzi. If Bert comes back, here's our lineup (my personal recommendations for lines):


In my mind that's a pretty potent lineup, although a lot depends on the kids on the projected 4th line taking another step forward. All this having been said though, this lineup could potentially be not that great, too. What if Bert doesn't work out? What if Franzen fails to build on an excellent post-season? What if Sammy can't stay healthy? What if Fil and Huds have sophomore slumps? Cleary? Kopecky? Grigorenko?

Lots of questions. I mean, potentially. Without a doubt someone in this lineup will disappoint, it's just impossible to hope everyone plays like you want them to. That being said there will be surprises too, so all around I'm not concerned. But say we wanted a stronger, veteran, more dependable presence up front? Maybe one with very close-together eyes?

Iwo at A2Y has taken up the cry of "Sign Ryan Smyth", an extreme, irrational response to an overall very successful season. But who can deny that such a signing would provide excitement in an offseason that could potentially see the Wings only return their own free agents and do literally nothing on the open market? And isn't that what sports is really about? Excitement in the offseason?

So let's see. How can the Wings sign Ryan Smyth? Reports are that he was looking for 5.5M in his extension with Edmonton. He didn't get it and who knows if he will on the open market. Let's just be conservative though and suppose he'd be willing to sign with the Wings for that amount. Let's take a look at all the other players the Wings have already comitted to, and then take a look at Smyth's effect.

On the left we have the current Wings' salary commitments, with estimations of 48.5M for the cap (owners have said that's as high as it will go) and a guess of 1.5M for Hasek. As you can see, it leaves the Wings a healthy 11.037M to work with. On the right, you see the Wings' picture with Smyth at 5.5M. If they want a 2M cushion, it leaves 3.5M available to bolster the blue line.

So really the question isn't "can the Wings afford Smyth?" it is, as with most free agents, a question of "what sacrifices must the Wings make?" In this case it is almost certainly Mathieu Schneider. Smyth's contract is a little more than the 5.25M roof Holland put on Schneider's contract, so he essentially would replace Schneids in the Wings cap situation. The Wings could definitely afford to bring back Danny Markov for around 3M and have 3M then left to save for various rainy days.

There is of course a very slight possibility that the Wings bring back Schneider at a heavy discount, like 4.5M. The Wings would then have to deal Andreas Lilja to maintain their 2M emergency fund. The odds Schneider takes probably about 1M less then he could get on the open market? Well, if it means the Wings get Ryan Smyth, I imagine he might be amenable. I'm not saying he would be, but the Wings could make that pitch.

Now here's the real question: what about the future? Smyth is almost certain to want a relatively long-term deal. I'd say the least the Wings could get away with would be 4 years. But the Wings must extend Cleary and Lidstrom next year, and likely will want to extend Zetterberg next year, one year before he hits UFA. Supposing Zetterberg settles for a mere 7M, a raise of 4.35M, and that Cleary takes a raise of just 1M, and that the cap rises by a modest 3M, the Wings would be forced to ask Nick Lidstrom for a cut of nearly 2.5M to a very modest 5M. Eeh. A more reasonable solution? Whichever D the Wings sign, Schneider or Markov, sign them to a one-year deal and kiss them goodbye at the end of next summer. Not that unreasonable given the wealth of young D talent the Wings possess.

To summarize, here's the How the Wings Can Get Ryan Smyth Battleplan (Whether Schneider Will Take A Discount or Not):

1. Sign Ryan Smyth, 5.5M/4 yrs.

2a. If Schneider will take 4.5M/1 yr, sign him.
3a. Trade Andreas Lilja. Quincey and Meech are both on the NHL roster.
4a. Release Schneider in the summer of '08 and use his money to extend Zetterberg.

2b. If Schneider won't take 4.5M/1 yr, sign Markov at 3M/1 yr.
3b. Keep Lilja; him and one of Quincey/Meech are on the NHL roster.
4b. Release Markov in the summer of '08 and put his money toward extending Zetterberg.

5a/b. Celebrate your record-breaking 07-08 season and 16-game Stanley Cup sweep.

Todd Ber-who-zzi?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WOA - Forwards: Bert

The Wings situation at forward is pretty simple at the moment. Here are the guys they have under contract:



I think this makes for a pretty weak 4th line (well, depending on how Grigorenko does) but honestly it's respectable and really becomes dangerous if the Wings can manage to split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg and spread the wealth. You can then have Cleary in the Top 6, move Kopecky to the Grind Line, and have a very good fourth line of Huds-Val-Grigorenko. This having been said, though, most agree that the Wings should bring in a Top 6-type talent, preferably power forward, to bolster this unit and keep the kids competing for their ice time. With a lot of money undoubtedly going towards keeping the Wings D unit among the best in the league (whether it's retaining Schneider and/or Markov, and/or bringing in a UFA) and the likelihood that Hasek will recieve at least a modest raise (my guess: 1.5M in base salary, 1.5M in bonuses), the Wings don't have much to spend on such a forward. But as it happens, they've got the exact guy they want, and for a few reasons, he'll probably fit right into their price range.

Todd Bertuzzi

Bert comes cheap for a number of reasons: 1) the ghost of Steve Moore's playing career following him, 2) his reputation as a goon and lockerroom cancer, 3) the fact that he's coming off of back surgery and 4) the fact that he hasn't done much lately (see 3). I think a reasonable offer would be for this guy to get in the range of 1.25M-2M, probably at 1.5M. There's a couple of reasons the Wings should do this:

First of all, he is going to get NO offers in the NHL. Maybe one or two teams will be insane enough offer him a relatively lucrative deal, but I really don't see it happening. With the Steve Moore thing and the possible negative reaction from fanbases, and the injury... I mean come on. Who is going to pay this guy. No one.

Second of all, he likes it here, he's near to his home, and he undoubtedly would not mind being a relatively low-profile guy on a team with enough star power to keep attention away from him. He doesn't have to do much, and no one's going to blame him if things aren't going great. Oh yeah, and this team is probably his best shot at a Cup.

Third of all, his personality issues become null and void on this team. It's kind of like Rasheed Wallace with the Pistons where he was a "bad apple" but on a team otherwise full of good guys, his influence is negated. In fact, I think the situation here is even better than that. I don't just think that Bert's negative influence is going to be nullified by the strong lockerroom here, I think he's actually going to turn into a good teammate. This lockerroom is that cohesive, that bulletproof. You saw it at the end of last year, with Bert towing the company line and deferring to others.

Now, what needs to happen for this to be a successful marriage? First of all, Bert does need to step up a bit. We saw his yeti-like rage just starting to show in the playoffs last year, and hopefully getting healthy and in good game shape is all he needs to re-emerge as a physical terror. But there is a sense in which Bert was a little awed by this team's style of play, to the point where he was passing the puck way too much, probably in an attempt to fit in. Even if Bert isn't "The Man" on this team (and he shouldn't be), I think he should be the man on whatever line he is on, at least as far as goal-scoring goes. His soft hands are underrated, and no doubt he should continue to look for the open man, but I think teaming him up with a pure playmaker is in the team's best interest as it will force him to go to the net and shoot. I think Bert would be great on a line with Datsyuk. If Bert defers to him, Pavs will just defer right back. Throw in Sammy, who can also benefit from Pav's passing, and I think you've got a recipe for success.

Next up: how can the Wings get Ryan Smyth?

Mario and Rod Score Tigers' First No-No Since 1984

Last night history was made at Comerica Park when Mario Impemba and Rod Allen called the first Tigers' no-hitter in over 20 years. When you talk about no-hitters, obviously they're a whole team effort: players have to play good defense, and I guess you need decent pitching or something. But if you had to pinpoint the guys really responsible for this kind of achievement, you can look only one place: the broadcast booth.

As is well known, the superstitious machinations of the fans watching the game affect it more than anything else. And the spearheading this effort every night are the announcers. Everyone did their part last night, including Drew Sharp who apparently really likes sharing these personal moments. But you've got to applaud the effort by Mario and Rod, not mentioning the no-hitter once in the broadcast.

The temptation is huge, as the Freep reports, to inform fans of what's going on.

"We didn't need to talk about it," Impemba said. "You do what you feel is right. And that's what we felt was the right thing to do."

When asked whether it was tough to balance the audience's need to know and the superstitious rules of baseball, he said, "it's a no-win situation for a broadcaster, because if you do mention it, and the no-hitter is broken up, then they are all over you. And if you don't mention it, and the pitcher gets it, then they say: 'Why didn't you say something.' "

The answer to the question really isn't that difficult: no you don't say anything. You keep your fucking mouth shut. You don't say another gd word. And these guys pulled it off. Wow, it must be a tremendous feeling for them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chris Chelios Will Never Die; Brian Burke Will Soon, I Hope

After a bit of a break, I'm back with some interesting stuff around the horn.
  • First things first, the immortal Chris Chelios has returned to the Wings as expected. I've always said that Cheli will never die, he will simply walk off into the sunset with Scotty Bowman one day. Mark my words.
  • John Buccigross, meanwhile, caused me to vomit by suggesting that world class d-bag Brian Burke should be NHL Commish one day. Wow, that's the day I leave the NHL. In reality, probably not, since Brian Burke actually couldn't be worse than Gary "I'm a fucking tool" Bettman.
  • The return of El LoquĂ­simo seems imminent, with his agent hinting at a return and Ken Holland suggesting that only the contract needs to be worked out. This is very very good. I am tickled.
  • In some very interesting news (ibid.), Ken Holland basically very bluntly put the cap on Mathieu Schneider's new deal at 5.25M. This totally confirms my suspicions, which were that Schneider would have to take a cut to around 5M for the Wings to keep him. Still no idea whether that will happen or not; Holland says they haven't even exchanged numbers. For what it's worth, the media is chiming in on the chorus line that only one of Markov/Schneider can come back. But with Hasek's return, and the Wings no longer needing to keep cash available for a goalie, I must reiterate that the Wings very well can bring back both.
  • Scott Warheit of MLive/Quo Vadimus fame is pushing an excellent campaign to get Placido Polanco to the MLB All-Star Game. A worthy cause indeed, as Placido is by far the best 2B in the AL. While we're at it, can we get Maggs there too? I heard on Saturday's broadcast that he ranks 7th in OF voting for the AL. That's pretty ridiculous, especially when you consider that ESPN ranked him (granted, based entirely on statistics) as the best player in the MLB, and by a signficant margin. Let's get Polly and Maggs the recognition they deserve, folks. (Edit: Christy at BTJ basically said everything I just said here, and while she was at it, pointed out that now says Polanco leads by 52,000 votes, a turnaround of 60,000 votes! Holy shit! Way to go Polly! And way to go Scott!)
Later tonight (I hope) I'll review the Wings forward situation and take a look at Todd Bertuzzi.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

WOA - Goaltending: Non-Roster Goalies

Today I'll take a look at possible goalies for the Wings outside of the Top 2 from 06-07. They include the kid(s?) in the Wings farm system, as well as UFA goalies and 'tenders on the trade market.

The System: Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard is the Wings' minor-league goaltending depth. After a logjam in net at the start of the season, the Wings now find themselves alarmingly thin at the position. They shouldn't have any difficulties in the upcoming season: they have a seasoned veteran (Osgood) and a possibly NHL-ready kid (Howard) under contract, and plenty of money to get whoever else they need. But as far as depth goes, the Wings only other goaltender is Daniel Larsson, who is just 20 and still playing in Sweden. The Wings traded Joey MacIntyre to Vancouver to ease the jam. Joey MacDonald was claimed on waivers after spending most of the season riding the pines. Logan Koopmans, who does not look like an NHL talent, has battled injuries, is a UFA, and is considering retirement.

Most surprisingly (to me anyway) was Stefan Liv suddenly signing with HV-71. Liv has a lot of experience in the Elite League in Sweden and I thought he would develop into a very solid backup for Howard. However it seems he has bolted for Sweden and it's unlikely the Wings will really try to woo him back. While Howard is a young goalie who should last the Wings a long time in net, you never know when a goalie's going to burn out or get hurt. The Wings should try to draft or sign an older netminder with experience who can come in a be a backup in GR and provide depth for the Wings in net.

As for Howard himself, all accounts are that he will be in GR next year, likely as a workhorse with no other developing goalies to compete for PT. I would love to see him get 60 games and be ready for the NHL in 08.

The Trade Market: From Browned-Eyed Toskala to Manny

The Wings will almost certainly look for a FA or traded goalie if Dominik Hasek does not return. The options range from stopgaps to a complete change of strategy. The most obvious solution would be for the Wings to get one of the many goalies on the trade-market with small contracts, both in years and dollars. Let's take a look at some.

Vesa Toskala, San Jose: 1 year, 1.375M (HA) Toskala is almost certain to be traded: he has the shorter, cheaper deal and no no-trade clause. GM Doug Wilson has said he will certainly trade one of them, and he really doesn't have a choice. Toskala is certain to walk at the end of the year. He's young, cheap, and highly effective, so he won't be cheap, but the market is flooded and Wilson is in a corner. Toskala is an ideal 1-year stopgap; he can be re-signed if Jimmy Howard goes off the rails, and gives the Wings two playoff-caliber goalies.

Ilya Bryzgalov, Anaheim: 1 year, 1.181M (HA) Unlikely to be dealt unless the Ducks re-sign JS Giguere. If they don't he's certainly their man and they'll likely look to lock him up long-term. If Giguere does come back, Brian Burke, a well-known douchebag, may hold off on dealing him until the deadline when he can likely extract more from teams looking for a playoff goalie (such as, possibly, the Wings). However, a question one must ask of both Anaheim and San Jose is, will either team be willing to deal with the Wings? I think it's likely in the offseason, but far less so at the deadline when these teams will be jockeying for playoff spots.

Chris Mason, Nashville: 1 year, 1.25M (HA) If dealing within-conference is tough, dealing within division is even tougher. This having been said, however, Jim Balsillie may be a lot less concerned about helping the Wings out if he's a) slashing payroll and giving up on 07-08, and b) planning on a move to the East, where he'll no longer care about the Wings. Mason played 40 games with the Preds and looks like as good an option as Toskala or Bryzgalov. With one year left on his deal, the Preds would be smart to trade him, although I haven't heard much about them doing so.

Manny Fernandez: 2 years, 3.75M (HA) Fernandez is by far the least appealing target for the Wings, both because of his salary, and the two years remaining on his contract. The Wings were rumored to be looking at Marty Lapointe at the deadline this past season, with Steve Yzerman as the chief impetus, but the Wings passed because his deal went for more than one-year. With Fernandez's age and injury concerns, the Wings would be very unlikely to get him. His is very experienced, however, and if they acquire him they could platoon him and Jimmy Howard in 08-09, and choose not to re-sign Chris Osgood. I like the younger, 1-year goalies a lot better though.

With any of these trades, the Wings would have to give up something, but with Giguere and Garon on the FA market, and four very respectable tenders with manageable deals on the trade market, I think prices will be relatively low. None of these teams wants to lose any of these guys for nothing, and all of them would likely be very discontented to be playing second fiddle for their respective teams for another year. If Hasek doesn't return, I would love to see Toskala or Mason for a 3rd-rounder and mid-level prospect (Meech, McGrath, Pyett?).

Blow It Up and Go For Broke: Jean Sebastien Giguere

If the Wings don't re-sign Schneider, this is actually possible. If they bring back Markov at 2.5-3 instead, the can fit JSG snuggly under the cap at 6.2M and still leave 2M in cushion room (this scenario also involves bringing back Bert at 1.5M). The Wings could fit him even easier if they elect for a youth movement at D, and re-sign neither Markov nor Schneider, they would definitely be able to match and exceed any offer around the NHL. And, if you've got JSG in net, do you really care if they D is a little green?

I'm not suggesting the Wings do this, but, for those who want it, it is possible. With Howard in the wings, though, and certain to be much ch
eaper, at least for his first NHL contract, I would rather have a 1-year stopgap than go for broke. JSG has had issues with his hip, and tying him up to a long-term deal (which he is certain to demand) will not only make things hairy for re-signing Hank and Lids, but will almost certainly mean dealing Howard, either immediately or down the road, unless they want to try and sit on him for the entirety of JSG's contract.

Here's the cap breakdown for a JSG (with Markov and Bertuzzi) scenario (click for full size image). Man. That's a pretty frigging tempting roster.

Posting Sched:
Tomorrow: Forwards: Overview & Big Bert
Monday: Ryan Smyth
Tuesday: Slava Kozlov

(One final note: if anyone gets the "brown-eyed Toskala" reference, you win. Like, millions and millions of dollars.)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

WOA - Goaltending: Overview and Hasek & Osgood

I probably should have done goaltending first because likely the Wings will commit to a certain number in net and then that will have a trickle-down effect with what they will do at the blueline and with forwards. Oh well. To refresh, given the Wings' likely signings of Chelios, Hudler, and Meech, their cap space stands at ~11.44M. I've also put together a picture in which the Wings retain every single player on the roster except Calder and Lang, with Kopecky and Grigorenko (both under contract) replacing them. This plan puts the Wings right at the cap of 48M, including 2M in deadline/injury money.

The latter involves, of course, bringing back Hasek, specifically at 1.5M with a bunch of playoff bonuses to be paid in 08-09. Why bring back Hasek? What are you stupid?

Dominik Hasek

I don't really fell like retreading the obvious; the Wings' best-case scenario at G involves bringing Hasek back. Miah at ATRW kicked off his blog with two great posts: On why we should bring back Dom, and on why the WCF loss wasn't his fault. I'll summarize my thoughts on Dom: Hasek is a crazy ass motherfucker, and this is a very, very good thing. I disagree with Drew Sharp and his ilk; while I would not be opposed to going after JSG if Dom does retire, if he wants to come back, he is the safest(!) route.

I suggest 1.5M, then maybe another 1.5M in bonuses, for a max salary of 3M. That's still a steal, but far from a hometown discount: the risk of Dom's age and injury history are still present, despite his relatively healthy season. Even if he does stay healthy, he may lose an edge athletically speaking. Even if Chris Chelios remains a superior defenseman at 45, and even if Steve Yzerman was the best player on the team in his final game, some folks do quit because of a drop in productivity and effectiveness, not injury or loss of desire. There's no reason to think that Hasek will never degrade in terms of quality.

Now, this having been said, the Wings can and should leave enough at the deadline to protect against either injury or a decrease in quality, but they can only do so if they protect themselves in Hasek's contract language: that means a bonus heavy deal, light on guaranteed money.

Now, deciding to bring back Hasek and signing him to a deal are the relatively easy parts: will he actually come back? Who the fuck knows. He's crazy. Fortunately we'll hear within a week.

Chris Osgood

Ozzie I believe is underrated by many. If Dom retires, a possible avenue is an Osgood/Howard tandem, with the former most likely taking on the top competition. I like such a move because it gives Osgood, a Stanley Cup winner, the opportunity to earn a playoff nod. If he can't get it done, look for someone at the deadline. But I think Osgood can absolutely do it.

The biggest roadblock to that happening, however, is Osgood's inability to stay healthy. I haven't heard anyone say it, but Osgood is making a name for himself as an injury prone goaltender. Take a look at his last two seasons, both with Detroit (from TSN):

14-Feb-07: Missed 8 games (broken finger).
28-Jan-07: Broken finger, day-to-day.
26-Jan-07: Missed 2 games (flu).
19-Jan-07: Flu, day-to-day.
18-Dec-06: Missed 15 games (hand injury).
14-Nov-06: Hand injury, day-to-day.
01-May-06: Missed Game 4, 5 and 6 of Round One against the Edmonton Oilers (groin).
27-Apr-06: Groin, day-to-day.

18-Oct-05: Missed 7 games (groin) and assigned to Grand Rapids (AHL) for conditioning purposes.
05-Oct-05: Groin, day-to-day.

The 7 games in October '05 led to Manny Legace stealing the starting job in a situation where the Wings thought they would have a Roloson/Fernandez type tandem. The groin injury in the '06 playoffs potentially cost the Wings the series and who knows? The Cup? Osgood might have parlayed that into a starting gig this year. And the 25 total games he missed this year weren't a boatload of laughs for the Wings either - they led to more starts for Hasek (eep!) and any starts for Joey MacDonald (ugh).

I believe that due to his injury-proneness (that and the Wings' desire to keep Jimmy Howard in GR another year) the Wings are unlikely to call upon The Oz to lead the Wings. This having been said however, there is no better insurance policy for the Wings. Consider the scenarios:

1. Hasek returns. Osgood ideally plays 35 games, helps keep Dom healthy, and is not a bad worst-case scenario at all if Hasek goes downhill or gets hurt.

2. The Howard age begins. Osgood plays 45 games and mentors the young goalie. Probably the playoff starter in such a scenario.

3. The Wings get Toskala, Fernandez, Garon, Bryzgalov. Osgood plays 35-45 games, depending on performance. Gives the Wings two options at any given time, and two options for the playoffs. Allows the Wings the luxury of being able to switch goalies in the playoffs.

4. The Wings get Giguere. Osgood is overkill, and likely gone after the 07-08 season. Still, if the old hip flares up, there's the Ozzinator.

Osgood gives the Wings ultimate flexibility. I believe he can be a starter and can win the playoffs, but he is content (or willing, anyway) to be a backup. And he's the perfect guy to mentor the likes of Jimmy Howard.

Tomorrow: The Kids
Saturday: The FAs

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ducks Win

Hope you're watching, Dom.

WOA - Defense: They're In That Awkward Stage

With the Wings' embarrassment of riches on D, some less likely D-men are being made targets by Wings fans. Namely, the Wings two youngest roster-holders, Niklas Kronwall and Brett Lebda. I'll go over why dumping each of them is an appealing move, and why the Wings shouldn't go that route, at least not this season.

Nik Kronwall

The sum of all Kronwall's faults can be pinpointed on one part of his game: physical play. Coming out of the AHL, Kronner was touted as the next Lidstrom, but with physicality! As it turns out... we're sort of glad Lids doesn't throw his body around.

First of all, Kronner's affinity for the big open ice hit often led to his being out of position, usually meaning a 2-on-1 with backcourt partner Mathieu Schneider back. (While Schneider isn't shabby defensively, he probably is the last D on the Wings I would want back on a 2-on-1.) This is without a doubt Kronner's greatest on-ice flaw. While his physical dimension is welcome, and needed in the playoffs, if he could only scale it back his good hockey sense would prove him a good defensive defenseman. But until he masters the urge to crush skulls at center ice, he will continue to be a potential liability on the blue line.

Second, Kronner's more well publicized problem is the far less controllable... or is it? Every year since joining the league Kronwall has suffered a major injury, none more ball busting than this year's broken sacrum, which caused Kronwall to miss the playoffs. While I'm not suggesting Kronner isn't both a little injury prone (whatever that means) and has shitty, shitty luck, I am suggesting that at least some of the blame can be laid at Kronner's overexuberant physical play.

I mean look at Danny Markov: Wings most physical defenseman, and until this year, tagged "injury prone". And for another proof, look at Nick Lidstrom. One of the least physical D in the NHL, and has, like, never been injured, ever. I once saw Nick Lidstrom get shot in the heart, and all he did was sneeze. I was like "Bless you" and he was like "No it's cool we don't do that in Sweden" and I was like "Wow you learn something new every day."

Anyway, while Kronner is a strong skater and has supposedly great offensive talent, he hasn't shown much of the latter (1-21-26). A lot of that, I will argue, has to do with him getting second-rate PP time behind Lids and Schneids. But combine his paltry production with the injuries and the costly errors... and you wonder why he's getting 3M next season, and the next four seasons after that.

Given these problems, a trade or cut of Kronwall is tempting, but I definitely don't see this as being in the Wings best interest. Certainly someone, whether its the captain, the Captain, or a member of the coaching staff, should try to work with Kronwall on taking his physical play down one, perhaps two notches. Secondly, Kronner should get more PP time to show what he can do. This will most certainly happen if Schneids doesn't return, but even if he does I think Kronner needs to get Top 2 IT on the power play.

If, despite these changes, Kronwall continues to struggle in the offensive, defensive, and corporeal integrity departments, I could see dumping him, especially with his salary. But there isn't a Wings young D-Man who can't wait another year*, and the Wings are far enough from cap strangulation to afford it for now.

Brett Lebda

After Andreas Lilja's surprising performance, Lebda was tagged by many Wings' forum members and blog commenters as the 7th D with Lilja jumping into the Top 6. The chief argument against Lebda is that he is supposedly, with all his speed and lack of size, an offensive D-Man, but put up stay-at-home point totals (5-13-18). However, the argument for Kronwall goes double for Lebda, having been on only the third pair and getting very little PP time.

As for knocking Lebs down to the 7th slot in favor of Lilja (or Quincey or Meech), it doesn't make any sense. Why give a veteran who isn't going to be on the team in a year PT ahead of a kid who is still developing? I agree that Lebda isn't the most exciting prospect (well, he is pretty exciting at times, but I mean, big-picture-wise) he is solid defensively if small. I think the Wings can only really afford to have one undersized, speedster, offense-specialist D-Man. Lebda obviously has the step up on Meech, but who knows. I think there's no point in not giving Lebda a full shot, including plenty of PP time, to show he can be a Top 4 D-Man in the NHL.

Posting schedule:
Tomorrow: Goaltending: Overview and Hasek & Osgood
Friday: The Kids
Saturday: The FAs
Sunday: Forwards: Overview

Monday, June 4, 2007

52M Cap? Wings Rejoice? Question Mark?

From the NY Post, via Snapshots:
Slap Shots has been told that the NHLPA is planning to exercise its right under the CBA to request that a full five-percent bump be built into next season's cap. If 2006-07 league revenues come it at $2.36B - Gary Bettman on Monday said he thought the number would be close to $2.4B - a five-percent bump would bring next season's upper limit to approximately $52M.
So remember how I determined that the Wings could keep their entire roster together, with the exception of Lang and Calder, while still staying under the cap? Hell, now the Chief's insane battle-cry of Sign Ryan Smyth actually seems possible without making any sacrifices.

However, I will urge caution if the cap does indeed reach 52M. Since the increase is based on ticket price increases, and given all the gloom and doom about the state of the NHL these days, can we expect the cap to jump again? We may even see the cap decrease. And given the need for a Zetterberg extension and the Lidstrom re-signing, it doesn't make sense for the Wings to sign a big name FA (who will likely want more than one or two years) even if they can fit him under the cap this year. And considering the other contracts the Wings have on the horizon (Cleary, Franzen, Filppula, Grigorenko?) I think caution should rule the day.

That being said, Mat Schneider is exactly the kind of FA the Wings can sign if they want to take advantage of the extra 4M. The Wings can offer something much closer to market value, i.e., 6M, and Schneider is certain to stay if he feels he's being offered his worth. His contract is likely to be one or two years, giving the Wings flexibility for the impending UFAs of Lids and Zatta. I'll go into more detail on the Wings options for a 52M Cap in the next few days. Here's a posting sched:

Tues: Wings Offseason Analysis - Defence - Lebda and Kronwall
Wed: Wings Offseason Analysis - Defence - Free Agents
Thurs: Wings Offseason Analysis - Goaltending - Overview

I just realized I've been spelling defense Canadianly. I am some kind of retarded.

WOA - Defence: The Fab Four and Selling High

(First off, a moment of silence for the 'Stones. It may be the end of the this team as we know it.)

Saturday I determined through some crafty mathematics and Microsoft Excel work that the Wings actually can keep all 7 of their top D-men from the 06-07 season, and still retain Hasek and Bertuzzi, and still have 2M in spare change for injuries/deadline deals (post ; salary chart).

However, in my analysis I also noted that the Wings may be better off not retaining all their veterans so as to start grooming the Fab Four. And of those Four, Derek Meech seems to be getting Hudlered onto the Wings' roster for next season, as he cannot be sent down without clearing waivers. Kyle Quincey, meanwhile, may Filppula his way onto the roster, after a very solid playoffs showing. (The verbs "Hudler" and "Filppula" are copyright me. Don't believe Iwo if he puts them in his glossary and tells you he made them up. Man I should get a glossary.)

While people are excited by Meech's speed, and by Quincey's perhaps legendary playoff performance, these two are arguably the less dynamic and less exciting prospects of the four. I see these two as a very solid 5-6 pair in the future. Each is basically one-dimensional; Quincey is a big, stay-at-homer, with physical play. Of current Wings I would compare his upside to the 2007 Playoffs Version of Andreas Lilja, though perhaps with more speed, so maybe somewhere between Lilja and Danny Markov.

Meech meanwhile has good speed and works the point well. We haven't seen him much, but RWC says he has a good shot, so here's hoping he gets some PP time for the Wings. He's not going to be a Schneider type, but certainly should contribute offensively here and there. That's why I like Meecher-Quince as a good 3rd pair - neither will be an All-Star, but they do complement each other and both will play solid defence.

Jakub MF Kindl meanwhile has me pacing late at night with excitement. The kid's big (6'3'') and has been piling up points in the OHL. The most exciting part is that he's been stirring up shit and getting into fights. Now, the Wings won't let him develop into a Sasquatch-type brawler, but this lineup could use some nastiness. (Word on the street is he punched a baby in anger once.) He almost made the squad this past year and is RWC's #2 prospect, but certainly the Wings won't have room to let him on this year. He'll likely spend at least one season kicking ass for the Griffins before debuting with the Red and White and grabbing the Calder.

As exciting as JMFK is, Jonathon Ericsson may have even more upside. Strengths, via RWC:
Surprising mobility and agility for a big man ... good hands and puck skills ... makes good first pass ... uses his skating, impressive reach and improving positional game to neutralize opponents in the defensive zone ... uses his size well and gets involved ... willing to stand up for his teammates, fighting when necessary ... armed with a heavy shot ... quick and willing learner ... character player ...
More exciting, however, is his apparent lack of weaknesses (ibid.):
Needs to move the puck quicker ... has good puck skills, but can get caught when he over-handles it ... began his career as a forward and his conversion to the blue line in his draft year means he is is still raw with plenty of learning ahead ... heavy shot but slow release ...
Oh yeah and he's 6'5. Oh yeah and he got taken LAST overall in his draft year. That probably is the best sign on this team, and we maybe should be a little worried about Kindl given the curse that apparently hangs over recent D-Men taken in the first round by the Wings...

But of course, seeing any of these guys blossom is a far way off, given that the Wings, UFAs included, have an admirable Top 7 blueline. If everyone returns, the Wings will have Andreas Lilja, my pick for most improved player in the postseason, as the reserve D-Man.

Miah over at All Things Red Wings has a great post chronicling the Liljahammer's postseason, and certainly he has earned himself a shot at more IT than last season. But maybe, with all the young talent in this organization, it's time to let go of Lils. It's not his turnover against Anaheim that bothers me, and Lilja will be a better D-Man next season than any of the kids. What makes me want to deal him is the fact that he's 31, and a UFA next summer, at which point the Wings will surely not re-sign him.

Getting his 1M off the books isn't really motivation, but that money would in all likelihood go toward the Ken Holland Beer Fund and the possibility of getting an insurance D at the deadline. If the Wings deal Lilja, and keep only one of Markov/Schneider, there's your 6/7 D in form of Quincey and Meech, perhaps alternating. When the Wings need an offensive presence or a shot in the arm on PP, throw in Meecher. When they need physicality and good, sound D, throw in Quince. Who knows, one of them might even make it into the playoffs as the 6th D. And if neither of them show NHL stuff right away, like I said, grab someone at the deadline (hell, maybe it'll be Lilja.)

I know letting go a guy who just turned in a great performance isn't fun, but it's not like I'm suggesting we trade Rasheed Wallace or anything. Remember Mike Vernon in '97? More to the point, remember Chris Osgood in '98?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Wings Offseason Analysis - Defence: Schneider vs. Markov

The Wings have a wealth of options at D, perhaps too many. Everyone seems to be predicting that the Wings can keep only one of Markov and Schneider. Well we'll see. The Wings have Lidstrom, Lebda, Lilja, and Kronwall in the fold, and Chelios all but there. That gives them 5 D who are arguably starting material. Then there's Markov and Schneider, UFAs. And finally young abounds: Quincey, Meech, Kindl, and Ericsson all in the back pocket. Meech can not be sent down without clearing waivers.

The biggest question involves the biggest players: Daniil Markov and Mathieu Schneider. Let's take a look at each of them.

95 - Danny Markov - D

I'm a big fan of Markov's. He's not big, though he's tall (6'1) he has a wiry build (194). He's as physical as any Wings defenseman, and of those, the most defensively responsible. Kronwall has a greater propensity to hit but it often gets him out of position. Schneider and Chelios are both physical, but not to the same degree as Markov. In my mind he is the perfect compliment to Lidstrom - a top tier defender capable of playing against the top competition, but brings physicality that Lidstrom doesn't. Also an underrated skater and puckmover. He had a solid defensive season, and did manage to stay healthy. He is, however, a defensive defenseman, and defense is cheaper than offense. Last offseason I guessed 2.5M for him and was spot on. I'll say he deserves the same again, 3M at the most. Cost: 2.5M - 3.0M

23 - Mathieu Schneider - D

Schneider is the better known of the two. His offensive exploits are well known, and perhaps best attested not by point totals but rather the incredible slumps that mired the Wings during his two lengthy absences, in January and then in the postseason. His cannon on the point gave the Wings a potent weapon on the PP, although he did need to adjust in the postseason as defenders were more eager to lay out. Schneider's stat line is better in goals, points, and +/- than Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens, who recently recieved 5.75M per year for 4 years from his team. To me this sets Schneider's minimum at 5M, and that's only if he's feeling generous to the Wings. I also would be surprised, but not blown away, if the Wings were willing to dish out more than 4M on Schneids. Cost: 5.0M - 6.0M

Route 1: Get 'Em Both (see Cap Chart)

The Plan: Retain Markov - 3M/yr, 3yrs ; Retain Schneider - 5M/yr, 2yrs

This, the most conservative but most expensive route, gives the Wings the exact same D lineup as last year. (Don't mind the pairings/lines on the cap chart, I was just to lazy to fix them.) This experienced bunch will be paced by Kronwall and Lebda - if those two step up and stay healthy this can be as good a D group as there is the league. Notice it leaves enough room to give Hasek 1.5M (with bonuses not counting against this year's cap) and around one and half mil for Bert, which I think is about where he'll end up. That leaves the perfunctory 2M piggie bank. Not a bad plan at all, and leaves the only changes as replacing Lang and Calder with Grigorenko and Kopecky. It does the Wings with a pickle regarding Derek Meech. Lilja would likely be the 7th D-man. There are a number of suggestions regarding getting rid of Lils, Kronwall, Lebda, and Chelios (that was a joke) to make room for Meecher, but another plan might be to simply retain 8 D, as Scotty Bowman was once wont to do. Since the Wings will likely not be carrying a 3rd G, it's possible.

Route 2: Take Schneids

The Plan: Retain Schneider, 5M/yr., 2yrs. ; Release Markov

This leaves Lilja as the replacement for Markov and likely also his replacement on the top pair. Lils played his heart out in the playoffs and merits the second shot. Leaves Derek Meech as the likely 7th D, perhaps rotating with Lilja when the Wings need an extra offensive boost. Lilja essentially plays the same game as Markov, physical, stay at home, occasional fighter. Lilja however has inferior foot speed and isn't quite up to Markov's level defensively, but when Lidstrom's your partner, who cares? This plan keeps the Wings as good offensively, slightly poorer defensively, but also ~2.5M richer. If the Wings plan on pursuing an FA, but retaining their offensive character on the blue line, this is the only way to go.

Route 3: Take Markov

The Plan:
Retain Markov, 3M/yr., 3yrs. ; Release Schneider

This move is the cheapest of the three, as the Wings avoid matching the very high going price on elite offensive defencemen. The Wings maintain their excellent top-pair, with Markov providing the physical yin to Lidstrom's light-sabre-for-a-stick yang. Leaves Kronwall and Lebda as the likely second pair, and also means both must step up for the Wings offensively. Also gives the Wings ~4.5M in spendy. If the Wings choose not re-sign Bertuzzi, make that total about 6.19M in free spending, not including a 2M beer fund. Gee, who could the Wings go out and get with 6M? Who else?

Route Insanity: Fuck it, bring on the kids.

The Plan:
Release both. Hellooo Jakub Kindl.

Gives the Wings a top pair of Lids-Lils, a second pair of Kronner-Lebs. The only way this possibly works? If the Wings third pair is Rookie of the Year Jakub Kindl and Old Man River Chris Chelios. That's right. Jakub Motherfucking Kindl beats out Jack Motherfucking Johnson. Some maniacal part of my brain wants to see this happen. Leaves this Wings with a ridiculous 8M to play with. The only way this happens is if Hasek retires and the Wings decide they need to get Giguere (and retain Bertuzzi). And if you get JS... do you really care if your D takes a hit?

My Analysis: Markov

Point 1: Defense wins championships. You retain the most physical member of the Wings blueline corps, and you drop the guy who in my mind is the weakest defensively. He's not horrid, but he's not great either. You replace him with Lilja or Quincey, an improvement on the back-end.

Point 2: Shots from the point are dramatically less important in the playoffs when players start manning up and laying out to block pucks. Not that I wouldn't rather have a guy with a cannon on the chance he can find a lane, but the Wings are better off spending next season figuring out how to score on the PP by cycling low, so they can use it in the postseason.

Point 3: Kronner and Lebs need to step up, or step out. Time to find out if these guys can become Top 4 D-men, at least offensively. If they can't, not signing Schneider gives the Wings probably a lot more than the standard 2M in rolled in small unmarked bills stored in a box under Kenny Holland's mattress for deadline day. If the kids can't get it done, the Wings can bring in the top offensive D-man available in February (hell, maybe it'll be Schneids.)

Point 4: Schneider is old. He's just so old. I mean look at him! He's so old. Seriously though, the Wings top 3 D-Men are, as we are constantly reminded, not young. The Wings need to start getting the Fab Four (Quincey, Meech, Kindl and Ericsson) IT in the NHL. It's not cool to have 4 rookies on defense suddenly, and Nik Kronwall and Brett Lebda as your seasoned veterans. If Schneider goes, the Wings can at least start with Meech (this argument also applies to taking Schneids and not Markov).

My Prediction

I think Ansar Khan's recent blog post concerning Schneider is mostly speculation, with the only real news being that Holland and Schneider have actually talked and will in fact talk again. This doesn't surprise me, and if Holland can get Schneider for 5M or less, I wouldn't mind. But as I've pointed out, Markov and Schneider both is a very, very doable plan, though highly contingent upon Dominik Hasek's retirement plans, and how much of a discount Todd Bertuzzi is willing to go for (but seriously I can't imagine any NHL team will give him more than 2M). But this having been said, Schneids doesn't strike me as a hometown discount kind of guy. He could probably get 6M somewhere, as crazy that sounds, just look at what A. Markov got. My guess is that Holland won't be able to retain Schneider and will move quickly to wrap up Markov. An outside possibility is Brad Stuart, who is more dynamic than both Schneider and Markov, bringing a presence to both ends of the ice; but he's likely looking for a long-term deal and the Wings can't afford to do anything big for more than two years - Hank hits FA in 09. No Schneids. Markov for 3M, two years.

Damien: Does Dastardly Ducks' Dominance Divine Deadline-Deal Dearth?

And another question, is alliteration still cool? Answer: Absolutely, awesome as always.

Back to the topic at hand. Damien Cox, writing for ESPN, discusses the success of two teams that more or less stood pat at the deadline, and who also, oh by the way, happen to be playing for the Cup:
But why, based on the events of the past week, would any team go out next winter and spend draft picks, players and prospects to acquire a big-name player at the March trade deadline based on the events of this season?
Undoubtedly, more teams will think twice before dealing at deadline next year given the Ducks and Sens' success. But come on. Teams know when they aren't good enough to stay in/make the playoffs, and will continue to bankrupt their futures for the likes of Keith Tkachuk. And as for the Wings? Are they regretting their deals? I'm gonna say not really.

Kyle Calder would be the guy you would point to as having been an unremiting failure in Detroit, but really, can any deal that gets Jason "White Chocolate" Williams and his remaining contract out of the 313 a failure? Kyle Calder could have shot Dominik Hasek in the kneecap and that deal would have still been a grand success. Did I mention I'm fond of hyperbole.

As for Bertuzzi, there may be some second guessing. Shawn Matthias may yet develop into a pretty nice prospect, although I doubt anyone is sweating the loss of a 2nd-round pick, especially when we still have our first. (The Wings once went into a draft without their 1st and 2nd rounders. Who'd they get in the third? Some soft European named Johan.)

But given how much Bert has warmed to Detroit, and the likelihood that he'll sign a cheap-o contract to stay here, you have to say that even if he wasn't a force in the playoffs, the deal was a pretty good investment. So yeah, the Wings will continue to deal at the deadline. If Quincey/Meech/Lilja is the Wings 6th D-Man I would expect them to grab a puck-moving D in February, and perhaps yet another gritty forward. We just can't get rid of those early-round picks fast enough.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wings Offseason Analysis: Overview

Welp, with the awards all wrapped up, on to the offseason. Most predictions are that the Wings will be relatively conservative, trying to retain as many players from the 06-07 squad. The biggest questions are whether Hasek and Bertuzzi will return. And the biggest names being thrown out include JS. Giguere, Ryan Smyth, and Slava Kozlov. Plenty of speculation and analysis has already gone on, so of course now I will present mine, so I can glean what I like from everyone else!

Before doing anything, of course, we must consult the almighty cap:

Asterisked players are those who are free agents, but who I am sure will sign. Their contract numbers are estimates. Otherwise, this is the list of only players under contract - i.e., this is how the Wings would come to camp if they followed an ultra-conservative gameplan for doing their offseason shopping. As you can see, it leaves them 11.44M in spare change. Now this roster also features a number of players who will not be on the team if the Wings go for any UFAs, so the 11M figure is not a total indicator of how much they have to spend, since the contracts of the players who will be in GR will be taken off the books.

I'll start with the most obvious moves I'm sure the Wings will make, and that I think they should make:

Jiri Hudler - W/C - RFA
As I said in my post on Wednesday, Jiri is facing an uphill battle. As it is, Hudler is already the Wings' 11th or 12th forward, and likely is slotted behind both Tomas Kopecky and Igor Grigorenko. If the Wings make any moves, such as re-signing Todd Bertuzzi as expected, Hudler will already be fighting for playing time, and with Mike Babcock's obsession with size... er, height, Hudler is likely the odd man out. The Wings could carry him as the 13th forward and play him sparingly, but if he is not garnering playing time the most sensible move might be to trade him. Analysis: Re-sign, 600K/1yr. Prediction: It'll happen for around that number, unless the Wings deal him.

Derek Meech - D - RFA
Word on the street is Meech cannot be sent to GR without clearing waivers, so much like Hudler and Kopecky last year, Meech is basically guaranteed a roster spot. The big question is whether he'll get any PT. I think that regardless of the situation, Meecher will be the 7th D, but if the 6th D is Kyle Quincey, he's likely to play a lot, perhaps alternating with Quince, like Hudler and Kopecky did early in 06. Meech could help to soften the potential blow of losing Mat Schneider, as he was a PP QB with the Griffins last year. However, if the Wings are more aggressive in retaining their D corps, and Quincey is in GR next year, Meech will not likely outplay any Wings veterans. Analysis: Re-sign, 450K/1 yr. Prediction: Don't see any reason why not.

Chris Chelios - D - YFA
Chris is what I call an "Yzerman Free Agent", or a UFA who is all but guaranteed to return to the Wings. Ken Holland has said he wants Cheli back, and Chelios has said he expects to come back. He'll be expected to play a 5/6 D role, mentor a young D-man or three, be the Wings top PK D-man, and step up to a leading role in injury time. As Miah at All Things Red Wings recounts, Chelios had a rough season but played his heart out. His biggest contribution this season was his leadership, and that will continue in 07-08. I can't imagine he gets more than one million, given the huge hometown discounts he's been giving the Wings for the past few years. Bonuses may increase the total value of the contract, but those can be counted against next year's cap. Analysis: Re-sign, 900K/1 yr. Prediction: Duh. He may get more if he asks for it, but he won't break the Wings' bank.

Robert Lang - C - UFA
Robert "Captain Hook" Lang (see below) led the Wings in penalty minutes, despite not being a D-man or an enforcer. He put in a decent 20-30-50 season, but the Wings expected far more out of the actually talented center. The one theoretical argument in favor of Lang, and his apologists' battle cry all throughout the regular season, was that he was a playoff performer, and despite some statistical evidence in favor of this, most observational judgements of Lang were that he was terrible. In my mind, it is time to split up the Eurotwins and spread the wealth as it were, which means the Wings' 1-2 centers are set. Draper and Filppula round out the 3-4. There is no place for Lang, and I would not take him for the minimum. Analysis: Peace, bitch. Prediction: Very likely.

Posting Schedule:
Starting tomorrow I'll take a look at the Wings' D situation, considering the D-men already on the roster as well as Wings UFAs and UFAs from other teams.

Who Does This Crosby Kid Think He Is

Pittsburgh Penguins star center Sid Crosby was recently named captain, according to TSN:
Sidney Crosby became the youngest player ever to win the NHL scoring title this season, and now the Pittsburgh Penguins are making him the youngest team captain in NHL history.
The first thought that came to my mind was, just like Christy at BTJ, that Yzerman's captaincy record might be in danger. In fact, the thought first burst to my mind when Crosby was named alternate captain. Yes, I am that paranoid. Crosby will have to play until the age of 39, and stay captain of the Penguins for the duration of that time to challenge Yzerman's record (or 38, if we are going by seasons played and there are no more seasons lost to lockout.)

Although it seems like a tremendous task, I could see it happening. Because of the salary cap, high payrolls are hard to maintain, but really, who wouldn't the Penguins give up to keep Crosby? I can see them ditching Malkin or Staal when they hit UFA; anybody on the Penguins could be traded or cut to make room for Sid the Kid. And, with the player maximum, as long as the Penguins give him as much as any team could, why would he test FA?

I know the Pens aren't a big market, but they are a hockey market, and with some long playoff runs in the future, and el Sid at the helm, they could probably make the revenue to simply hold on to him no matter what. But the bigger question for the Pens, really, is: can Crosby display one quarter of the leadership Yzerman did? If so, they're in real good shape.