We're into a kind of doldrums for hockey right now and are going to be there for another couple weeks. The Cup Final continues to help spell the boredom, but until at least the draft (June 27th & 28th) most of what goes on for the next few weeks is just going to be a lot of rumor-mongering. We'll see the odd move here and there, but really we're just kind of in an open waiting pattern.
When Ken Holland talked about the three-year extension the organization recently gave Jeff Blashill, he mentioned that there were brief talks with Mike Babcock about an extension, but nothing got done before Babs headed out for a vacation. Holland affirmed he'll talk to Babs again around the draft. Until then, the reality is that the status quo around Babcock is to expect the vultures from other cities to ponder endlessly about bringing him to their towns (most notably Pittsburgh, who just fired their coach).
Some of the talk still centers around a team trading for Babcock. I want to reiterate that there's currently no rule in place which provides a mechanism for this to happen. It's possible that one could be created, since lots of teams (Detroit included) would like to have a way to get a return for staff they lose to poaching, but as of yet, you're simply not allowed to trade a coach and I'm not convinced there's a way to compel a team to actually give up assets for the return of simply relieving their coach of his duties so he can go sign with that other team.
The bottom line is that until Babcock re-signs, his future with the Red Wings is going to be a topic of debate, discussion, and wishful thinking by everybody involved. Reading the tea leaves of everything I've seen, I wish I were more confident that Detroit will lock up Babcock for an extension, but the combination of him reiterating that he's perfectly content going year-to-year, the sheer bargaining power he's going to have next summer, and yes, even the Blashill extension all leave plenty of room for assumption.
Speaking of Re-Signings
Helene St. James over at the Freep wrote an article earlier this week essentially saying that the Wings are looking at the trade market, but are also comfortable with the youth they have going forward if the right deal doesn't come along. In doing so, she indicated that the Wings expect to have $10-12M in space for guys after bonus overage carryover and re-signing those three players. Doing the math on that gives us a ballpark figure of $5M for all three of them. If that's the case, I'm thrilled. I expect Tatar and DeKeyser would get larger shares than Sheahan.
While we're at it, if you're curious about ideal length of each deal (from the Wings' perspective, not necessarily the players'), then here's the info on how long the deals can be without expiring with each player as a UFA.
- DeKeyser - age 24: 2 years (UFA eligible in Summer 2017)
- Tatar - age 23: 3 years (UFA eligible in Summer 2018)
- Sheahan - age 22: 4 years (UFA eligible in Summer 2019)
Basically none of these three can hit UFA before age 27 (the absolute cut-off date for players to reach UFA). Since both Tatar and Sheahan have birthdays in December, each of those UFA summer dates will actually fall closer to their 28th birthdays.
More Re-Signing Talk
According to the diggers, the only UFA that the Wings have actually closed the door on is Mikael Samuelsson. We don't expect that Kyle Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi, David Legwand, or Dan Cleary will be back on the roster next year either, but Holland hasn't committed to anything other than an an "interest" if term and number is good. Even if one of these guys is back (general response: [barf]), it likely won't happen before each player tests the free agent market. I personally don't think any of them will return, but I said that about Cleary last year and got made to look like an asshole for it.
The Wings would like to have Daniel Alfredsson back for another year if they can get a good deal done, but they're kind of waiting for Alfredsson to decide what he wants to do. We'll apparently know more about that later in the month. I liked how Alfredsson played well in a variety of roles for the Wings, but I'd like to see his cap hit come down a bit.
One free agent that the Wings are apparently very interested in re-signing is backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who played well in stretches, but overall had another sub-par season as far as individual performance metrics go. Apparently, the Wings aren't entirely comfortable giving the backup reins to Petr Mrazek before he finishes burning off his entry-level contract, as he'll be an RFA next summer.
I'm not entirely on board with this move. Gustavsson is certainly not going to sign for the $595K cap hit of Mrazek and I think it's better for the team to start the healthy competition in net sooner rather than later. What I'm wondering here is what's the Wings' plan B if they can't find a decent price point for Gustavsson? Are they after just him because they like him or are they absolutely set on fitting a guy between Howard and Mrazek this summer? If Monster doesn't re-sign are the Wings going to look at a guy like Thomas Greiss or Al Montoya or are they just going to promote Mrazek?
Honestly, given the alternative, I'd like to be given the opportunity to find out.
Other UFA Rumor Stuff
The New York Islanders trading for the negotiating rights to Dan Boyle hasn't slowed down the talk of bringing him to Detroit as a two-year stopgap for the development of more prospects. Since Boyle is the best one of very few worthwhile UFA D-men who is likely to be looking for a 2-year deal and that seems to be just what Holland wants, it's no surprise that they're not going to let a little thing like that get in their way of dreaming.
Here's what concerns me:
- Jokes about the Islanders being less-preferable than retirement aside, Snow managed to get a deal done with Jaroslav Halak in pretty short order after obtaining his rights, so it's not like the soon-to-be-Brooklynites are completely incapable of doing anything right.
- The Isles have an entire month to set Boyle's price. They're not against spending.
- If Boyle decides not to sign with Snow, Tampa Bay has also apparently expressed interest in the guy who used to play there. The Bolts are every bit as much a contender as the Wings are and, of course, we can't completely discount the lack of income tax in Florida is going to make that look more attractive.
- All things considered, this likely spells a premium price for a two-year deal on a guy with a concussion history in the waning years of his career.
On the other side of the coin, I've read everything about Matt Niskanen from him apparently being "very interested" in the Wings (at a hit below $7M no less!) to the Penguins being willing to do whatever it takes (trading Kris Letang) to keep him, to the all-too-familiar statement "the Wings will probably lose the bidding war for him. Since none of these rumors came from a source I'd trust as much as a Bob McKenzie-type journalist, we're no closer to knowing what will happen there than we were the last time we hammered this out, but at least I can say that I'm at fairly confident Niskanen's rights aren't getting dealt before the draft, if they get dealt at all (they won't).
For other free agent defensemen, like Tom Gilbert or Anton Stralman, there's even less scuttlebutt. The Wings will kick the tires on all of them I'm sure [not sarcasm], but there's just not much to go on with them. Gilbert is busy being in Florida and Stralman is a little preoccupied right now for some reason.
We'll be looking closer at a few players going forward and getting ready for mock draft and real draft stuff coming. Hopefully we'll get to share news of RFA re-signings pretty soon. Heck, maybe we'll get a real life blockbuster trade in the middle of the Cup Final just to piss everybody off. Until then, there's plenty to ponder as far as the Wings' direction going forward.