Monthly Archives: June 2011

One more defenseman gone

The pickings are getting slim for teams looking for a defenseman on the free agent market.

The Buffalo Sabres signed Christian Ehrhoff to deal that’s believed to be for 10 years and $40 million according to tsn.ca.

The Canucks were unable to workout a deal with Ehrhoff and traded his negotiating rights to the New York Islanders, who then did the same with Buffalo.

All signs point to the Wings going after Canton-native James Wisniewski once free agency begins at noon on Friday.

However, the Columbus Post-Dispatch is reporting that Wisniewski deciding on an offer made by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got his negotiating rights on Wednesday from Montreal.

Boston Bruin defenseman and former Toronto Maple Leaf Tomas Kaberle is looking better and better by the minute as is Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski if they don’t reach deals with their respective teams prior to free agency opening.

Sounds like Ericsson is leaning towards staying

DETROIT — It looks like defenseman Jonathan Ericsson will remain with the Wings, but he has yet to sign anything.

“I am set to stay,” Ericsson told Swedish newspaper Norrkopings Tidningar. “It should happen within a week. From 1 July, although other clubs come into the picture. I’m not worried, it will work out.”

The Wings have reportedly offered Ericsson a multi-year deal with would pay him around $2 million a season. He earned $900,000 last season.

However, the main sticking point seems to be whether Ericsson will move right into the spot vacated by Brian Rafaslki.

“I had hoped to get his place, but they have said they are looking for a new (defenseman) there,” Ericsson told the newspaper. “I like it in Detroit. The contract proposals, we have talked about two or four years.”

Where he fits in the organization also seems to be the main sticking points in negotiations with unrestricted free agent forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller.

An hour to go

DETROIT — Petr Svoboda, the agent for Jaromir Jagr, has pinpointed a time when his client may decide on where he’s going to sign for next season.

And the Wings seem to still be in the mix, along with the Pittsburgh Penguins and a third team.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” Svoboda said. “Nothing is going to happen before 6 p.m.”

Detroit, along with the Penguins, have each offered Jagr, 39, one-year deals.

Jagr can’t officially until the free agency period begins, which is noon on Friday.

Wisniewski’s rights dealt to Columbus

One of the defensemen the Wings may have been targeting once free agency begins at noon on Friday had his right traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch tweeted that Montreal dealt James Wisniewski’s rights to the Blue Jackets for a 7th round pick in 2012.

If Columbus is able to sign the Canton native, Montreal will receive a 5th round pick.

Jagr update

DETROIT — Wings GM Ken Holland said he’s been in touch with Jaromir Jagr’s agent Petr Svoboda, but nothing has changed as far as who will land his services.

Svoboda was reportedly in Pittsburgh Tuesday meeting with Penguins GM Ray Shero, who told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they offered Jagr a one-year deal and believes a decision will be made today.

Jagr can’t officially sign with anyone until July 1.

There is a third team supposedly in the mix for Jagr’s services, which could be the Montreal Canadiens.

Money not the issue with Wings’ free agents

DETROIT – As the Friday free agency period gets even closer, the Wings have still yet to reach deals with three of their own unrestricted free agents.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland continues to talk with the agents for defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller in hopes of getting deals done prior to the noon deadline.

Once that noon deadline passes, any one of them can sign deals with other teams.

The Wings have made offers to all three.

Holland has been talking with Ericsson’s agent seemingly every day since the NHL Entry Draft this past weekend and will continue to do so as the deadline approaches.

“We’d like to sign him,” Holland said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re close on money, but there’s more involved in his decision than just money. We’re talking about his role this year and going forward.”

With the retirement of Brian Rafalski, the Wings have just three top-four defensemen – Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart.

Despite not being as consistent as the Wings would like each of the last two seasons, they still see a lot of potential in the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Swedish defenseman.

Ericsson made $1.25 million last year and has been offered a deal just over $2 million per season.

If the Wings can’t satisfy Ericsson’s needs they will look for the fourth defenseman on the open market.

“We’ll continue to talk,” Holland said.

Vancouver’s Christian Ehrhoff, Montreal’s James Wisniewski and Boston’s Tomas Kaberle continue to remain unsigned and could land that fourth defensive role on the Wings’ blueline if Ericsson decides to test the market.

Opportunities up front could also be sticking points with Eaves and Miller.

“We want to keep them,” Holland said. “We think they’re going to grow and develop into bigger roles and have bigger responsibilities.”

Eaves has been a third- or fourth-line player in Detroit. He has developed into a stellar penalty killer and good forechecker. He has also contributed a bit offensively with 25 goals in the past two seasons.

Holland said Eaves’ agent was going to talk to his client today and then get back with the Wings by Thursday.

Despite being praised quite often for his work on and off the ice by Wings coach Mike Babcock, Miller found himself a healthy scratch 15 games last season.
He has scored 10 goals in each of the past two seasons.

“I’m sure they look at our depth and they’re not sure where the opportunities are going to present themselves,” Holland said. “They think they can have a bigger role with other teams.”

Two of the Wings’ unrestricted free agents – Chris Osgood and Kris Draper – won’t be offered deals before free agency begins Friday.

“We’re going to explore the market first,” Holland said. “We have cap space. The players we’ve got want us to build around them. They want to stay. They want to be important players.”

The Wings have 16 players (11 forwards, four defensemen, one goaltender) signed for a salary-cap hit of $47.6 million. This year’s cap is $63.4 million.

The Wings also have to sign rookie forward Cory Emmerton since he’s out of minor league options. If he doesn’t make the roster Emmerton could be claimed off waivers if they try and send him to the minors.

Where are all the defesnemen going?

DETROIT — Another unrestricted free agent defenseman was taken off the open market Tuesday when the Carolina Hurricanes reached a three-year deal with Joni Pitkanen worth $4.5 million a season.

On Monday, Kevin Bieksa, which many thought would have been the top defensemen teams would have gone after once free agency started Friday, inked a six-year deal worth $4.6 million a season to stay with the Vancouver Canucks.

Last week, Montreal’s Andrei Markov and Tampa Bay’s Eric Brewer also re-signed with their clubs.

There are still a few more top-end defensemen still available including Montreal’s James Wisniewski, the Canucks’ Christian Ehrhoff and Boston’s Tomas Kaberle.

Bieksa off market

One of this year’s top unrestricted defensemen won’t hit the open market.

TSN.ca is reporting that the Vancouver Canucks have inked Kevin Bieksa to five-year, $23 million contract. The deal will pay him an average salary of $4.6 million per season. The deal also includes a no-trade clause.

Bieksa, who has spent all six of his NHL seasons with the Canucks, would have become an unrestricted free agent on Friday if a deal had not been reached.

Wings now turn focus to their unrestricted free agents

DETROIT – With the NHL Entry Draft behind them, the Detroit Red Wings will now focus on their unrestricted free agents, namely forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.

“We’ve talked to all of their agents,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “We’ll probably get more done next week.”

The Wings have made offers to all three.

“This week we focused on the draft,” Nill said. “We’ll get working more on that next week and hopefully get them all signed up.”

The Wings are believed to have offered Ericsson a multi-year deal worth just over $2 million a season.

“We’re in the same ballpark,” Wings GM Ken Holland said Friday.

Holland is waiting to hear back from the agents for Eaves and Miller.

“If they have interest, they’ll get back to us,” Holland said.

All three of those players can become unrestricted free agents Friday.

Wings draft strategy works perfectly

DETROIT – With the 24th pick in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft Friday night, the Detroit Red Wings felt it better served them to trade out of the slot for more picks later.

Their plan worked perfectly.

With those two second round picks the Wings got from the Ottawa Senators, Detroit drafted right wing Tomas Jurco and defenseman Xavier Ouellet Saturday morning at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

“It’s different if you’re picking in the top 15 or 20,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. “You know someone is going to drop to you. When you’re picking in the bottom third of the first round, that doesn’t happen.”

It’s the third time in the last six seasons Detroit has traded out of the first round.

“We got to the point in the draft and there were still 20 or so players that we liked that were all kind of the same,” Nill said. “We felt it would be better to get two or three of those rather than one. It worked out well. We got two of them that we wanted.”

Nill compared Jurco to former Wing Marian Hossa.

“We just like his combination of size and skill,” Nill said. “He’s got high-end potential to his game.”

Jurco, who represented Slovakia at the 2011 World Junior Championships, helped lead Saint John’s to the 2011 Memorial Cup with a tournament-tying four goals in four games and was the 20th player ranked by NHL Central Scouting.

“He’s a very good skater with size and excellent puck skills. He has all the tools of a first-round draft pick,” NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau said.

His coach and former Wing Gerard Gallant said, “He does different things at practice some guys would view as being cocky, but Tomas does it because he wants to score a goal doing it. I just tell him to do what he feels comfortable doing. We’re not here to show up anybody, but if that’s the move you think you could score a goal with, do it. He’s a big-bodied guy with a great skill level and competes really hard.”

Ouellet played for Montreal of the QMJHL last season where he had eight goals and 35 assists in 67 games. His NHL Central Scouting ranking slipped from 39th at the midterm to 60th.

“(Ouellet is a) smooth skating, real good puck moving, solid defenseman,” Nill continued. “He had a very strong season and put up good points. He’s one of those guys that can play all night.”

The Wings also selected defenseman Ryan Sproul with their third second round pick, 55th overall.

“He’s got good size and is a good skater,” Nill said. “He really came on strong at the end of the year.”

Sproul, who had 14 goals and 19 assists with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL last season, shot up the NHL Central Scouting rankings. His final ranking was 54th after having a midterm rank of 124th.

TSN scout Grant McGagg said that Sproul posses a heavy slap shot, that sees the ice well and finds shooting lanes.

“We like the way things fell,” Nill said. “We moved down to get the extra picks and we ended up getting a couple of guys that we wanted. That worked out pretty well.

“I think we did a good job adding some size to our team,” Nill added. “We got some good sized defensemen. We’re happy with what we’ve got.”

The Wings rounded out their draft by selecting center Alan Quine of Peterborough (OHL) in the third round (85th overall); right wing Marek Tvrdon of Vancouver (WHL) in the fourth round (115th overall); center/right wing Philippe Hudon (145th overall) and defenseman Mattias Backman (146th overall) in the fifth round and defenseman Richard Nedomlel in the sixth round (175th overall).

Quine (5-11, 178 pounds) had 26 goals and 27 assists for 53 points in 69 games last season.

Tvrdon is 6-2, 210-pounds and a native of Nitra, Slovakia. He had six goals and five assists in 12 games for the Giants.

Hudon (6-0, 190) went to Choate-Rosemary High School in Connecticut and will attend Cornell University.

Backman (6-2, 169) played for Linkoping Juniors in Sweden. He had two goals and 18 assists in 27 games a year ago.

Nedomlel, a native of Prague, Czech Republic, plays for Swift Current (WHL). He had no goals, 10 assists and 107 penalty minutes in 66 games last season.

With their final pick, 205th overall, the Wings took defenseman Alexei Marchenko (6-2, 183) from CSKA in Russia.

Marchenko went undrafted last season despite being highly ranked.

“He’ll be one of the top defensemen on Russia’s World Junior team,” Nill said. “He’s one of the better young defensemen in Russia.

“Our Russian scouts know him well and he says he wants to come out in a year,” Nill added. “So we feel we have the ability to get him (in the NHL) if we need to.”

In total, Detroit drafted four forwards and five defensemen.

“Every team has pressure to win,” Nill said. “We’re all in the same business and it’s become equal. Everyone has the same money, so the system has leveled out.

“There has only been two teams since the lockout to make the playoffs every year, us and San Jose,” Nill added. “We want that trend to continue. If we continue doing that it means we’re doing something right.”