H2H2 Update

230 days until we descend upon the great city of Detroit as a massive group for the second annual (THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’RE ALLOWED TO USE ANNUAL) meet-up.

As soon as you know how many seats you’d like to the game, let Jen MacRostie know, via e-mail or Twitter Direct Message (e-mail is prefered). Tickets are the lowest price we can get — $28/each — and will be on the end where the Wings shoot twice. If you were there last year, it’s basically the same sections we occupied and tinfoiled up. We’ll have to give our number relatively soon, so don’t delay or you’ll end up jailsexed.

Like always, big thanks to my friend Ryan Michaels, who is helping us immensely on the Red Wings’ end. Everyone owes him a beer (preferably spread out over a few weeks, so as to avoid a trip to the ER).

Derek Meech re-signs, still the league’s lowest paid player

The Red Wings re-signed another of their restricted free agents today, as defenseman Derek Meech agreed to a one-year, $500k contract extension. Despite his new contract being the lowest allowed under the CBA, Meech was actually given a 3% raise — his last deal was signed prior to the minimum being increased to half a million.

Excluding Doug Janik, this makes seven defensemen under contract. Ken Holland has made no secret that he’d like to sign a veteran defenseman to play as a #6, but his hands are somewhat tied until he hears if Mike Modano will accept the one-year, $1.25M offer — or if he’ll sign elsewhere (or retire). Even though teams may go over the salary cap by 10% until the final day of training camp, interviews with the boss seem to indicate it’s Modano or a defenseman, and that even he doesn’t make another move on the blueline, he’s confident heading to camp allowing Brendan Smith, Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, and Derek Meech battle for the final blueline spots.

For what it’s worth, Meech has said that he intends on being one of the Wings’ top six this season — and if he isn’t, he’d prefer to be traded. That’s fair to say, being that he’s been a Red Wing for three full seasons, and a pro for six. Like Kyle Quincey before him, he may just need a legitimate chance to stay in the lineup to become a valuable NHLer. If he doesn’t crack the blueline corps — and it’s fair to assume that he won’t — I wish him well with his new team. He seems like a great kid, he never complains, and he’s willing to play forward if necessary.

The signing avoids an arbitration — the only one that was planned for the Red Wings. I feel like a league minimum deal is proof he should have gone… would the arbitrator given Meech less somehow? Made him pay the Red Wings? Demand he change his jersey number? Seems like it would have been worth it for the young blueliner, but once again he acted as a consummate professional and did what the Wings needed him to do. Perhaps he was sold on a minimum deal being easy to trade once he doesn’t make the active roster.

Only Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader remain as free agents, but we’ve been promised long-term deals later in the summer for those two, so relax Twitter.

Retrospectacus IV: The Kids are Alright

Over the coming weeks, The Production Line will be publishing guest posts from our very favorite readers, commenters, and Tweeps — those that don’t have a Wings blog to call their own, and might appreciate a place to vent, praise, bitch, or jailsex it up. We’re proud to offer up this space to some good friends, great writers, and incredible hockey fans.

For today’s installment, we’re proud to present Jeff Hancock of The Good Old Hockey Show – a kickass program that has had me on as a guest twice. Though he has to be fairly impartial co-hosting such a show, Jeff makes no secret that he’s a Michigan boy and a Red Wings fan. And with that, his post:


I might be in the minority here…but the kids are alright. 

With the real possibility of Mike Modano (who went to the same elementary and middle school as me; we both had Miss Bowman [no relation to Scotty] for Language Arts as 6th graders. Not at the same time of course. He’s 40 and I’m 22. Different high schools though. His family moved to Livonia, but this is all beside the point)

Where was I? Oh yeah…

With Modano possibly signing with the Wings, there has been a lot of speculation about Kenny having enough money to sign a 6th/7th defenseman.

Well to that, I say who cares?

After spending some time over at one of my daily internet stops — the Snapshots blog to read some of Malik’s fine work — I stumbled upon a few little quotes that made me touch my chin, look up to the ceiling, and pause and think for a moment.

The first from Mr. Brendan Smith himself:

“I know the motto here (for rookies) is to go to Grand Rapids and get a year under your belt,” said Smith, who is taking part in the Wings’ development camp Thursday through Sunday. “But Ken Holland (general manager) has told me the sky’s the limit. I can come in great shape and prove myself and put myself on the squad, or I can do the opposite. I am excited.”

And the second from Mr. Kenny Holland:

“I want to see where he’s at,” Holland said of Smith. “Do we go with kids or do we sign a veteran? If the right free agent comes along at the right price, well sign him. If not, I am comfortable going to training camp and letting these guys sort it out. If they aren’t up to the challenge, we can always look to add a veteran in October or November  But I am OK letting this play itself out over the summer and then again in October.”

Could this actually be happening? Could the Wings give this kid a legit shot to make the team and play in Detroit this year?

I sure as hell hope so.

Pass this kid the puck and tell him to give it his best shot.

Smith was a stud in college last season and led all defenseman in points. He was a top 10 Hobey Baker finalist and had a ridiculous 5 assists in an 8-1 Frozen Four victory over RIT.  I want to see what this kid can do at the pro level.  

Now, I know the Wings have their strategy of letting prospects spend years in juniors and the minors, but every now and then I wish they’d let one of these kids loose and see what happens. We’ve seen plenty of young hockey players make the jump since the lockout. Just last year Tyler Myers and Matt Duchene jumped directly from the WHL and OHL to the big leagues. Of course for every Myers and Duchene you have 10 other players who don’t make the cut, but consider that Smith is older than both those guys, so why not? It’s not like he can’t go back to Grand Rapids if things don’t work out perfectly.

Of course Smith had his little off the ice incident just shortly after signing his contract with the Wings. In no way do I condone his actions, but hey, maybe this kid has a little snarl to him? A little aggression? Likes to throw his body around a little bit? Which is something I think wouldn’t hurt the Wings defense these days.

I hope Kenny is serious about giving this kid a shot. Who knows how much longer Lidstrom is going to be around.  I’d love to have Smith spend a season in the big leagues learning directly from the greatest defense I have personally ever seen play the game.  Let Smith, Kindl, and Ericsson all battle it out for the 5th/6th/7th defense spots and send Meech packing to join Lebda in Toronto.  Smith has all the potential in the world to become a big name on this team in the future and Kindl has been in Grand Rapids for long enough. Give them both a shot and in the end if it doesn’t work, send Ritola down and sign that veteran bottom pair defenseman in October or November.

I’m genuinely excited to see this kid play for the Wings and, I’ll say this, if Smith makes the team, I’ll be the first in line to buy my #2 Red Wings jersey.


If you’re interested in keeping up with Jeff, follow him on Twitter. While you’re at it, follow The Good Old Hockey Show, too, to stay up-to-date with their broadcasts.

Eaves makes twelve, $3.75M left in the account

Patrick Eaves has re-signed with the Red Wings for a bargain basement deal — yet again. The one-year deal is worth a reported $750,000, a raise on his league-minimum $500,000 deal from a season ago. He has been receiving buyout payments from the Boston Bruins, per the trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, which help supplement his regular paycheck. The Bruins, in turn, receive a credit this season as Eaves’ salary would have been below the buyout amount (or some such nonsense).

If you follow along, you’ll recall I was most concerned about Patrick Eaves coming back into the fold, for fear that he’d earned his way into a bigger paycheck than the Wings could likely afford.

Using the numbers from yesterday, the Wings now have $55,642,045 dedicated to salary (12 forwards, 6 defenseman, and 2 goaltenders) and an additional $50,000 due for bonuses, leaving the Red Wings with $3,757,955 to sign their remaining restricted free agents: Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Derek Meech.

I won’t get into the Modano and sixth D implications again, everyone’s covered how insanely easily those pieces will fit financially thanks to the deals these guys are taking.

Maybe Lilja comes back after all…

Miller re-signs, $4.5M remains

Perhaps the dominoes will start to fall now.

Drew Miller has re-signed with the Red Wings for one year, $650k — a 23% raise on his $525k cap hit from a year ago. It remains to be seen what his role will be this upcoming season, particularly with Mike Modano being heavily courted. Many feel Miller might be on his way out, via waivers or a trade, should Modano be inked.

Nevertheless, it’s a good signing, with a great cap hit — and we’re confident it will all shake out in due time.

In other contract news, Derek Meech was the lone Red Wing to file for salary arbitration, but it appears negotiations won’t need to go that route. He — along with Patrick Eaves — are close to signing one-year deals, according to general manager Ken Holland.

Having Miller and Eaves sign one-year contracts leaves a funny taste in my mouth, kind of like they’re being used as place-holders until guys like Tomas Tatar are ready to be slotted in, as opposed to being full-fledged Red Wings. And that’s okay — not everyone has to be a Johan Franzen.

With 19 players signed, here’s how the numbers are looking:

1 Howard [716,667]
2 Osgood [1,416,667]

3 Lidstrom [6,200,000]
4 Rafalski [6,000,000]
5 Stuart [3,750,000]
6 Kronwall [3,000,000]
7 Ericsson [900,000]
8 Kindl [883,333]
9 —vacant—

10 Datsyuk [6,700,000]
11 Zetterberg [6,083,333]
12 Franzen [3,954,545]
13 Filppula [3,000,000]
14 Hudler [2,875,000]
15 Cleary [2,800,000]
16 Bertuzzi [1,937,500]
17 Holmstrom [1,875,000]
18 Draper [1,583,333]
19 Miller [650,000]
20 Ritola [516,667]
21 —vacant—
22 —vacant—
23 —vacant—

Total salary dedicated (including bonus penalty): $54,892,045
CAP SPACE AS OF JULY 6TH: $4,507,955

As a reminder, teams may go over the cap by 10% (an additional 5.94M) until the final day of the pre-season, so the Wings will have plenty of space to work with and figure out who makes the roster and who doesn’t. Patrick Eaves, Justin Abdelkader, and Darren Helm are — theoretically — in line to fill those final three forward slots, with Mike Modano putting them one over the roster limit. Mattias Ritola is on a two-way deal, but cannot be sent down to Grand Rapids without being waived.

Once the RFA trio has been signed, it’s fair to assume that Miller — and maybe even Draper — will be bumped from the following:

Zetterberg :: Datsyuk :: Holmstrom
Franzen :: Filppula :: Bertuzzi
Cleary :: (vacant) :: Hudler
(vacant) :: Draper :: Miller
Extra: Ritola
TBA: Helm, Abdelkader, Eaves

Rest in Peace, Probie

On Monday, Hockeytown lost a legend.

No, his number won’t join Stevie and Gordie in the rafters. But anyone who was a Wings fan in mid-80’s to mid-90’s will remember — fondly — what Bob Probert brought to the game. He was the ultimate teammate, a hell of a brawler, and an oddly efficient goal-scorer.

There was a time, when I was in fifth grade, that Bob Probert and Tie Domi fought. I know, that doesn’t sound that odd because they went thirteen times over their illustrious, blood-shedding careers. But this time, PASS Sports (remember PASS Sports?) had a punch-tracker ready to go before the fists began flying. A mini-scoreboard on the lower portion of the television screen, allowing all of us at home to experience every punch as Probie did. And, for whatever reason, we all felt like we battled with him.

But he was more than just an enforcer, or a tough guy. I’m not sure there’s been a more blue-collar guy in a blue-collar town like Detroit. He wasn’t untouchable in the way that Steve Yzerman was but he was special. The fans had a connection with the man, not just the player. He had more than his fair share of off-ice issues (which, strangely, I think made him more endearing to the fans — as opposed to a villain in our eyes), but we’re not here to talk about those. There will be plenty said along those lines.

Instead, we celebrate Mr. Probert’s life and career. He scored 162 goals in the NHL — ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO — and spent 3300 minutes in the box, which is equivalent to 2.29 DAYS. What’s more, nearly every single one of those minutes was served on behalf of a teammate and friend. Players have come and gone — some more popular and infamous than others — but few have come close to having the kind of worship that Bob Probert did.

Most importantly, he left behind four children and a legacy.

I’m looking forward to the first game at the Joe next season. Anyone who knows anything about modern Red Wings history will begin the Probie chant right around “gave proof through the night” — and it will thoroughly drown out “the home of the brave.”

We lost a good one. He was a hard-nosed, bruised-knuckled, soft-handed, Bruise Brother son of a bitch that proudly wore the Winged Wheel for nine years — and the Blackhawk logo for seven. By all accounts, he was a hell of a man, a funny locker room presence, and a kind-hearted soul.

From The Production Line to the Probert family and our brothers and sisters in Hockeytown, our thoughts are with you.

I’ve heard of two of you PLUS Modano Meanderings

Happy Fourth of July, Hockeytown!

Detroit pulled a minor Calgary Flames move (ha… Olol Lolkinen…) and brought back a guy into the fold they’ve said goodbye to. Not that they have a history of such things. In total, three players were signed on the third day of free agency

Playing the role of “mentor to Thomas McCollum who will compete for starts in GR” is Joey MacDonald. 

Yes, the very same Joey MacDonald that was a Wings’ depth goalie for parts of five seasons — including 2006-07, when he began the season in Detroit. He wasn’t getting any icetime with Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood in the fold, and he was claimed by the Boston Bruins off of waivers. The following season was split between the Islanders and their AHL club in Bridgeport — and this past season, he bounced back and forth between the NHL and AHL versions of minor league teams in Toronto. He’s a proven AHL guy, and will hopefully push McCollum — the clear-cut goaltender of the future — to be a better player as he enters his second professional season.

Playing the role of Matt Hussey is Chris Minard.

My fiancee’s father has season tickets for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Baby) Penguins, so I’ve had the opportunity to see Minard play a handful of the 110 games he played as a Penguin. He’s a very decent AHL player, and has gotten a taste of the NHL in each of the last three seasons. I wouldn’t expect the same in Detroit — and I’m sure he knows the score. Guys like Josh Langfeld, Mark Hartigan, Carl Corazzini, and Kip Miller have been this kind of signing in recent years: might be able to play for an NHL squad, if they weren’t the Red Wings.

Playing the role of Who the Hell is That? is Jamie Johnson.

As a general rule, you should always read Babcock’s Death Stare every day — but particularly when there are signings like these because our homeboy Kyle knows more about these guys than most folks. Johnson, who spent last season with the Rochester Americans, has never played a game in the National Hockey League, and — at 28 years old — probably won’t. Solid enough numbers, and theoretically will be a wonderful contributor on the farm, babysitting awesomesauce like Tomas Tatar.

The Curious Case of Mike Modano

Let me preface all of this by saying that I adore Mike Modano, and always have. I grew up playing in arenas that has his name on banners — and that are now named after him — so my objectivity may be a tiny bit skewed. He isn’t the player he once was — but the Stars aren’t the team they once were, either. I understand that it’ll be tricky to shove a guy like Modano into the already-packed lineup, and that he would have to come at or around 1M (which he is in no way obligated to take). Toss in the fact that his wife (Mrs. Willa Ford Modano Ford Terwilliger Ford) prefers the Left Coast to be close to Hollywood for modeling and acting and whatever other nonsense she embarks upon.

All of that said, there are three different scenarios under which we may be kicking ourselves in September saying, “hey wouldn’t it have been great to have signed Mike Modano?” In addition, you don’t have to be under the salary cap until the final day of training camp — going over by as much as 10% in the meantime — so what’s the rush? Any of the following situations are feasible and may be worth going over by a few bucks.

Exhibit A: Mattias Ritola

There had been some discussion as to whether Ritola is ready for the big leagues — even in a 13th/14th forward capacity. Personally, I like what I’ve seen from him in the short bursts of action he’s gotten in the NHL, so I daresay he’ll most likely be the guy. The Wings won’t want to risk waiving him (hi, Kyle Quincey!) and sending him down, so it’s very likely he’s a member of the Detroit Red Wings when training camp closes.

But let’s pretend for a minute that Ritola isn’t one of the 14 best forwards… the Wings will have to make a decision, and a trade or waiving are options. All of a sudden, the corps aren’t so crowded. Again, I don’t see this as an option considering the time and effort they’ve put into developing him as a player since his draft, but it’s worth noting as a possibility.

Exhibit B: Injuries

Each September since the beginning of time, a player has sustained an injury during training camp that necessitates a move to IR. Last year, the Wings began the season with two players on Long-Term Injured Reserve: Andreas Lilja (who got his ass kicked by Shea Weber, resulting in a brainfart that caused him to hire Todd Diamond as his agent) and Darren Helm (who fell awkwardly into the boards, injuring his shoulder).

If this were to happen again, wouldn’t you rather have Mike Modano than Chris Minard as a failsafe? The only wrong answer is “no.” I certainly don’t want to tempt the Hockey Gods, but just because you clench your eyes shut, jam your fingers in your ears, and do the LALALALALA thing doesn’t mean it isn’t something you shouldn’t be prepared for.

Exhibit C: Don’t Hurt Me

It pains me to say, but it’s definitely possible that not all of the restricted free agents are retained. I’m aware that all four forwards are interested in returning and that the Wings are interested in having them. Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm are automatic — they have that lifer feel about them. But Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller are of a different breed. Stick with me for a minute.

Drew Miller seems to have found a home in Detroit. He’s certainly happier in Motown than he has been anywhere else in his career — easily surpassing his career totals without playing a full season with the Red Wings. I can’t imagine he’d complain about nickels and dimes if it means staying somewhere that makes him happy. However, he’s arbitration eligible, and although Ken Holland is a master at avoiding hearings, if it makes it that far, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could get priced out of the range the Wings have in mind for the RFAs. Doubtful, but possible.

The sticky wicket, in my opinion, is Patrick Eaves. Eaves was due to make $1.7M this past season before being bought out and hitting the market. Detroit (wisely) scooped him up and signed him to a league minimum $500,000, one-year deal. I always got the feeling that it was a “I have something to prove” signing on Eaves’ part, and it remains to be seen if he’ll take a deal in the neighborhood of this last deal (which, by the way, was supplemented by buyout payments) or if he is interested in getting closer to the deal Carolina offered him. Eaves, too, has arbitration rights and if he has some face-time with an arbiter, his 12 goals, 22 points, and all around fearlessness might translate into a few more dollars than the Wings might wish.

When all is said and done…

If Detroit goes with only 7 defensemen (as opposed to the 8 they’ve carried the last few seasons), they’ll have room for 14 forwards. If all of the RFAs are re-signed, and Kirk Maltby is not, the forward are as follows:

Henrik Zetterberg :: Pavel Datsyuk :: Tomas Holmstrom
Johan Franzen :: Valtteri Filppula :: Todd Bertuzzi
Jiri Hudler :: Justin Abdelkader (RFA) :: Dan Cleary
Kris Draper :: Darren Helm (RFA) :: Patrick Eaves (RFA)
extra: Mattias Ritola :: Drew Miller (RFA)

Subtract one of those guys for any of the above reasons, and you’ve got a spot (and maybe even a need) for Mike Modano.

Photo Credit: C. Caskey, UPI

LeBron to the Thrashers (e5)

Welcome to Free Agent Day 2010, where you can enjoy a friendly conversation while watching members of the 2002 All-Star Team get picked up by new squads (that aren’t the Red Wings).

Join us as the fun starts at 11:30am – with Ilya Kovalchuk signing in Los Angeles at 12:01.