Ericsson “Wanted” for Highway Robbery, $9.75 Million Reported Missing

$3.25 million a year gets you this...

Somewhere in Sweden right now, Jonathan “The $hitbox” Ericsson is sitting at a table, licking an envelope and carefully placing a stamp on the front of it. He’s taking his time writing the name and address on the front, being careful not to accidentally poke himself with the pen or get a papercut on the corner of the envelope. Next to him is a full stack of letters that look exactly like the one he’s addressing at this very moment, although a number of them have landed on the floor at odd angles. You might call it a “mess.” As he finishes with his final letter, he scoops to pick up the rest of the stack and predictably hits his head on the corner of the table. Shaking the stars out of his field of vision, the names “Ken Holland”, “Mike Ilitch”, and every non UFA and RFA defenseman in the NHL come back into view on the now crumpled and mangled pile of postage. As he turns, he trips on the rug and begins to fall, all the while trying to throw the letters in the general direction of the mailman waiting impatiently at the door. Some go wildly high. Some get blocked by the kitchen table. One even lands in the mouth of his dog, who takes off the other way. As $hitbox tries to block his path, the dog jukes around him and has a wide open lane to the waiting water bowl, where Niklas Kronwall’s letter gets neatly deposited in six inches of hydration and dog saliva.

These are Jonathan Ericsson’s “thank you” notes. This man is now worth $3.25 million for the next three seasons. Savor that.

While all signs throughout the day pointed to Ericsson making a return to the Red Wings dressing room next season, I’m pretty sure that nobody in their right mind expected it to be at the price tag that Jonny Rig just pulled down. A reported three year deal worth $9.75 million now makes Ericsson the third highest paid defenseman on the Red Wings staff, which is simply mind-boggling when you look at the lackluster development of his game over the past two seasons. Some will argue that Ericsson is making pretty close to what the market is dictating right now, and that’s actually correct. Unfortunate, but correct. Ericsson probably would have commanded a similar amount if he would have hit the open market tomorrow afternoon, but the details lie within. Just like Brett Lebda last year, teams would be paying the premium based on a combination of market value, his physical size and the pedigree that comes with playing for a championship organization for the last two years and one playoff. But instead of letting that become someone else’s problem, Ken Holland decided to make it his own and re-upped the Big Swede for an asinine number, essentially hoping that the $hitbox develops into the player he’s looked nothing like during his career in Detroit.

If we truly trust in Kenny and the Red Wings staff, we’re now forced to swallow a huge uncomfortable pill and hope that the Rig pans out over the next three seasons. Holland has made the overtures that he’s ready and willing to let the kids step up and take the reigns of this team, and for better or worse that includes Jonathan Ericsson. I can’t blame him there, especially as I’ve been one of the most vocal about making the transition to the new guard, but I wasn’t sure it would include Jon Ericsson and I most definitely didn’t believe it would have a monster price tag attached to it if it did. For a guy who said he wasn’t going to “spend money just to spend money,” this sure doesn’t jive well with that mantra. $2 million for the Rig? Kinda steep, but I could have lived with it. $2.5 million? Hoping somebody was playing a mean joke. $3.25 million? I just gave myself a swirly.

“The $hitbox.” Not sure that we really need to say anything else.

Photo Courtesy of MLive.com

Let’s Talk About It: NHL FA Live Chat Tomorrow

You may have noticed that despite all the free agency talk, rumors, speculation and hand-wringing, things have been pretty quiet here at TPL. Trust me when I say that our silence doesn’t reflect a lack of interest in all of the happenings around the Red Wings. Mostly, we’ve just been busy with real life. Petrella is moving, I’m working like crazy and we all know Disch has a horsecopping legacy to drive to new levels. Plus, it’s the summer and we take our relaxation seriously. However, the Wings stand on the precipice of making decisions that will shape the roster and mentality of this team for the next season and beyond, and we most definitely can’t stand idly by and watch without adding our own shouting to the mix.

So, we’ll do what comes naturally around these parts…(no, not THAT)…we’ll host a live blog. Fun starts tomorrow at 9:00 AM Eastern 10:30 AM Eastern right here at TPL (which means I’ll be LESS OF a zombie during the first hour or so.) Feel free to set up shop with us, or just pop in when you get some time. Since we’ve been radio silent about everything surrounding the Wings and free agency up to this point at TPL, I’ll throw some fodder up on the site tonight in a form that resembles a, you know, blog post. You can go ahead and begin preparations to tear it apart  during the live chat tomorrow. I don’t mind, I promise.

Be there, bitches.

Commodore Buyout Positions Wings As Potential Suitor

With this morning’s announcement that Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Mike Commodore has been placed on waivers for the purposes of being bought out, speculation about his next destination is bound to heat up. TPL has learned through a source close to the Commodore camp that the Red Wings may be interested in the services of the 31 year-old defenseman, who – should he clear waivers – would become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow.

While many may remember Commodore for the infamous picture of him rolling around a pile of money in his underwear and his healthy mane of red hair, the D-man who spent most of last season with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons would bring the much desired right-handed shot the Wings are looking for on the blue line – along with some additional grit – at a reasonable price. Ken Holland has insisted that he wouldn’t spend money “just to spend” this offseason, and with Commodore looking to make a move out of Columbus, a reasonable offer from the front office is hardly out of the question. On the Jackets side of the fence, they would be able to offload a hefty 3.75 million contract for a fraction of that price, which does provide some measure of relief for a team that is paying Rick Nash $7.8 million a year, just assumed Jeff Carter’s $5.27 million a year cap hit, and is probably looking to pay James Wisniewski somewhere around $6 million a year to patrol the blue line.

In terms of the financial ramifications, like Eaves two summers ago, once the player is bought out, the original team (in this case, the Blue Jackets) are on the hook for paying him a percentage of his original contract. He would become a free agent, able to sign with whomever he’d like, but would continue getting paid by the Jackets. Like Eaves, he’d be free to sign for the league minimum with another team (say, Detroit) and all the Red Wings would be on the hook for is the 500k (or whatever they agree to). Commodore may be willing to do that since he’d still be getting a hefty paycheck to NOT play in Columbus, just as Patrick Eaves continues to get paid to NOT play in Boston.

If Mike Commodore – or guys like JP Dumont or Cam Barker or Sheldon Souray or Chris Drury, signs in Detroit – it’ll very likely be for a minimal hit in return for the opportunity to compete immediately for a shot at the Cup.

As always, we’ll continue to update based on any new information we receive.

I couldn’t resist:

Pass/Fail: Jan Mursak

The traditional method of ranking individual player performance is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white. This is “Pass/Fail.”

Statistically Speaking
[table id=30 /]

The Good
Well, he filled in pretty admirably for 19 games this season, providing depth at a time when the Wings were suffering from injuries. He did score a goal during his stint on the big club, and he seemed to receive regular praise from the coaching staff. He’s got a solid all-around game with some finesse and grit mixed in there, and he’ll make a big push to be a full(ish) time member of the Red Wings this upcoming season.

The Bad
One goal in 19 games really doesn’t knock the socks off, now does it? He also finished the year with a -3, and still looked to be a bit indecisive at both ends of the ice. He never really seemed to be a major scoring threat, essentially taking up space and playing 4th line minutes. For a kid who may wind up in the NHL full time next year, he still looked a bit unready and unsure of himself.

Extra Credit
“The Sak” may be the best nickname ever.

Grades
Disch: PASS
Petrella: PASS
Hollis: FAIL

The Reasoning
Disch: I’m conflicted here, but I’ll go pass.  His job this year was to step in when the injuries hit and prove he had a long-term role with the club.  As he’s still in contention for a gig this year, I guess he did his job.  I’m not crapping my pants about the Sak, and this could be the hangover talking, but he doesn’t really capture the imagination quite like some of the other guys we’ve got in the ranks.
Petrella: Mursak’s a pass for filling in admirably when needed. The spotlight’s going to be on him next year when he’s no longer a call-up, and I look forward to seeing how he handles it.
Hollis: The play didn’t seem to match the expectations for The Sak. For a guy who may be a full time roster player next season, I was hoping to see a little more in terms of energy and grit. He looked timid and uncertain, and that’s not a trait I would expect to see from a guy who is looking down the barrel of fourth line minutes in the NHL.

Final TPL Grade
PASS

Up Next: Johan Franzen

Past Reports:
6/22 :: Cory Emmerton (PASS)
6/17 :: Justin Abdelkader (FAIL)
6/9 :: Jiri Hudler (FAIL)
6/8 :: Todd Bertuzzi (PASS)
6/7 :: Brian Rafalski (PASS)
6/7 :: Pavel Datsyuk (PASS)
6/6 :: Brad Stuart (PASS)
6/4 :: Henrik Zetterberg (PASS)
5/27 :: Jakub Kindl (SPLIT)
5/26 :: Darren Helm (PASS)
5/24 :: Niklas Kronwall (PASS)
5/23 :: Valtteri Filppula (PASS)

Red Wings trade down, have three second round picks

The Red Wings made a trade on Friday night, but it didn’t involve any roster players. Instead, Ken Holland decided he’d take advantage of the deep draft class by swapping his 24th overall pick for a pair of second rounders. Detroit now owns the Senators 35th and 48th picks, in addition to their own 55th pick — giving them a total of three of the next 25 picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Jim Nill let it be known that they were hoping to land a defenseman with their early picks, but likely saw that anyone they had an eye on was selected before their turn, and decided that they’d rather take two good players instead of one “very good” player.

The Red Wings did something similar in 2009 — trading their 29th overall pick to Tampa Bay for the 32nd and 75th overall picks. The Lightning took Carter Ashton, and the Red Wings took Landon Ferraro and Andrej Nestrasil (with Tomas Tatar picked in between with their own selection).

This was a successful Draft for TPL — as we correctly mocked 25 of the 30 players selected, though after the first five, the order was completely wrong. As we mentioned above, there are a lot of excellent players left on the board for tomorrow’s round two, and they’re listed below if you want to do a little bit of research.

Once again, we’ll have a live chat here at TPL — hosted this time by our good friend @JJfromKansas at Winging it in Motown. Stop by and say hello — we had some awesome prospect chatter on Friday night and I expect nothing less on Saturday.

POTENTIAL RED WINGS SELECTIONS AT 35, 48, and 55
Boone Jenner, C
Brandon Saad, W
Ty Rattie, W
Tomas Jurco, RW
Scott Mayfield, D

All of those players, I had mocked in the first round. At least one will still be available when the Wings walk up to the podium. Additionals:

Rocco Grimaldi, C
Victor Rask, C
David Musil, D
Dmitrij Jaskin, D
Alexander Khokhlachev, W
Nick Shore, C

Pro/No :: The Results — Goaltenders & Defensemen

It started with a tweet.

A few weeks ago one of our good friends, @JJfromKansas, casually asked the Red Wings community their thoughts about Mike Modano returning for another season. The results were remarkable… when given the choice between “yes” and “no,” a big chunk of the Red Wings online community tweeted back their choice, and an idea was born.

I asked JJ if Winging it in Motown would be willing to join forces with The Production Line (yes, again… we’re good partners, bro) to present a series of profiles: we’d take turns laying out the facts of each of the Red Wings’ impending unrestricted free agents, and ask that you, our beautiful, intelligent, charismatic readers, answer a quick question with a very simple response: Yes, No, or Unsure.

Unsurprisingly, a ton of people turned out to their polling place to cast their votes. And we have some pretty awesome statistics to share with you.

Even though the fates of a few of these guys have had their futures decided by this writing (Nick Lidstrom, for example, has decided to return; while Joey MacDonald has stated that he’ll be seeking employment elsewhere), it’ll be fun to take a peek at the votes during a tumultuous May and early June for Red Wings fans.

As an added bonus, the boys at WIIM and I took it upon ourselves to set a little wager. Each site picked a score for each of the free agents-to-be, based on what we thought the community at-large would think. We’ve listed the winning bid along with all of the other pertinent numbers. I’m proud to report that Team TPL had the closer cumulative score, and narrowly edged out our brothers at Team WIIM, getting closer-to-the-pin on 5 of the 9 players.

Following the analysis of the numbers (the goaltenders and defensemen you can find below and the forwards are hosted at Winging it in Motown), you can find a sortable chart that has all of the data in one place.

With one goaltender (Howard), four defensemen (Lidstrom, Kronwall, Stuart, Kindl), and twelve forwards (including Mursak and Emmerton — for now), the Red Wings have $48,092,044 dedicated toward next season’s $64M salary cap. By my count, they’ll have just under$16M to play with on July 1st.

With that $16M, they’ll have to find a backup goalie (Chris Osgood or otherwise), at least three defensemen (rumor has it Brendan Smith and his $875,000 cap hit are front-runners to fill one of those slots; and Doug Janik’s one-way deal may help him become the 7th defenseman), and two or three forwards (likely Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller… and the wild card is Jaromir Jagr, who may be interested in joining the Wings).

Chris Osgood, goaltender, #30
38-years-old (11/26/72)
5’10″ :: 175 lbs
17 NHL seasons (14 with Detroit)
From Peace River, Alberta

PRO-OSGOOD :: 42.27%
NO-OSGOOD :: 40.72%
UNSURE :: 17.01%
Closest Guess :: WIIM predicted 20% positive votes

ANALYSIS
How appropriate that the one human being who has caused the most dissension among Red Wings fans the last two decades… also caused the closest vote between yes and no. While more than 42% of the respondents hope to see Chris Osgood return to the Red Wings crease in 2011-12, nearly 41% of voters hope he’s played his last game in the NHL.

The two sides were separated by only 1.55 percent, or six of the nearly 400 votes. Not only were the voters who had made up their mind split nearly down the middle, 17% of all respondents were unsure of their stance — the second most (behind only Joey MacDonald). No one should be surprised that there isn’t a consensus among Red Wings fans when it comes to Ozzie because — frankly — there never has been. If the 400-game-winner was to walk away this summer, 42% of folks would be upset… and 41% would be thrilled. Go figure.

For what it’s worth, it seems like Ken Holland is content to head into July 1st and find a backup goaltender for Jimmy Howard — whether that’s Chris Osgood or not. They’ve made no secret about being concerned for Ozzie’s health, and with good reason: he’s only played a handful of games in the last two seasons, the most reason season ending in January following hernia surgery that ended up being more involved than the doctors thought it might be. Since this season seems to be a turnover-happy off-season (by Red Wings standards, anyway), my gut feeling tells me that Chris Osgood won’t be returning for another NHL season.

Joey MacDonald, goaltender, #35
31-years-old (2/7/80)
6’0″ :: 197 lbs
6 NHL seasons (2 with Detroit)
From Pictou, Nova Scotia

PRO-JOEY :: 45.42%
NO-JOEY :: 36.68%
UNSURE :: 17.90%

Closest Guess :: TPL predicted 40% positive votes

ANALYSIS
As alluded to above, Joey MacDonald was the player about whom Red Wings fans were the most “unsure,” with almost 18% of respondents wondering if he’d done enough in his tenure backing up Howard to earn another shot at the Wings’ crease for 20-25 games. While a big chunk of fans weren’t sure, the ones that were sure preferred MacDonald over Osgood, by a margin of about 3% of the vote.

What’s interesting is that there wasn’t a clear majority of Wings fans that wanted either of 2010-11’s backup goaltenders to return. Fewer than half of voters (42% for Osgood, 45% for MacDonald) were comfortable putting their trust in a returning netminder, perhaps indicating that the community as a whole is looking forward to a new body to pick up the slack behind Howard.

Unfortunately for the 45 percent of voters that hoped to see MacDonald return, he’s decided that he’d prefer to seek a one-way deal in the NHL (the Red Wings were only prepared to offer a two-way deal, so that he could be returned to Grand Rapids) or take a big payday overseas. A week away from free agency, it seems clear that the Red Wings and Joey MacDonald have parted ways and that Ken Holland will be looking for a goaltender on the open market.

Nicklas Lidstrom, defenseman, #5
41-years-old (4/28/70)
6’2 :: 185 lbs
19 NHL seasons (all with Detroit)
From Vasteras, Sweden

PRO-NICK :: 98.07%
NO-NICK :: 1.65%
UNSURE :: 0.28%
Closest Guess :: WIIM predicted 99% positive vote — and got within a single percentage point.

ANALYSIS
Obviously, all of this will be for naught as we look back now, with Nicklas Lidstrom having re-signed with the Red Wings for another year on Monday. And just as the pro/no vote was for completeness sake only, the analysis of the numbers will be strictly to take a peek at some interesting trends.

The Lidstrom vote came after the Brian Rafalski retirement, but I have a hard time imagining fewer than 98% would vote yes anyway. But, with the void left by the other top flight defensema’s sudden retirement, it was all but clear that Lidstrom had to return or the Wings would be in a tricky predicament to replace a pair of all-world blueliners.

Lidstrom’s 0.28% of “Unsure” votes was the fewest of any of the players profiled — but his 1.65% “No” was the second fewest: behind Patrick Eaves near-unanimous voter approval. To let you in behind the curtain for a moment… of the nearly 400 votes cast in 48 hours, only 7 were “Unsure” or “No.”

Ruslan Salei, defenseman, #24
36 years old (11/2/74)
6’1″ :: 212 lbs
14 NHL seasons (1 in Detroit)
From Minsk, Belarus

PRO-SALEI :: 10.7%
NO-SALEI :: 78.82%
UNSURE :: 10.5%
Closest Guess :: WIIM predicted 15% positive votes.

ANALYSIS
Like Joey MacDonald, it seems that Ruslan Salei’s fate has been decided for him. The Wings media said on Tuesday that the Red Wings will not be offering “Cirque” a contract — at least, not before the July 1st deadline, allowing him to seek employment with another NHL club, probably a west coast team to be closer to his family — who stayed behind in California despite daddy playing in Motown in 2010-11.

Fittingly, perhaps, is that Ruslan Salei received the fewest percentage of positive votes of any of the players profiled. 10.7% of respondents hoped that he’d be offered an extension, while nearly 79% — the second largest collection of dissenters — hoped that he was a one-year wonder in red and white. His 10.5% “Unsure” votes are probably a result of a community that is unsettled by a lot of potential roster turnover on the back end.

Whatever the reason, it seems that the majority of Red Wings fans will get their wish. The door isn’t entirely closed — if the Wings can’t find a suitable replacement on the market, they may see if Salei would like to return for another go-around — but it seems like#24 was one-and-done in Motown.

Jonathan Ericsson, Defenseman, #52
27 Years Old (3/2/84)
6’4″ :: 220 lbs
2 NHL Seasons (both with Detroit)
From Karlskrona, Sweden

PRO-ERICSSON :: 50.97%
NO-ERICSSON :: 36.74%
UNSURE :: 12.29%
Closest Guess :: TPL predicted a 40% approval rating.

ANALYSIS
This profile yielded my absolute favorite numbers of the entire series — and it’s not because I’m particularly pro-Ericsson (obviously). It’s because Red Wings fans proved themselves to be quite astute when it comes to matters of roster turnover. In all his wisdom, @JJfromKansas marked on our scoresheet the moment that news of Brian Rafalski’s retirement became public on Twitter. The results were remarkable — and wise.

Before news broke, only 46.75% of voters had voted “Yes,” indicating that they’d like Jonathan Ericsson to return and build on the development that he’s had with the Wings so far. After Rafalski’s retirement became a real possibility (and, eventually, truth), the votes swung way up — 57.38% of vote-casters realized that maybe we should hang on to the rest of the blueline if we could. Our voting was by no means scientific, but that’s a difference in range that you frankly can’t ignore.

Again, prior to the Rafalski news, an even 40% of voters said that they would prefer that Ericsson move on and chase dollars with another organization. After, only 31.48% of respondents thought the same. Also interesting is that the number of “Unsure” voters dropped from 13% to 11%.

When the totals were tabulated, including votes from before the Rafalski announcement and after it, just over half of the community voted to have Ericsson return — 50.97%. A cumulative score of 36.74% said no, and the remaining 12.29% couldn’t quite make up their mind.

[table id=28 /]

NHL Awards: Lidstrom Wins 7th Norris Trophy, Datsyuk Drops Selke

It didn’t take long for the Red Wings to get on the board in Las Vegas, as Nicklas Lidstrom won his 7th career Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Lidstrom finished ahead of both Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara, riding his 62 points and 23+ minutes a game to another piece of hardware on the mantle. Lidstrom did win the award despite finishing with a -2 rating, much to the chagrin of Ryan Lambert and other “fans” everywhere. Despite that, Lidstrom’s quality of competition rating remained one of the highest in the league and his continued excellence makes him a worthy recipient of the Norris, at least in this blog’s eyes.

Congrats Nick!

UPDATE #1: Lidstrom’s attempt at an awards hat trick has come to an end early, as Zdeno Chara takes home the Mark Messier leadership award. Damn. I was hoping for curly fries.

UPDATE #2: “Livonia native” Ryan Kesler has finally ended Pavel Datsyuk’s three year run of winning the Selke Award for best defensive forward. To nobody’s surprise, Kesler (and his awful hair) finally de-throned Pasha, and with it prevented one of the great NHL traditions: giggling incessantly throughout a Datsyuk acceptance speech.

UPDATE #3: With Pavel Datsyuk taking his name out of the running with a fight in the first game of the season, Nick Lidstrom was the Red Wings only hope in dethroning Martin St. Louis as the nicest player on the ice. Alas, it was not meant to be, as St. Louis picked up his second consecutive Lady Bing Trophy for gentlemanly play.

That’s it from Las Vegas. Check back tomorrow for coverage of the release of the full NHL schedule, as well as some more “Pro/No” fun from Petrella.