Red Wings announce new assistant coaches

On Friday, the Detroit Red Wings rounded out their coaching staff, as general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock decided who they’d like manning the bench alongside Uncle Mike. It’s been fun to speculate over the last few weeks, but on Thursday afternoon, we were warned that the Wings’ choices may be “off the map.

The announcement didn’t disappoint.

After meeting with several excellent candidates (including Ken Hitchcock, Pete DeBoer, Gerard Gallant, Bob Boughner, and Todd Richards), the team has announced that they’ve selected Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters to be your new coaches of the Detroit Red Wings.

Jeff Blashill was the head coach at Western Michigan University last season, and in his first season as a head coach at the collegiate level lead the Broncos to the CCHA championship game for the first time in 25 years, and a national tournament berth for the first time in 15 years. Prior to WMU, he was the head coach and general manager of the Indiana Ice of the USHL for a pair of seasons, winning a championship in 2009. In the six years prior, he was an assistant at Hollis’ favorite collegiate program, Miami of Ohio (seriously… ask him about it sometime)[Eat a dick. -CH], after three years as an assistant at Ferris State, where he played his collegiate hockey (as a goaltender) until 1998.

Bill Peters joins the Wings from the Rockford Ice Hogs (in the Chicago Blackhawk organization), where he was the head coach for three seasons. When Mike Babcock was head coach of the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, Peters was a scout and eventually Babcock’s assistant. After a brief stint at the University of Lethbridge, Peters rejoined Spokane as its head coach, winning the Memorial Cup in 2008.

In short, both new assistant coaches know how to win. One has a USHL title under his belt and rejuvenated a fairly stagnant college program, returning it to more-than-competitive. The other has coached Canadian Juniors and won what is considered one of the more prestigious hockey championships in North America.

Both assistant coaching slots needed filling after five-year assistant Paul MacLean departed to become head coach of the Ottawa Senators and three-year assistant Brad McCrimmon left Detroit to take a head coaching job overseas. MacLean ran the offense for Mike Babcock, dating back to the Anaheim days; and McCrimmon replaced Todd McLellan, who left after the 2007-08 season to coach the San Jose Sharks.

Red Wings sign Chris Conner

Per team officials, the Wings have signed free agent forward Chris Conner to a one-year deal. The 27-year-old Westland native played college hockey at Michigan Tech before turning pro in the Stars organization. He split last season between the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the big club in Pittsburgh.

In 139 total NHL games played, he has 16 goals and 24 assists.

Conner’s a smaller winger (5-8, 180), but he’s “very fast… and scrappy in the corners,” according to scouting reports. There are no financial details yet, but it’s fair to assume that he has signed a two-way deal and will likely spend the season in Grand Rapids, but will be given the opportunity to play his way onto the Red Wings as the 14th forward, a slot currently occupied by Cory Emmerton. Emmerton, as well as Conner, will have to clear waivers before being sent down to the AHL.

After only playing in a handful of games in the AHL last season, Conner was called into duty during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ rash of injuries. He spent the majority of the season in the big leagues, playing in sixty games, and earning an NHL cap hit of $550,000, which was just north of the minimum. This season’s minimum salary is $525k, so expect a number in that general area. He will likely earn the maximum money at the AHL level, which is $105,000.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

Afternoon quickies

A few quick Red Wings-related notes this afternoon, on the fifth day of free agency:

  • The Wings officially confirmed the signings of defensemen Logan Pyett and Garnet Exelby. The Exelby thing was rumored this morning, but the team sent out a press release confirming the reports. Both deals are for one-year and you can bet they’re both two-way, and will spend the season in Grand Rapids. Neither player will factor into Detroit’s blueline situation this season. Exelby was a member of the Blackhawks organization last season and was once considered one of the harder hitters in hockey, but finds himself toiling in the AHL. He has over 400 games played in the NHL, mostly in Atlanta during the “dark days.”
  • Uncomfirmed, but reported by various sources, that the Wings have also rewarded Griffins goaltender Jordan Pearce for his strong season with a two-year extension. He has been putting off medical school in the event that he can make something of a hockey career, and it looks like he’s pleased enough with his progress to delay that advanced education another two years. Good on him, and the Grand Rapids tandem might be set with Pearce and McCollum.
  • Speaking of goaltenders, there are plenty of rumors that the Wings have already signed former Red Wing Ty Conklin to be the backup for Jimmy Howard. While that signing hasn’t been confirmed, Conklin is arguably the best option remaining on the market, with perhaps Marty “LOL” Turco, Ray Emery, and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers on that list, as well. There’s a lot of nostalgia around Chris Osgood, but anyone that thinks he’s a viable option for the backup role on this team hasn’t been paying attention in years, between the injuries and unreliability of 2009-10. Ozzie played very well before being hampered by injuries this past season, but has only appeared in 34 games in the last two years combined — probably not enough to put the front office’s mind at ease. For what it’s worth, Ty Conklin struggled mightily last season in his own right — perhaps the result of playing behind a weak St. Louis Blues team. He had excellent numbers as a Red Wing in 2008-09 and may have leveraged the relationship into another go-round in Detroit. Stay tuned because Ken Holland said the goaltending situation will be settled this week.
  • Ruslan Salei took his ball and went home, opting to sign in the KHL instead of the rumored California locales, which is where he left his wife and three daughters while playing in Detroit last season. That’s kind of the opposite direction on California, but if he wanted to have a place to call home while his little girls grow up in one place, I hope he finds peace in Russia.
  • UPDATE, 4:10PM — VERY UNCONFIRMED report that former Grand Rapids Griffins captain Jamie Tardif has signed with the Boston Bruins. As far as I’m concerned it’s just a rumor since it hasn’t been reported anywhere reputable but we’ll look into it.
  • UPDATE, 5:53pm — CONFIRMED, via the Boston Bruins official Twitter account, Jamie Tardif has signed with the reigning Stanley Cup champs.

If you’re looking for a place to hand over a couple of bucks — and want to help finance a series of webisodes about a (fairly uncanny) doppleganger of one of our favorite Red Wings, head over to Fake Henrik Zetterberg to watch some videos and find out how you can help keep the HAHAS coming.

Photo Credit: The Star

Ian White Joins the Red Wings

Defenseman Ian White, formerly of the San Jose Sharks, has agreed to a deal with the Red Wings this afternoon. Both Khan(!) and Chuck Pleiness have confirmed that the 27 year old defenseman has agreed to a two year contract in Detroit, with an annual cap hit of $2.875 million. Although small in stature, the 5′ 10″ White will add another level of grit to the Wings blue line, joining yesterday’s acquisition – Mike Commodore – as a physical presence with a right-handed shot. In terms of production, White won’t do much to alleviate the departure of Brian Rafalski, as he only notched 4 goals and 22 assists while playing with the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes and the aforementioned Sharks. In the playoffs, White chipped in 1 goal – against the Wings, of course – and 8 assists while serving as a top-four blue liner under Todd McLellan. He’ll likely serve as another anchor on the power play, where he logged right around two minutes per game in ice time last year.

With White now in the mix, the Wings have seven defensemen under contract for the upcoming season. White’s addition likely means that Brendan Smith will be the #1 defenseman for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, although the Wings have made no bones about the fact that they would like him to spend time with the big club during the regular season. The Wings now have $7,045,456 in cap space and only a backup goaltender to sign.

Capology :: July 2nd Edition

Following an eventful July 1st (for the League, not so much for the Red Wings), now begins the Wings’ summer wheelhouse: the bargain bin of players that will be rescued from free agency hell and, likely, turned into valuable additions to an already deep Motown squad.

First, a recap.

The evening before free agency frenzy kicked off, the Wings locked up their $hitbox for another three seasons at a cap hit of $3.25M. Jonathan Ericsson not only conned his way back into the lineup, he somehow worked in a modified no-trade clause (per CapGeek). There are no details yet about the terms of the clause, but it could range from “becomes active in 2012” to “he can name six teams he would accept a trade to.” No matter what the clause stipulates, I don’t like it. He becomes only the seventh player on the current roster to be blessed with a no-movement clause of some sort.

Just before noon struck, the Wings locked up another one of their role players as Patrick Eaves re-upped for three seasons at a very reasonable cap hit of $1.2M per season. Just after the floodgates opened, it was announced that Drew Miller would also be returning to the Wings at $837,500-a-year over the next two seasons.

While money was being tossed around by small market owners, the Wings stood pat for the most part. They were hoping to find a top four defenseman on the market, but found that prices were too steep, and jumped at former Hurricane and Blue Jacket Mike Commodore for a reasonable $1M on a one-year deal. It would prove to be their only foray into the open market… and our very own Chris Hollis NAILED IT.

With Commodore, Eaves, Miller, and Ericsson locked up — the roster is beginning to take shape. If you include Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton (each of whom are out of minor league options next season), the Red Wings have 21 players on the 2011-12 roster: 14 forwards, 6 defensemen, and a goaltender. They have a total of $54,379,544 dedicated to next season’s payroll, leaving $9,920,456 in available cap space.

The only holes left to be plugged are a backup goaltender and another defenseman, unless Kenny Tick Tock and Company hope to upgrade somewhere along the line. If they plug Brendan Smith into that final blueline spot (which it sounds like they’d like to do), they’ll be left with just a touch over $9 million for just a backup goaltender. Obviously, they won’t be spending all of that in the position, but they certainly have room to play with.

The front-runners for a backup position include former Wing Ty Conklin, as well as former Wolverine Marty Turco (lol), Ray Emery, and incumbent Chris Osgood.

As of July 2nd, the roster looks like this (ignore line combinations):

Datsyuk :: Zetterberg :: Franzen
Holmstrom :: Filppula :: Bertuzzi
Hudler :: Cleary :: Eaves
Miller :: Abdelkader :: Helm
(Mursak :: Emmerton)

Lidstrom :: Kronwall
Stuart :: Ericsson
Kindl :: Commodore


Rumor has it that the Wings offered Jiri Hudler to anyone that would have him at the Draft in Minnesota. Apparently, there were no takers, but don’t be surprised if he’s offloaded to someone (cough–Florida Panthers–cough) in exchange for a little more cap room so that the Wings can chase some help within the offensive ranks.

Here comes July 2… where the Wings start to do their picking. Last season, it wasn’t until the 3rd that Detroit started signing players (Joey MacDonald, Jamie Johnson, and Chris Minard), so they got an early start in 2011.

Photo Credit: Dave Reginek, NHLI via Getty Images

LIVE CHAT: 2011 NHL Free Agency Day

Welcome to the 2011 NHL Free Agent Day live chat. We’ll be going all day long, so grab a chair and get comfortable.

Per TPL site rules, here’s Michael Petrella’s breakdown of the cap space and needs of the Wings:

The Money
The Wings have $12,957,956 in cap space with 17 players signed (including Mursak and Emmerton)

The Needs

  • 1 backup goalie
  • 2 or 3 defensemen
  • 2 or 3 forwards

Setting the Stage: NHL Free Agency 2011

The NHL’s annual grab for the cash is mere hours away, so that means it’s time to get everyone on the same page and up-to-speed for the impending live chat here at TPL. As we mentioned yesterday, we’ve been pretty quiet here on the home front during all of the goings-on in the run-up to free agent madness, so let’s take a second and make sure everyone knows where we stand on today’s biggest issues surrounding the Red Wings. Before we do that, Petrella asked me to give everyone his usual primer on the cap/space situation heading into today:

The Money
The Wings have $12,957,956 in cap space with 17 players signed (including Mursak and Emmerton)

The Needs

  • 1 backup goalie
  • 2 or 3 defensemen
  • 2 or 3 forwards

Got it? Good. Let’s get rolling on what to look for today…

The Jagr Saga
Fuck this clown. Seriously. The last week has done nothing but reaffirm exactly why the Red Wings should yank their offer straight off the table and get down to business putting together a team of guys who actually WANT to be in Detroit. Despite all the tire-spinning, Jagr is bound to end up in Pittsburgh, where he’ll play good hockey for the first two months of the season and then wallow through the rest of it at a craps table somewhere near Pittsburgh. Not interested. Thanks for playing. Next.

With all signs pointing to Patrick Eaves returning to the Wings, much of the focus will be on how much money Holland hands over to him once a deal is reached. Miller, on the other hand, has made no bones about wanting to test the free agent market, which makes sense for a guy in his situation. The best he will do is be a 3rd or 4th line player and regular PK contributor, but there are plenty of other destinations outside of Detroit that will allow him to do that without having to take regular spins through the press box along the way. Best guess says Miller ends up back in the Eastern Conference somewhere, getting right around $1 million to be someone’s 3rd line winger.

While their futures likely won’t be decided today, there could be plenty of telltale signs in the Wings’ actions that dictate the futures of these two. Obviously, if the Wings pick up a goaltender, you can forget seeing Chris Osgood in the Winged Wheel again. For Draper, he’ll be watching to see if the Wings make a play at more than one forward. With Emmerton and Mursak already in the fold – and Eaves likely to come back – every guy up front that the Wings scoop becomes one more nail in Draper’s playing career coffin. Speaking of goaltenders…

Between the Pipes
With no backup signed, the Wings will be scouring the market to secure someone capable of giving Jimmy Howard a rest during the regular season. There’s plenty of names to choose from, so don’t be surprised if the Wings stand pat on this issue today. That said, if they do make a move, names like Giguere, Conklin, Hedberg, Turco (lol), Budaj, Theodore, Auld, Boucher and Emery are out there for the taking. Petrella is high on Mike Smith for the job, while I’m dialing up the nostalgia quotient and pulling for Ty Conklin. Brian Boucher could be a steal at the right price as well.

Brad Richards
Yes, I know that Richards has a 0.001% chance of ending up in Detroit, but he’ll be a storyline throughout the day. That said, with cap room to play with, would it really be the worst thing in the world if the Wings went for a splash (the good kind) and made a play at him?

James Wisniewski
With the lovefest that went on in Columbus yesterday, you would have thought The Wiz and BJ’s were ready to throw parades for each other. Yet no deal was signed and Wisniewski is still on the market. Despite the GIGANTIC albatross that is Jonathan Ericsson’s contract hanging around their neck, the Red Wings may still try and find a way to make a play at Wisniewski. Although, at this rate, he’ll probably command somewhere in the neighborhood of $90 million per season.

The “Other” Defensive Options
If Wisniewski doesn’t pan out, the Wings will likely start scouring the market for a mid-level defenseman to come in and fill a void on the blue line. Names that have been floating around include Andy Greene, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White, Scott Hannan, Anton Babchuk, Jan Hejda, Ed Jovanovski, Sami Salo, Bryan McCabe, Sheldon Souray, Cam Barker and Mike Commodore.

What if…
There’s no doubt that there will be plenty of $hitbox talk during the chat today, but isn’t it fun to play the “what if” game and pretend that Ken Holland may pull a Devin Setoguchi and pawn Ericsson off in a sign-and-trade? Imagine the joy if we found out that Kenny Holland’s $9.75 million binge actually served another purpose besides causing bewilderment and almost starting a mass movement to Detroit Torch and Pitchfork. I’m not saying it’s going to happen…but what if? At any rate, the hotlines will be open during the entire live chat to bitch and moan about Ericsson’s deal. If Holland pulls off a move, I’ll start building a statue of his likeness in my front yard.

The Wild Card
Finally, Andreas Lilja is back on the open market, which means Todd Diamond will be actively pursuing a new home for his client. Take two shots if we read at any point during the day that Lilja wants more than $1.5 million next year. Close the laptop and head to the nearest bar if he winds up in Detroit somehow.

There you have it. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more story lines develop throughout the day, but that should get us pretty much caught up and ready to go. We’ll see you at 10:30 EDT for the live chat.