In the rearview: July

Now that it’s three-quarters over, it’s as good a time as any to look back at July, 2012 — the first month of a summer that was supposed to be one of the most aggressive in recent team history thanks to a third straight early playoff exit and a metric ton of cap space to improve.

More than three weeks into free agency, all the Wings have to show for their aggressive pursuit is a handful of re-treads and reclamation projects. And most of that cap space. I won’t get into the argument about whether or not Detroit is a preferred destination any longer, or if Ken Holland has done all that he could in courting free agents and trade targets.

Below is a list of players that the Red Wings have admitted to being interested in and pursuing to some degree.

JIRI HUDLER — former Detroit Red Wings winger
New Home: Calgary Flames
Why We Didn’t Get Him: Following a strong season entering a July with very few options for teams looking for scoring, we knew that someone was going to offer him a yacht full of strippers and $100 bills. The Red Wings had no intention of giving him that kind of raise and everyone wished him well to the tune of $4M per. The Wings offer was $3.2 firm.

RYAN SUTER — former Nashville Predators defenseman
New Home: Minnesota Wild
Why We Didn’t Get Him: The Wings biggest holes next season will exist on the blueline. No matter who they acquired this summer, there was no replacing Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. The Wings were one of the finalists for Suter’s services and he chose Minnesota not because they offered him a few more dollars over the term, but because he’d rather play closer to home and with his good buddy Zach Parise. Which brings us to…

ZACH PARISE — former New Jersey Devils captain
New Home: Minnesota Wild
Why We Didn’t Get Him: Despite the Red Wings making a pitch for both players, and certain fans still pretending like they have the swagger they once did, Parise and Suter wanted to play together and chose a non-playoff team in Minnesota over Detroit. That stings, but no one can blame Parise for wanting to play in his home state.

SHEA WEBER — Nashville Predators captain
New Home: Potentially the Philadelphia Flyers, unless the Predators match the offer sheet.
Why We Didn’t Get Him: It’s unlikely that David Poile would have traded Weber to a division rival, and rumor has it that he nearly traded their big defenseman to Philadelphia. The Flyers got tired of waiting and sent an offer sheet to Weber, which he signed, likely because he grew tired of watching three weeks of July fly by without being locked up long-term. Why the Wings didn’t send an offer sheet I’ll never ever ever understand. Weber may not have signed it, but management seems to think that it’s a faux pas to attempt to improve your team at the expense of a team you hate for some damn reason.

RICK NASH — former Columbus Blue Jackets captain
New Home: New York Rangers
Why We Didn’t Get Him: The Wings allegedly made “a hell of an offer” to Columbus’ rockstar GM Scott Howson, but the conversation was a non-starter because Howson couldn’t stomach the idea of the face of his franchise playing for a division rival for the next six years.

SAMI SALO — former Vancouver Canucks defenseman
New Home: Tampa Bay Lightning
Why We Didn’t Get Him: I don’t have the answer, since the Wings likely offered something in the neighborhood of his new deal (2 years, $7.5M) but Salo chose the Lightning.

MATT TAORMINA — former New Jersey Devils depth defenseman
New Home: Tampa Bay Lightning
Why We Didn’t Get Him: Not that he would have helped the big club, but this one has to be a kick in the balls. He’s from Warren (ten miles from Joe Louis Arena), but signed with Tampa’s organization instead of Detroit’s. I guess when your childhood hero is Steve Yzerman, and he calls, you do what he asks.

So to recap the team’s changes since the season ended:

OUT
Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement)
Brad Stuart (San Jose)
Jiri Hudler (Calgary)
Chris Conner (Phoenix)
Doug Janik (Germany)
Garnet Exelby (Boston)
Chris Minard (Germany)
Logan Pyett (Rangers)
Jamie Johnson (Russia)
Andrew Murray (St. Louis)
Brooks Macek (unsigned)
Julien Cayer (unsigned)

RE-SIGNED
Darren Helm
Kyle Quincey

IN
Jonas Gustavsson (Toronto)
Mikael Samuelsson (Florida)
Jordin Tootoo (Nashville)
Damien Brunner (Switzerland, may play in Grand Rapids)
Max Nicastro (Boston University, will play in Grand Rapids)
Teemu Pulkkinen (will stay in Europe)
Calle Jarnkrok (will stay in Europe)
Marek Tvrdon (will stay in Juinors)

FUTURE UNCERTAIN
Justin Abdelkader (restricted free agent, will likely be signed)
Tomas Holmstrom (unrestricted free agent, will likely not be signed)

Including Brunner and excluding Abdelkader and Holmstrom, the Wings have fifteen forwards signed (at least one too many). With Quincey finally under contract, they have six defensemen (which is at least one too few). Your 2012-13 Detroit Red Wings as of July 23rd:

FRANZEN — DATSYUK — NYQUIST
FILPPULA — ZETTERBERG — BRUNNER (?)
BERTUZZI — HELM — SAMUELSSON
TOOTOO — EMMERTON — CLEARY
(MILLER — MURSAK — EAVES)

KRONWALL — QUINCEY
SMITH — WHITE
ERICSSON — KINDL
(No one)

HOWARD
GUSTAVSSON

Commence sadness.

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Quincey files for arbitration, TPL finds a way to make it interesting

Don't you have enough, Kyle?

One of the only real bargaining chips that restricted free agents have is the ability to take his team to arbitration. The Wings have two RFAs remaining, and one — Kyle Quincey — has opted to take the team to arbitration, a sign that the two parties haven’t come to an agreement on a number (the other, Justin Abdelkader, declined to take the team through a hearing).

Now that Quincey has filed, no other team can send him an offer sheet — which wouldn’t have happened anyway — and the team has a few weeks to work out a deal. If the two sides cannot make an agreement, a third party — or, arbiter — will determine his salary for the next one or two seasons (the team gets to decide the term). Each side will present their case and a number that they think is fair. In the past, these hearings have been difficult on player and team, so most teams will try to work out their agreements before getting to the hearing.

Once the arbiter rules on a dollar amount, the team has to decide if they accept the terms or if they walk away, making Q an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any club and with no compensation coming to the Detroit Red Wings. Considering the state that the defense currently finds itself, I can’t imagine the Wings walk away from the award, which is probably why Kyle Quincey’s agent advised his client to go through this process. When you couple that with the outrageous salaries that everyone — particularly defensemen — are commanding this July, Kyle Quincey could be in for a windfall.

Which got us thinking… we can have a little fun with this. We’ve begun taking predictions on Twitter (@TPLhockey) — tweet us your estimate. What do you think Kyle Quincey will command IF THE TWO PARTIES HEAD TO ARBITRATION. There’s a good chance that they don’t make it that far and Ken Holland locks Q up before the hearing. If that happens, all of the predictions become void. But if the two parties make it to the hearing and the arbiter awards a salary — what will it be? Not what you think he deserves… what the hearing will yield. The closest without going over (just like The Price is Right, y’all!) will be the lucky recipient of a TPL t-shirt of their choice. If there are two estimates with the same number, we’ll have to have a rap battle or something to determine the winner.

For comparison’s sake, he made $3.25M last season as salary (and his cap hit spread out over the life of the two year deal was $3.125M).

You can follow along with the current estimates by checking out this spreadsheet:

QUINCEY ARBITRATION via Google Docs

Good luck!

Photo Credit: Shaylan Spurway, The Fourth Period

Wings hire Renney

Hmmm... I wonder what we could get for Franzen. TO HFBOARDS!

So, scratch all of the names I explored a little while back. The Wings went off the board and made an excellent hire in Tom Renney. Mike Babcock’s newest assistant (actually dubbed “associate coach” by the Detroit Red Wings) has signed a three-year deal to join the Wings bench.

He was the Oilers’ coach the last two seasons (his contract was not renewed) and has been behind the Rangers and Canucks benches during his career. In nine (chunks of) seasons, Renney’s head coaching record is 260-255-68-9 (back when ties were cool, yo) and has three appearances in the post-season — all with the Rangers.

In Vancouver, he was fired and replaced by Mike Keenan 19 games into the 1997-98 season. A few years away from the bench, he returned in Madison Square Garden as director of player personnel before becoming their coach in 2003 when Glen Sather preferred to play GM instead of coach. Once again, he was fired (and replaced by John Tortorella) in 2009.

In Edmonton, he did what he could with a weak team. They improved by 12 points from his first season to his second, but it still wasn’t enough to garner a third from the organization who has been rebuilding for a decade. He also coached the 1994 Canadian Olympic team that earned silver — as well as a variety of roles within Hockey Canada for World Championships.

He’ll step in to replace Jeff Blashill and run the power play. Very exciting news indeed.

UPDATED: The official press release via the Detroit Red Wings

RED WINGS NAME TOM RENNEY ASSOCIATE COACH

… Veteran Brings Over 15 Years of Coaching Experience to Detroit’s Staff …

Detroit, MI… Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland today announced that the club has hired Tom Renney as associate coach.  Renney fills the vacancy created when former Assistant Coach Jeff Blashill accepted the head coaching position with Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.  Renney has agreed to a three-year deal with the club.  As per team policy, additional terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Renney, 57, spent the past three seasons with the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.  He joined the Oilers’ staff as an associate coach prior to the 2009-10 season.  After just one season, Renney took over the reigns as the 10th head coach in franchise history on June 22, 2010.  In his first campaign as head coach, the Cranbrook, B.C., native led the rebuilding Oilers to a 25-45-12 record.  In total, Renney compiled a 57-85-22 record over two seasons as the bench boss of the young Edmonton squad.

Prior to his time in Edmonton, Renney spent nine seasons in various roles with the New York Rangers.  During his first two seasons in Manhattan, Renney served as Director of Player Personnel where he oversaw the team’s amateur scouts and provided assistance to New York’s professional scouting department.  Renney was promoted to Vice President, Player Development in 2002 and joined the Rangers’ coaching staff as an assistant coach in 2003.  After a brief stint as interim head coach at the end of the 2003-04 season, Renney was officially named the 33rd head coach in Rangers history on July 6, 2004.  He led the Blueshirts to three consecutive 40-win seasons and guided the team to a 164-121-42 record over 327 games from 2005-08.

Renney first broke into the NHL as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks in 1996-97.  He spent parts of two seasons with the Canucks, compiling a 39-53-9 record over 101 games.  Renney made the move to Vancouver following his two-year tenure with Hockey Canada, serving as the head coach of the Canadian National Team that went on to capture a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Renney began his coaching career behind the bench of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League in 1990.  In two seasons with Kamloops, he led the Blazers to a 101-37-6 record, back-to-back WHL titles and a Memorial Cup championship in 1992.

Photo Credit: Neil Miller, NY Post

Red Wings sign Nicastro

The Detroit Red Wings have signed their third round pick (91st overall) in the 2008 Draft to a three-year entry-level contract. Former Boston University defenseman Max Nicastro is expected to join the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2012-13 season following an eventful year for the Thousand Oaks, California native.

If the name rings a non-hockey bell, it’s likely because he was charged with rape in February. He was subsequently thrown off of the Terriers hockey club and eventually withdrawn from Boston University altogether. On June 1st, however, the charges were dropped when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided that they had insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anything other than a consensual act took place. The complainant has maintained that she was sexually assaulted, and Nicastro has maintained that there was no criminal action on his part. With the legal system deciding to drop the case altogether, we’ll never know exactly what happened but no one should expect a professional sports club to punish a man if the State feels that no punishment is warranted.

We had heard rumors during this past season that the Griffins expected the Wings to sign Nicastro, assuming he was acquitted of his charges and was legally allowed to play (meaning, not in jail). It seemed unbelievable at the time, since pro sports teams — and in particular, the Red Wings — seem to distance themselves from those who may bring a “black eye” to the organization. Nicastro isn’t the first player with ties to the Red Wings to have some legal trouble before his debut in Detroit. Brendan Smith and Riley Sheahan both got into some “boys will be boys”-type trouble during their stints in college (though, to be fair, neither was accused of anything even remotely similar to rape), and Todd Bertuzzi’s legal troubles are on-going and in their ninth year. Former Wing Andreas Lilja was also accused of rape prior to his tenure with the club and similarly had his charges dropped due to lack of evidence.

Max Nicastro is a big (6’3, 215), stay-at-home defenseman who, according to assistant general manager Jim Nill, “is physical, can shoot the puck, and is a strong skater.” Sounds like a winning combination for a 22-year-old, and he’ll be able to develop at his own pace in Grand Rapids.

If my understanding of the rules are correct, the Wings didn’t have much choice but to sign Nicastro if they wanted him to play hockey anywhere next season. He was a collegiate player, meaning the Wings had until his senior year ended to sign him to a contract before losing his exclusive rights — and those didn’t expire until August of 2013. Since he was removed from BU’s hockey team, he was ineligible to play for Boston — or any other collegiate club, because the NCAA requires a year in between seasons if a player transfers from one school to another. He’s too old to join any of the junior league, and he couldn’t play for any professional club (including the Griffins or Walleye) since the Wings owned his exclusive professional rights, though he could be assigned to them if the contract belonged to the Wings.

Photo Credit: Andre Ringuette, Getty Images

Joey MacDonald requests trade

In light of yesterday’s acquisition of former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, the incumbent number two netminder in Detroit has asked the Red Wings to trade him to a team where he’ll be able to play NHL minutes. Joey MacDonald stepped in very admirably when Jimmy Howard went down with an injury last season (and Ty Conklin proved ineffective), and he’s on a one-way deal this season, meaning he’ll make the same salary if he plays in the NHL or in the AHL.

But it also means is that he’ll have to clear re-entry waivers to be recalled from Grand Rapids, and the Red Wings don’t like to take those kinds of risks since another team can claim MacDonald and the Wings would still be on the hook for half of his salary and cap hit without the use of the player. So it’s unlikely that he’d be recalled all season.

Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com broke the story this morning via Twitter:

The acquisition of Gustavsson made it clear that the Wings wanted a reliable backup to Howard and they were concerned that MacDonald’s back (bulging disc) wouldn’t be well enough to carry that load, should he be needed for more than a few games. Making matters even stickier is that the Wings have four goaltenders that are slated for Grand Rapids next season: MacDonald, Jordan Pearce, Thomas McCollum, and Petr Mrazek. Pearce is entering the final year of his second deal with the Red Wings and will likely pursue medical school if he can’t make the jump to the NHL (which no one is expecting of him). McCollum is entering the final year of his deal with the Wings and has had a heck of a time even sticking in Grand Rapids (instead, playing bigger minutes in Toledo of the ECHL). Mrazek is turning pro this season and is the best goaltending prospect the Wings have had in a long time (so he belongs in Grand Rapids playing as much as he can).

Hopefully Joey MacDonald and the Red Wings can find a mutually agreeable destination for Joey Mac’s services and we wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a great Red Wing and hope he has a chance to play in the big leagues somewhere in 2012-13. Of course, there’s a chance that he plays himself into the #2 position (again) in training camp and that he doesn’t go anywhere, but the crease is getting a little clogged in both Detroit and Grand Rapids…

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images North America

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2012 Free Agency Primer

This guy will likely be the first announced signing by the Wings at noon on Sunday

It’s like Christmas in July.

On Sunday at noon, the floodgates will open and several hundred NHL players will get richer. If Dennis Wideman’s deal is any indication of the proceedings, you’re about to see a whole buncha crazy numbers thrown around. And we’ll be your home for all things Live Chatty, as we’ll be hosting our third annual Free Agent Day Live Chat.

To put things in a Wings perspective before the festivities unfold, we thought we’d offer a little primer to get everyone on the same page. We all know Detroit will be gunning for Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter, so use the following as a template to see where they’d fit — not only on the 23-man roster, but also against the $70.2M salary cap. Of course, all of this information is widely available on our Chart, which is always accessible by clicking that fancy link at the bottom of the column over there on the right –>

GOALTENDERS
35 Jimmy Howard (signed through 2013) :: $2.25M
31 Joey MacDonald (signed through 2013) :: $550k

It’s no secret that the Wings will be shopping for another backup goaltender to act as an insurance policy should Joey Mac’s back flair up again during the season. There are three additional goaltenders under contract (McCollum, Pearce, Mrazek), but none of them will be expected to fill that role. If another netminder is inked on Sunday or the days following, Joey MacDonald’s cap hit will likely be removed via waivers and a demotion to Grand Rapids (if he’s not claimed). He’s on a one-way contract for next season, so if he’s demoted, he likely won’t be recalled during the season.

TOTAL COMMITTED TO (2) GOALTENDERS :: $2.8 million, with the potential for $550,000 to come off the books.

DEFENSEMEN
55 Niklas Kronwall (signed through 2019) :: $4.75M
52 Jonathan Ericsson (signed through 2014) :: $3.25M
18 Ian White (signed through 2013) :: $2.875M
4 Jakub Kindl (signed through 2013) :: $883k
2 Brendan Smith (signed through 2013) :: $875k

With the departures of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, the Red Wings have some holes to fill on the blueline. Which is fine, because they have a ton of cash to throw around this summer. It’s impossible to replace Lidstrom, and very difficult to replace Stuart, but they’ll be making a hard push for Nashville’s Ryan Suter.

Recently, the Wings have been carrying 7 defensemen on the NHL roster and stocking Grand Rapids with some ready-to-be-called-upon guys, but in years past, they’ve carried 8. Depending on Jakub Kindl’s future with the team, they may do that again, though I would doubt it would last all the way through pre-season (injuries and playing time, etc).

In addition to the five guys listed above, they have a restricted free agent to deal with in Kyle Quincey. His cap hit was $3.125M last season, and the Wings were not obligated to offer him a raise on a qualifying offer. Of course, Quincey wasn’t obligated to sign that offer, and here we are. Expect him to agree to terms soon and then six of the blueline spots are spoken for.

The rest of the defensemen that are under contract (Brian Lashoff, Adam Almquist, Gleason Fournier, Max Nicastro, and some homeboys that will be returned to juniors) aren’t close to competing for a roster spot on the big club.

TOTAL COMMITTED TO (5) DEFENSEMEN :: $12.63M plus whatever Quincey will command, likely in the $3.5M – 4M range.

FORWARDS
13 Pavel Datsyuk (signed through 2014) :: $6.7M
40 Henrik Zetterberg (signed through 2021) :: $6.083M
93 Johan Franzen (signed through 2020) :: $3.955M
51 Valtteri Filppula (signed through 2013) :: $3M
11 Dan Cleary (signed through 2013) :: $2.8M
43 Darren Helm (signed through 2016) :: $2.125M
44 Todd Bertuzzi (signed through 2014) :: $2.075M
17 Patrick Eaves (signed through 2014) :: $1.2M
20 Drew Miller (signed through 2013) :: $837k
14 Gustav Nyquist (signed through 2013) :: $762k
39 Jan Mursak (signed through 2013) :: $550k
48 Cory Emmerton (signed through 2014) :: $533k

That’s 12 guys signed, and the team will likely carry 14. That leaves (lemme get my abacus) two spots to be filled. It’s no guarantee, however, that the players listed above all make it to the NHL roster for the regular season. Patrick Eaves missed most of last season, but — hopefully — is well enough to continue his career. Gustav Nyquist — even though he absolutely, positively should be on the roster — doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent back down to Grand Rapids. Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton may or may not have done enough to secure their place on this team.

Making matters a little stickier is Justin Abdelkader. He, like Quincey, is a restricted free agent. The Red Wings were obligated to offer him a 5% raise on his salary from last season, but that number ($880k-ish) won’t be acceptable for someone who contributes on a daily basis. He’ll likely be seeking somewhere in the $1.2 – $1.5M range. If he and the team can’t come to an agreement, he would be free to sign an offer sheet from another club (as would Kyle Quincey). The Wings would then have the opportunity to match that offer or accept draft pick compensation from the other team.

In addition, the Red Wings have agreed to terms with Swiss superstar Damien Brunner, who Mike Babcock believes will step right in on the Wings Top Six. He hasn’t officially been signed yet (he can’t sign until July 1st), but expect to hear about that right around noon. There are other players under contract (Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Landon Ferraro, Calle Jarnkrok, Teemu Pulkkinen) who are very likely not in the running for a roster spot — or are staying in Europe for another season.

TOTAL COMMITTED TO (12) FORWARDS :: $30.62M plus Brunner and Abdelkader, assuming the former stays on the NHL roster, and potentially subtracting some of the existing cap hits.

NUMBERS
So with 19 players (against the 23-player limit) already under contract, the Detroit Red Wings have committed just over $46M to the 2012-13 payroll. With the salary cap set at $70.2M, the Red Wings have the following figure with which to work on Sunday, July 1st:

$24,145,456

Again, that number could increase (if the team decides that Mursak, for example, is expendable) or decrease (if Kyle Quincey or Justin Abdelkader are signed today), but that’s a ton of cash to fill what boils down to four bodies.

2012 TPL Free Agent Day Live Chat!

If the chat client (which is directly below these few sentences) is slow to load, please re-load TPL. We’re experimenting with a new format. The chat will begin at 11am Eastern as we prepare for the news to start flowing at noon (if we’re lucky).