Hudler to Flames, Conner to ‘Yotes

As #Suterwatch rolls along with no end in sight, the Red Wings are now saying goodbye to a couple of players. Our favorite midget, Jiri Hudler, has received the payday he was looking for courtesy of the Calgary Flames, who inked him to a 4 year, $16 million contract this afternoon. The math is pretty easy on this one, as Scuttles will have an average cap hit of $4 million, well north of what the Wings had offered. No real surprise to see Happy head out of town, as the writing was on the wall when Ken Holland brought back Mikael Samuelsson yesterday.

The other bit of news is that Grand Rapids Griffin and part-time Wings call-up Chris Conner has signed on with the Phoenix Coyotes. No word on the financials just yet, but it is a one year, two-way deal, similar to what Conner had with the Wings organization. I know Petrella is pretty bummed about this one, as Conner was one of the workhorses with an engine that never stopped last season, only slowed down by an unfortunate and poorly timed broken wrist.

At any rate, best of luck to Scuttles and Conner with their new teams. Oh, and Calgary? Hide the hookers and blow.

Photo Credit: Faceoff.com

Scuttles Saga becomes Nick Narrative

It’s been a few days since the Red Wings season came crashing down, so we’re all sobering up a little bit. If it’s any consolation (and yes, yes it is), the Penguins lost last night. Mellon Arena was set to be demolished later in the summer, unless rioting Montreal Canadien fans get to it first…

Anyway, much has been made about our own little midget returning to the winged wheel for next season. Be honest, we were all expecting a long, drawn-out saga, filled with ‘will he won’t he’ and KHL presidents blabbering about God knows what. But, unceremoniously, it was revealed that Jiri Hudler will be returning to play for the Detroit Red Wings after his Russian team folded and amid rumors that he hasn’t seen a dime from his massive $5M tax-free “paycheck.” Obviously, $2.8M in the hand is more than five million theoretical dollars and freezing your nuts off.

Instead, it looks like the back and forth summer story is going to be about Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s an unrestricted free agent that’s just turned forty and while much has been made about his declining play, he’s still one of the best on the planet – hands down. He’s made no secret about the fact that he’d like to return to Sweden, and the same is said of Mrs. Lidstrom, but almost everyone seems to agree that he’ll be a Red Wing once again — and that he’ll take a pay cut to do it. Jamie Samuelsson tosses a little bit of water on that fire, saying that while Lidstrom’s likely aware that his “financial value has dropped,” he also knows that he’s the team’s most valuable player.

I don’t doubt for a second that Lidstrom will return next season. In the interest of fiscal responsibility, I hope he takes a salary somewhere around 5ish million. I’d do a backflip if he comes in under that figure, but considering the $7.45M salary he’s been making — is asking a man to take a 33% pay cut a bit dramatic? I know that if you asked me to, I’d kick you in the shins.

But there will be people out there who claim that he’s “made enough money” and “shouldn’t be greedy.” I never take it as athletes being greedy — they have a (relatively) short career and have to get all the dollars they can before their bodies are used up.

We’ll have a lot more about the salary cap situation as it unfolds, but a figure to wrap your brain around right now is 12.3. The Red Wings have about 12.3 million dollars in cap space, and have 8 spots to fill. The following is a list of UFAs and RFAs (that are likely to play on the Wings this upcoming season and their 09-10 salaries), so make of it what you will. We’ll address each hole later in the summer, so this isn’t a list of who NEEDS to be re-signed…simply a list of those that aren’t for next season.

–UNRESTRICTED–
Nicklas Lidstrom (7.45)
Tomas Holmstrom (2.25)
Todd Bertuzzi (1.5)
Jason Williams (1.5)
Andreas Lilja (1.25)
Kirk Maltby (833k)
Brett Lebda (650k)

–RESTRICTED–
Justin Abdelkader (850k) — my bad, thanks for the catch Misopogon
Darren Helm (599k)
Drew Miller (525k)
Mattias Ritola (512k)
Patrick Eaves (500k)
Derek Meech (483k)

Photo Credit: Christian Peterson, Getty Images

Alas, With a Whimper…

The Scuttles Saga has gone quietly into the night. FIIIIIIIINALLY.

Per the IIHF – who started this latest chapter of asshattery:

The IIHF has approved the International Transfer Card (ITC) for player Jiri Hudler, thus allowing his transfer from the Detroit Red Wings (NHL) to Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League (Russia).

Now, please, story… go away.

I TOLD YOU IT WASN'T OVER!

Jiri! Jiri! When will we be allowed to move on?!
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just when we, as Wings fans, were making peace with the Jiri Hudler fiasco and departure (and moving on to full-blown hatred for Jason Williams / Todd Bertuzzi), The Scuttles Saga rears its ugly head once more.

Yesterday, David Staples of the Cult of Hockey passed along this little nugget – from Peter Adler, who is apparently a Euro hockey “expert,” regarding our dear departed midget:

The International Ice Hockey Federation is refusing to grant Jiri Hudler his transfer card, which means he is not allowed to practice or play for his new team, Moscow Dynamo, reports Sovietski Sport.
Without this card, Hudler can’t play in any IIHF-sanctioned game. The Russian league is under the domain of the IIHF, hence Hudler’s current problem.

At the risk of sounding like the Slap Chop guy…But wait! There’s more! Obviously, with the Wings signing Patrick Eaves, Jason Williams, and Todd Bertuzzi, it was assumed that we’d be without the services of Hudler, and – as the article goes on to say – that was just fine by the Red Wings.

The IIHF’s stance is baffling to Alexander Medvedev, chief of the KHL, because both the Detroit Red Wings, Hudler’s NHL team, and the Czech federation have given permission to Hudler to play for Dynamo, according to Medvedev.

So, as Kyle at Babcock’s Death Stare goes into, there will be quite the cap crunch should Jiri Hudler be forced to play for the Red Wings in 2009-10. They’re already slightly over the cap (thanks, Todd!), but crisis may be averted if Lilja’s gone for an extended period of time. If Hudler’s contract comes back onto the books, there’s a big, big problem.
Granted, the following information hasn’t been confirmed by a quote-unquote reputable source, but knowing how the KHL operates, it wouldn’t surprise me. From @rushockey, via Twitter:
KHL President Medvedev: KHL will allow Hudler to play transfer card or not.
I mean… it’s not TSN, but it does sound an awful lot like something the KHL and Mr. Medvedev would do, does it not?

So, perhaps we’re
out of the woods once again… if Hudler is to play in the NHL next season, what do the Wings do? Attempt to trade him? Attempt to waive/trade another veteran of the team (the interweb’s favorite choices seem to be Maltby and Holmstrom)? I’ll address the numbers when it becomes apparent he’s coming back, but for now – I’ll trust Ken Holland’s “he’s playing in Russia – end of story” declaration.
Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio, AP

One last (but probably not) twist in the Scuttles Saga

How symbolic…

Oh, what a long, strange journey this has been.

Very early this morning, it was learned that Jiri Hudler’s agent and Ken Holland agreed to a 2-year, $5.75M contract, keeping Holland’s arbitration-avoiding streak alive and well – but not really.

A gentleman’s agreement had been made between Hudler’s agent and Ken Holland, but Hudler wanted to go to arbitration anyway, so as to not jeopardize his contract with Moscow.

In a Google-translated article from Blesk in the Czech Republic, Jiri says that his agent more or less pulled the trigger on a deal for LESS than was originally offered by the Wings – and that Holland wished him well in the KHL:

He waited, to confess. But this is my overseas agent Petr Svoboda agreed with the team. And to be exact, the two parties have agreed before arbitration, so he did not actually ask [for more money]. Ken Holland just sent me a text how it turned out. Wished me, whether I am in Moscow and a good season and I will return to the NHL, and wants to make it in Detroit.

Did anyone else see Everything is Illuminated? That reads like Alex wrote it — with the help of Sammy Davis Junior Junior The Seeing Eye Bitch.

Back to business: it appears that offers of 3, 4, and 5 years worth $3M per were turned down, to agree to a shorter-term and less money? Interesting tactic, Svoboda.


To clarify, Jiri Hudler IS still going to play with Dynamo of the KHL. If and when he returns to North America, he will be bound by the terms of this agreement – two years at a very reasonable $2.875M per (which is considerably less than almost anyone – myself included) thought he’d get if the parties went to traditional arbitration.

I’d also like to point out that our recent article regarding Sportsnet’s Epic Fail somehow became MORE Epic and Faily with this news. About half of the statements of that article are incorrect:

Jiri Hudler is staying in Detroit (FALSE) rather than heading to Russia (FALSE). The Czech forward (TRUE) was awarded (FALSE-ISH) a two-year deal (TRUE) worth over US$5 million (VAGUE, BUT TRUE) on Friday (FALSE)

I’m going to go ahead and guess that they got lucky declaring Hudler a Czech.

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images

Mainstream Media Fail!

There’s a nifty little screenshot for you from Sportsnet, one of Canada’s leading sporting news providers, falsely declaring that Jiri Hudler is staying with the Red Wings for this upcoming season. Even Scuttles looks surprised they ran with the story…

Solidifying his place at the top of the Wings beat writers rankings, Ansar Khan of MLive got an IMMEDIATE denial from Ken Holland. Turns out he’s still awaiting the arbitrator’s ruling:

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said this morning that he hasn’t yet received the arbiter’s decision, but made it clear that this ship has sailed. Hudler is playing in Russia next season.

“The story’s over. He’s going to play in Russia,” Holland said. “We’re waiting on the terms (of the salary arbitration case) he has to (honor) if and when he returns to the NHL.”

Do I have to bring back the trombone sound effect for Sportsnet?

Because I’m sure the article will be taken down soon, here’s a screenshot of the whole article:

The NHL up Scuttles' butt

Who would have thought the League could make more of a mess of Jiri Hudler’s “situation” than Mike Brown?

After two or three left turns from all parties, the NHL has added it’s own little caveat – one that I bet Ken Holland was hoping would be let go. Let’s break the events down, as simply as possible:

June 28 — “Step 1: Prove You’re Better Than Dale Tallon at Handling Menial Administrative Duties”
Jiri Hudler, an impending restricted free agent, is sent a qualifying offer from Red Wings management. QOs need only include a 10% raise on the expiring salary to guarantee that the player’s rights remain property of the team. Jiri Hudler was certainly due a raise — and certainly more than 10% — on his $1.015M deal. The Red Wings knew they couldn’t afford MUCH of a raise, but certainly weren’t going to let him become an unrestricted free agent and lose him for nothing. Worst case scenario — he’s given an offer sheet by another team and the Wings would receive compensation in the form of draft picks.

July 1 — “EVERYBODY PANIC!”
The Red Wings seemingly assplode, losing Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, and Ty Conklin in a matter of hours from the opening bell on Free Agent Day. Mikael Samuelsson would find his way to Vancouver (pray for GM Place’s glass) a few days later. With all of the departures up front, it seemed pretty reasonable to assume that Hudler would HAVE to get re-signed, right? …Right?

July 5 — “I got no more questions for ‘dis guy…”
Hudler and his agent Petr Svoboda (Why, yes, that Petr Svoboda) file for arbitration, meaning an intermediatary would decide Hudler’s salary based on similar players and after hearing statements from both parties. Ken Holland reminded the overreacting masses that he’s never actually gone to arbitration with any of his clients since his tenure began (the last Wing to do so was Ray Sheppard in 1995) and that he was very confident something would get done before the hearing (which is yet to be scheduled).

July 8 — “Say what now?”
News begins to leak that Jiri Hudler has signed a very lucritive deal with the Dynamo of the KHL (rumored to be for two years and as much as $10 million, tax free). Slowly but surely, the rumors are acknowledged and summarily confirmed by all parties involved – Ken Holland, Petr Svoboda, and even Jiri Hudler – who held a press conference with his new comrades.

Ken Holland has said that he’s going to go forward with the arbitration process because if Hudler ever decides to return to the NHL, he would be forced to honor whatever contract he is “awarded” during the arbitration process. Let’s pretend for a minute that Hudler goes to Russa, plays out of his mind for two seasons and decides its time to come back to North America. Even if teams were tripping over themselves to sign him, he’d be bound to the terms of the arbitrator’s contract (which is to be determined in the next few weeks). This could be a 1 or 2 year deal, anywhere from 2 to 4M per season. That COULD be a bargain in 2011.

Not only that, the Wings don’t really have a ton of cap space to play with this summer – and are being cautious of the supposed drop next summer. One could argue that Hudler’s defection overseas is the best thing that could have happened — the Wings would maintain his NHL rights without having to pay him. Sold.

July 10 — “Hey, thanks a lot, Gary.”
The League takes it upon itself to file a grievance on behalf of the Red Wings, claiming that since the Red Wings properly filed their qualifying offer, Hudler is contractually obligated to the Red Wings next season…despite not having a contract for next season. I guess the point is that since the Wings have the “right to match” offers from NHL clubs, Jiri Hudler is still an asset that is property of Detroit.

The NHL is appealing to the IIHF to rule that Hudler’s KHL contract is invalid, as was done earlier in the week when Joel Kwiatkowski — a current KHLer — signed with the Thrashers.

So instead of all the good news that could have been squeezed out of the diminutive winger’s defection, the Red Wings are now hand-cuffed in limbo, which isn’t nearly as sexy as it sounds. Who knows when this thing gets resolved, but who can blame Holland & Co if they decide to play it safe (read: not make any more big league signings) until this whole thing goes away?

***UPDATE***

The arbitration hearing has been scheduled for July 30.

***UPDATE #2***

July 16 — “We…Are…Family…”
The president of the KHL has made his first public statement since the situation began. He – via translation – has said that the Kontinental League “will not register Hudler’s contract, pending the outcome of the NHL arbitration.” Apparently the NHL gained some goodwill by having the Thrashers rescind the aforementioned contract offer to Joel Kwiatkowski.