Rumor Roundup: Red Wings extend Ken Holland, what about DeKeyser, Alfredsson and Babcock?

Lyle Richardson
Mike Babcock

The Detroit Red Wings announced Thursday they re-signed GM Ken Holland to a new four-year contract. With his future now settled, Holland can turn his focus toward his coach and two key roster players.

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports Holland remains hopeful of re-signing Mike Babcock, who’s entering the final season of his contract. Holland told St. James he intends to meet with Babcock for face-to-face talks in September, before the start of training camp.

Holland is also working on a new contract for restricted free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who told St. James he’s not worried about still being unsigned a month before training camp. He said it would nice if they could work out a long-term deal. Read more

Detroit signs Ken Holland to new deal. Is Mike Babcock next?

Matt Larkin
Ken Holland

The Detroit Red Wings have secured one piece of their future. Will the second domino fall soon?

First, GM Ken Holland. There was the occasional whisper of him leaving Detroit for a new challenge, but the odds were always slim. He’s fuelled the Red Wings’ seemingly endless success for decades, including the last 17 years as GM. The franchise is synonymous with finding diamonds in the rough, including current stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and Holland has always been the mastermind behind that brilliant drafting.

Worry not, Wings fans. Your GM is back. Holland has signed a four-year extension, keeping him in Hockeytown through 2017-18. Owner Mike Illitch’s statement mentioned stability as “key to success of any organization,” and that Holland is crucial for maintaining that stability. It makes sense with a new arena all the way and this team in serious transition.

On the surface, 23 straight playoff berths say it’s business as usual in Detroit, but we know that’s not the case. This team barely squeezed into the playoffs last season, and Datsyuk and Zetterberg seem destined to battle health problems for the rest of their careers. Jimmy Howard’s goaltending hasn’t met the expectation set by the six-year, $31.75-million deal he commenced last season. With the team’s future success in flux, it’s good news for the Wings to have Holland manning the ship.

More good news: the youth movement is in full-swing, and Detroit seems more wiling than ever to give youngsters chances to play. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar look like the latest late-round draft steals, poised to become building blocks for years to come at forward. Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan, who were higher-regarded prospects than Nyquist and Tatar when drafted, made the team last year as well. Anthony Mantha, who scored a goal a game in junior last season, could be the exception to Detroit’s unwritten rule of making every drafted prospect wait three to four years before making the NHL. That’s what happens when Detroit gets a top-20 pick after none from 2006-2012. The Wings’ blueline is solid if unspectacular, with clever college signings like Danny DeKeyser complementing solid vets like Niklas Kronwall. Maybe now that Holland has a contract, he can work on upgrading the defense corps further with an acquisition like, say, Mike Green.

Read more

What burning questions remain this NHL off-season?

Ryan Johansen is coming off his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets, but hasn't signed an extension yet. (Getty Images)

These truly are the dog days of summer. Players, GMs and coaches get their brief time off between the free agency boom and training camps. Media have time to do fun stuff like rank every logo in the NHL. With no hockey, we spend our nights watching Bachelor in Paradise baseball.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening in the NHL. If you squint, you’ll notice several important questions still unanswered, such as…

1. Will Columbus mend fences with Ryan Johansen and sign him long-term?

The most recent reports out of Columbus had restricted free agent Johansen and the Jackets still $3 million apart. Per season. That’s a Grand Canyonesque gap. So far, the P.K. Subban story isn’t working as a cautionary tale about short-term bridge contracts. After his bridge, Subban won the Norris Trophy and his new long-term cap hit is probably about $2 million more than it would’ve been had Montreal ponied up two years ago and paid him, say, Drew Doughty money.

The Jackets want Johansen to prove his 33-goal breakout was for real, just as they wanted Sergei Bobrovsky to back up his Vezina Trophy campaign when they inked him to a bridge deal last summer. The difference? Nothing about Johansen’s development says fluke. He has pedigree as the No. 4 overall pick in 2010. He was always supposed to be this good. There’s every reason to trust him. Columbus could live to regret a bridge contract. The East is wide open, and this team can contend with its top pivot signed and happy.

Read more

Rumor Roundup: Mike Green’s future with Caps still cloudy

Mike Green

Earlier this summer there was speculation the Washington Capitals would trade defenseman Mike Green. They enter this season with only a little more than $1 million in salary cap space and have been linked to abrasive checking-line forwards Paul Bissonnette and Dan Carcillo. They have little room to add either player and address other needs if required during the season. Shedding Green’s $6.1-million cap hit would address that issue.

This summer’s additions of blueliners Matt Niskanen ($5.75-million cap hit) and Brooks Orpik ($5.5 million) raise questions about Green’s role in the Capitals defense corps. Assuming Niskanen and Orpik form one pairing while John Carlson and Karl Alzner make up another, Green could become an expensive third-pairing rearguard.

ESPN.com columnist Katie Strang, responding to a reader’s question regarding Green’s trade status, expressed surprise he hadn’t been dealt yet. She speculates his value might not be particularly high at the moment. Colleague Craig Custance also addressed Green’s status during a recent live chat, suggesting there’s no rush for the Capitals to move the 28-year-old defenseman.

Custance believes the Detroit Red Wings are a natural fit for Green and notes they have the depth in young talent to interest the Capitals. The Wings seek a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. They were linked to Green earlier this summer in the rumor mill, though that chatter has since died down.

Read more

Should these five aging NHL veterans hang in there or hang ‘em up?

Daniel Alfredsson (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

As we approach late summer, a handful of older NHL veterans remain unsigned. And that begs the question: are they not listening to Father Time telling them they’re due to retire, or are they right to hold out in the hope a job opens up for them? Let’s take a look at five such players and offer an opinion on whether they should hang in there or hang ‘em up:

Saku Koivu, C: At age 39, Koivu had 11 goals and 29 points for Anaheim last season. His Corsi-for number has fallen steadily since 2012 and his ice time has been reduced by an average of more than three minutes a game (to just 15:02 last year) since 2011-12, but remember, he’s been on a deep Ducks team that didn’t need to rely on him. In the right environment – in other words, on a playoff-bound franchise – he can provide help down the middle and on faceoffs. Hang in there or hang ‘em up? Hang in there

Martin Brodeur, G: Nobody questions why Brodeur wants to continue playing. When you’ve accomplished as much as he has and is considered one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey history, it’s only natural you’d want to stick around for as long as possible. But anyone who’s seen the decline in his game in recent years wouldn’t hold it against him if he retired. The lack of interest in him as a starter is telling. If the 42-year-old is willing to play a backup role on a contender, he might have a little bit left in the tank. If not, the writing is on the wall. Hang in there or hang ‘em up? Hang in there as a backup; hang ‘em up as a starter. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Where will Dustin Penner & Michael Del Zotto land?

Dustin Penner

As the NHL off-season drags on, former New York Rangers and Nashville Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto remains unsigned.

Only 24, Del Zotto is just two years removed from a 41-point performance with the Rangers in 2011-12. Unfortunately, his stock tumbled significantly last season, largely because of his poor play in his own zone.

Recent speculation linking Del Zotto to the Vancouver Canucks was denied by his agent, who claims there’s “no chance” his client ends up with the Canucks. It’s been rumored the Detroit Red Wings could have interest, but he’s a left-handed shot and the Wings seek a right-shooting blueliner.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cited an NHL club claiming Del Zotto’s reputation was “in tatters.” He believes now is the right time to “buy low” on the young rearguard and wonders why the New York Islanders haven’t pursued him. Read more

Music and hockey: an all-star forum, part two

Ryan Kennedy
Saves-the-Day

On Thursday, I unleashed part one of a hockey and music forum featuring some of the people I like to talk about on those two topics. Here now is the conclusion of that session. Once again, the panel is composed of the following all-stars:

Nathan MacKinnon: Calder Trophy-winning center for the Colorado Avalanche, hip-hop head.

Drew Stafford: Veteran Buffalo Sabres right winger, heavy metal fiend

Boyd Devereaux: Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings. Now retired, his company Waking Sound makes hockey promo videos featuring highlights set to music. He also founded the label Elevation Recordings, which put out psyche/noise/underground artists.

Vinny Karpuszka: Arena DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, heavy metal enthusiast

Sunaya Sapurji: Junior hockey writer for Yahoo! Sports and its Buzzing the Net blog

Uffe Bodin: Editor in chief and writer for Hockeysverige.se.

Arun Bali: Guitarist for Saves the Day, die-hard Red Wings fan now living in Nashville

Read more

Music and hockey: an all-star panel, part one

Nathan-MacKinnon-3

As obsessed as I am with hockey, I was once similarly preoccupied with music. I am nowhere near as plugged in as I used to be, but I still love music and since my tastes tend to run on the obscure side, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk about my favorite bands within the hockey community. But over the years, I’ve found some kindred spirits in the sport and it’s always fun to talk about bands and artists that we share a mutual love for.

So in the spirit of summer fun, I hit up a few of the people who fall into that category and asked them about the current state of hockey and music. Here’s the panel:

Nathan MacKinnon: Calder Trophy-winning center for the Colorado Avalanche, hip-hop head.

Drew Stafford: Veteran Buffalo Sabres right winger, heavy metal fiend

Boyd Devereaux: Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings. Now retired, his company Waking Sound makes hockey promo videos featuring highlights set to music. He also founded the label Elevation Recordings, which put out psyche/noise/underground artists.

Vinny Karpuszka: Arena DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, heavy metal enthusiast

Sunaya Sapurji: Junior hockey writer for Yahoo! Sports and its Buzzing the Net blog

Uffe Bodin: Editor in chief and writer for Hockeysverige.se.

Arun Bali: Guitarist for Saves the Day, die-hard Red Wings fan now living in Nashville

Part two of this conversation will go up tomorrow. Here we go…

Read more