Mike Babcock is vehemently denying rumors he’s on the verge of re-upping with the Detroit Red Wings as the highest-paid coach in the NHL and GM Ken Holland isn’t saying much of anything one way or the other. So where does that leave us? Well, your trusty correspondent is inclined to believe that before long, Babcock will sign in Detroit and continue his outstanding coaching career in Detroit.
From what I’ve been told, the one factor more than anything that was important to Babcock was whether or not the Red Wings have an opportunity to be a contending team for the long-term. During the Red Wings prospect tournament in Traverse City, I had a long talk with Holland after we picked the Red Wings to miss the playoffs and even he acknowledged the fans were beginning to ask questions.
“Has he lost his touch?” Holland asked rhetorically. “Is he a doofus?”
Clearly, Holland is not a doofus. His team is first in the Eastern Conference and second overall in the NHL today and this is not a smoke-and-mirrors thing. When healthy and when they get decent goaltending, the Red Wings are a legitimate contender. And they also have a well-stocked pipeline of prospects, both on their American League team and in the system.
Which brings us to a whole other area of speculation when it comes to the Red Wings. There’s little secret they would like to add a defenseman and the two names that keep coming up are Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres and Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. The speculation is that the prospect of getting Myers, something that has been percolating all season and is still very much alive, is the top priority. If that fails, the Red Wings figure they can pick Green up as a relatively inexpensive rental player.
And this is where things get interesting. I’m told the asking price from the Sabres for Myers is prospect Dylan Larkin, a roster player along the lines of a Riley Sheahan or Tomas Jurco, and a first-round pick. That seems like an awful lot for an underachieving player who still has five years on his deal with a cap hit of $5.5 million per season.
The Sabres, though, are really in no need of cap relief at the moment, so there’s no sense of urgency to rid themselves of Myers just to shed the cap figure. So naturally, they’re hoping to make a good hockey deal on this one and get a bounty of prospects and picks in return. That makes sense from their perspective.
From the Red Wings perspective, it could be a deal fraught with peril. Larkin, the Red Wings first-round choice (15th overall) last June, is scoring at a point-per-game pace as a true freshman with the University of Michigan and will likely be on the U.S. World Junior team. Given the Red Wings ability to properly develop players and prepare them for the NHL, Larkin could be a long-term second- or third-line center.
And dealing for Myers in 2014-15 is not the same as giving up two first-round picks for Chris Chelios in 1998-99. Back then, the Red Wings were coming off consecutive Stanley Cups and looked to be a permanent fixture among the league’s final four. They were competing for the Stanley Cup every year. The prospect of giving up two first-rounders for a player of Chelios’ caliber was not outlandish. Fifteen years later, Myers is good, but he’s no Chelios. And the Red Wings are good, but they’re in a group of eight or 10 teams that could win the Stanley Cup or lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Myers, meanwhile, remains an enigma. One of our staffers here at THN spoke to him after a Buffalo loss in Toronto recently and said he’s never spoken with a more demoralized player. “He looked like a giant Eeyore,” was how our man described him. But what if Myers becomes the next Jay Bouwmeester? That is, he becomes something a little less than what he was projected, but is a guy capable of playing 30 minutes a game for the next decade? That would look really good on any team’s blueline.
And if the Red Wings can’t get Myers, they’d likely be willing to settle for Green, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Green’s play in his own end of the ice would likely force the Red Wings to have Pavel Datsyuk out every time Green is out there, but it would be a boon to a power play that is already top-10 in the NHL. And given his contract status, he could likely be acquired for a second-round pick.
Whether or not Mike Babcock signs a contract extension in the next little while will likely do nothing to change the Red Wings interest in Tyler Myers. With the Babcock situation looking as though it will eventually get done at some point, that might be the transaction worthy or receiving attention at the moment.