Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pending Suter Deal, So far So Good for Wings

To break up the constant Twitter refreshing in anticipation for the Suter and Parise decisions, I wanted to take some time to look at the moves Ken Holland has made up until this point.  As we know, on the first day of free agency, the Wings added goaltender Jonus Gustavsson, agitating forward Jordin Tootoo, and brought back a familiar face in Mikael Samuelsson (not mentioning the Swiss star Brunner at this time because we do not know for certain if he will make the big club).  They also saw polarizing forward Jiri Hudler leave for Calgary.  As a whole, I am pleased with the moves thus far with the assumption they are only the beginning to a BIG offseason.  Let's take a look at each move shall we?

Jonus Gustavsson signed with the Red Wings for a 2-year $3MM contract.  Gustavsson signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2009 out of Sweden with a lot of hype.  He was thought to be the goalie of the future for the Leafs.  His tenure with he team was doomed from the start when he was found to have a heart condition that required surgery on the first day of training camp.  He went on to have a couple other minor heart episodes that caused him to miss time along with a groin strain.  After these multiple setbacks, his career never really got off the ground in Toronto.  Health issues aside, a lot had to do with the fact that the Leafs are awful.  No goalie could have sustained success there with the team they put out.  Fast forward to the present day, he supposedly is passed the heart issues and ready to get his career on track.  The Wings brought him in because they like his size (6'2", 192 lbs) and his athleticism.  It also shows they are not confident that MacDonald's back will hold out for the season.  "The Monster" will provide a solid backup for Jimmy Howard who will need the relief in order to be fresh for the playoffs and avoid injury.  Ken Holland also says he expects him to push Howard.  I believe for this reason, along with the small contract, this was a very good signing.

I am in the minority on this, but I am a fan of the 2-year, $3.8MM contract the Wings signed Jordin Tootoo for.  The Wings needed a (insert your expletive here).  They needed their modern day Kirk Maltby.  A guy that will throw his body around and get dirty.  A guy that will get under the other teams' skin.  They needed a guy with some more grit in their bottom six.  Tootoo provides this.  He is not an offensive dynamo but he can chip in now and then.  The Wings went out of their "comfort zone" according to Holland which is great.  It's about time!  Possible bottom six targets for the team, Paul Gaustad and Brandon Prust, both were paid substantially more, $3.25MM and $2.5MM per year respectively, and for 4-year contracts.  Tootoo's contract is more in line with what I feel a likely 4th liner should be paid.  The last 2 seasons have been rough as he had been dealing with a few injuries and alcohol abuse issues.  Apparently those days are behind him and he is ready to get his career back on track.  In my opinion, it addresses a big need for the team for cheap and is an upgrade over both Emmerton and Mursak.  Another plus for Kenny.

The one move I am not overly thrilled with but am somewhat warming up to is bringing back former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson on a 2-year, $6MM dollar deal.  Look, I have criticized Kenny a lot in the past for his tendency to bring back old Wings.  I have also criticized Samuelsson in his days with the Wings for multiple things.  But the more I think about this deal, especially since Hudler was not brought back (more on this later), the more I get it and can live with it IF a legit top 6 forward is brought in.  The Wings powerplay last year was very mediocre by being ranked 22nd in the league.  One big reason is there was nobody on the team minus Franzen who wants to shoot the puck.  They pass the puck around like the Harlem Globe Trotters and waste precious powerplay seconds to find themselves with one shot.  If there is one thing Sammy will bring to the table, it is that he will shoot the puck whenever he has the chance.  Shoot, shoot, shoot.  That's what he does.  And his shot is not that bad either.  He also brings more size than Hudler (6'2", 220lbs) which allows him to hold on to the puck more, he can win battles in the corners (unlike Hudler), is a better skater, and will throw a hit every now and then.  He is getting up there in age but as long as this proves to be a depth signing and not our top 6 acquisition, then I can live with it as Hudler's upgrade, which for reasons mentioned, he is just that.

My favorite move is the fact that Ken Holland did not pay Jiri Hudler the 4-year $16MM contract that Calgary gave him.  That is a vast overpayment for Hudler.  Sorry.  That is a lot of money for  bit player who's stats were inflated by playing with Hank and Filppula (in a contract year), is small, weak, cannot skate, does not win corner battles, is easily knocked off of the puck, and apparently is not a favorite in the locker room due to his lack of consistent effort.  My opinion is that he will fall back to the 10-15 goal mark in Calgary and they will be highly disappointed with the acquisition.  Typical Ken Holland would have paid him what he wanted and to bring him back.  He did not.  Thank you Kenny!!!

As stated above, I am basically happy with the Moves Ken Holland has made so far AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT DONE, which it is obvious they are not with the developments of their pursuits of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.  However, if they strike out on both, they better have contingency plans.  If they could pull off the Rick Nash trade (they are rumored to be serious players) or make a similar trade, as well as bring in Suter and what they have already done, this summer is a success.

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