Archive for August, 2009

Report: USA Hockey source of hold up on Hudler’s transfer card

Update (6:13 PM): More on this via a Twitter exchange I had with Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy:

dchesnokov Hudler scored a GWG in Dynamo’s win over a bitter rival Spartak.

onthewings @dchesnokov How’s that work, if the reports on his transfer card are true?

dchesnokov @onthewings KHL president Medvedev said he didn’t care about what the IIHF do.

onthewings @dchesnokov I’d seen that. I didn’t know how much of it was bluffing.

dchesnokov @onthewings The Czech hockey federation issued a transfer card. KHL don’t care about IIHF transfer cards anymore.

dchesnokov @onthewings IIHF = joke. They depend too much on the money from the Russians. If the KHL leaves the IIHF, the organization will die.

onthewings @dchesnokov Hope you’re right–the Wings need the KHL to override the IIHF or they’re screwed.

dchesnokov @onthewings KHL hinted a number of times they were growing tired of the IIHF. As I have always said, it is between NHL and KHL. IIHF = joke

If Dmitry’s right and the KHL’s just going to ignore the IIHF rules, it’s good for the Wings in this specific situation because it would mean retention of the status quo as determined in the days around Hudler’s arbitration. The precedent, however, wouldn’t be a good one to set. The weakening of a reasonable (relative to the KHL) international body would hurt the NHL’s pipeline to Europe.

Really, the best resolution from the perspective of the IIHF would be for USA Hockey to just sign the card, but that creates problems for the NHL as the KHL would come off the victor in this little turf battle. – Matt

In the first mainstream media non-blog (Cult of Hockey is technically MSM, but a blog) comment on the latest chapter of the Hudler Saga, Canwest News Service’s Erin Valois reports that the IIHF has partially confirmed the news regarding Hudler and his transfer card. I say partially because it’s not the IIHF that is denying him the card; it’s apparently USA Hockey, the federation that had jurisdiction over Hudler while he was in the NHL and one of two needing to give permission for him to play overseas (the other being the Russian one).

Citing an email to Peter Adler that David Staples must have used as a source Wednesday, Valois quotes the communications director of the IIHF, Szymon Szemberg, who claims USA Hockey has not signed the card, therefore leaving Hudler ineligible to play in the KHL (assuming the KHL plays by the rules). Szemberg speculates the NHL asked USA Hockey not to sign and it’s all but certain he’s right.

I guess it’s still possible that the federation could still sign the card and make this go away, but it’s not looking likely if they haven’t already. I can understand the League asking USA Hockey not to sign. They wanted to protect an NHL asset from the predatory KHL. I get it, and even would have appreciated it if it could have been done in a timely manner.

What I don’t get is why this is only coming out now. Couldn’t the federation have made its decision clear a few weeks ago, before the Wings went out and put themselves against the cap in order to make up for what everybody assumed was the already-decided loss of Jiri Hudler? If the KHL ends up saying, “Just kidding” on its apparent threat to have Hudler play anyway, the Wings are royally screwed by the cap.

This is crap. Hudler forced back before his apparent “victory” in escaping the NHL around the time of his arbitration would have been bad enough. The Wings would have at least had the cap space to keep his malcontent self on board. Now, however, they have no such space and no easy way to clear it up. If he’s forced to return to North America, I hope he’ll be able to find happiness playing for another team, because chances are the Wings will be shopping him, even if they have to take a crappy deal from some laughing GM.

Cult of Hockey: IIHF Screws Wings, Hudler

Update (27. Aug 09, 3:25 PM): A guy by the name of Ruslan Salikhov claims on Twitter that KHL president Alexander Medvedev said his league will ignore the IIHF and let Hudler play regardless. Salikhov also has what he calls a quote from KHL officials: “IIHF did not give transfer card to Hudler. Their explanation was Hudler has a contract with Detroit, which is laughable” (via Christy Hammond).

None of this has been confirmed by a reputable source yet, so take both the initial news and this bit from Medvedev with  grain of salt. – Matt

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal blog Cult of Hockey relays horrible news from his “Edmonton-based Euro hockey expert” Peter Adler (who in turn gets it from Sovietsky Sport): the IIHF isn’t granting Hudler his transfer card, which means he can’t practice or play with Moscow Dynamo, or for any other team in any “IIHF-sanctioned game.”

I haven’t seen this confirmed by anyone else yet, so take it with a grain of salt. But I’m guessing Sovietsky Sport wouldn’t outright fabricate something that represents such a blow to the KHL as this. It may be that the IIHF is just dragging its feet. Let’s hope so.

Without that card, Hudler would effectively be banned from any league covered by the IIHF. If the report is true, Hudler’s only real option would be to return to North America, which is outside IIHF jurisdiction (or at least able to ignore it).

The problem with that, obviously, is Hudler is currently property of the Detroit Red Wings and to play in North America, he would have to pick up the two-year, $5.75 million deal with the Wings he was awarded in arbitration. And the Wings neither have that kind of cap space nor could they easily get it now that they have signed Jason Williams and Todd Bertuzzi.

So, if Hudler is forced to return, what do the Wings do? Who knows. I can tell you I have a hard time seeing them trade or waive a veteran such as Tomas Holmstrom in order to help make room for Jiri. What seems more likely to me is they’d try to shop Hudler, even though he’s an important offensive asset. If that’s the route they go, though, good luck. NHL GMs won’t be in a rush to help Holland out.

Kyle’s got some speculation of his own here.

Assuming for a minute that the Sovietsky Sport story as relayed by Adler is true, a question for the IIHF: why the heck did you wait so long? The NHL wanted this weeks ago.

On the Bertuzzi and the coming season

More response to the Bertuzzi signing and to the larger questions on the upcoming season, from a reply I sent to an email list I’ve been on for years, below. Background: the guy I’m replying to responded to the signing with a very negative view of the Wings’ chances this year, and predicted a losing record against the Central:

… This hasn’t been a great off-season, but the resultant team isn’t drastically different from the one that won the Cup. It’s like complaining when your profits fall from $8 million to $6 million or something. You’re still making a killing most people would die to have. It’ll be a fight, with the Central’s improvement, but the Wings are still very dangerous and will still be very good. None of that losing to the Central more often than not BS for me. They still have Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Franzen, etc. There’s also the simple fact that this team will have something to prove, similar to how they did after 2007.

Am I less confident than last year? Sure, but that’s because I was overconfident last year. Look where that got us. Look where those 80 goals we lost this off-season got us. I for one find myself warming to the idea of a team that has more reason to pay attention to detail at both ends than last year’s on-paper powerhouse did. I look forward to a team that can no longer arrogantly count on being able to score more goals than its opponents and use that as an excuse to forgo defensive responsibility. If having less offensive firepower means the forwards focus on syncing with the defense as they did in 2007-2008, I’m happy.

All that said, the Bertuzzi signing does not impress me at all. It’s not about the Moore incident, to be honest. It’s about his increasing physical fragility and continued decline. The guy is no longer the fearless beast he was before he nearly killed Moore and he will never return to that form. He’s tentative and not physical, and is marked for penalties by officials who are driven by his reputation, even when his lack of speed isn’t causing him to hook and grab for real. The best the Wings can hope for is 60 games and 10-15 goals in the regular season and maybe 6 points in the playoffs. I hope one of the kids makes his presence on the roster more superfluous than it already seems, and that he rarely gets in the lineup.

So, in summary, I’m not a fan of the last two signings, but I’m confident in the team going forward.

The second paragraph above is one I want to emphasize. If this year’s team can return to the work ethic and sacrificial attitude of the Cup winning squad, they’ll be in great position to face down their coming challenges. Lackluster off-season or not, they remain the Detroit Red Wings and that still means the Class of the League. This could be one instance where steps that seem backward initially could become steps forward in the end.

Holland and the front office crew obviously feel Williams and Bertuzzi can contribute to that. I disagree, but I’m not in their position. Even if they turn out to be wrong, the team still has enough in it to succeed if each member is willing to sacrifice as they did in ’07-’08. I’m going to watch and look forward to the outcome.

TSN calls it official: Bertuzzi’s back, pending physical

Update (1:19 PM): TSN got on the ball and updated the article. – Matt

The homepage blurb for this article on TSN now says:

The Detroit Red Wings added some size and veteran presence up front by agreeing on a one-year contract with former Wing Todd Bertuzzi. The veteran forward needs to pass a standard physical to make the deal official.

And Darren Dreger confirms on Twitter.

The article linked at the end of that blurb has yet to be updated with that reporting, but it looks like Todd’s a Red Wing again, unless he fails his physical (if only). If it’s at that $1.5 million price tag reported earlier, the Wings are grossly overpaying him.

Ugh. Gotta wonder how guys like Darren Helm and Ville Leino feel today. I mean, no free rides in Detroit, but this is a slap in the face to the kids. At least one of them is likely to be on some kind of rotation. They won’t be paying Todd or Jason $1.5 million or whatever to sit in the luxury box too often.

Baseless line projection fun:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Cleary-Filppula-Franzen
Bertuzzi-Williams-Eaves
Maltby-Draper-Helm/Leino

It’s going to be interesting to see how this all works out. I have to say the last two signings don’t give me a great feeling, but that will probably go away September 13th when hockey starts up again and can start washing away the bad taste of this off-season.

Kenny Confirms It: In Talks With Bertuzzi

So reports Khan. They’ve apparently tabled a one-year, $1.5 million offer, andreportedly hope to seal the deal this week.

I grudgingly agree with Bill’s gut reaction here, but I’ll emphasize grudgingly. It’s still Todd Bertuzzi and “if he’s healthy, he can be effective” has been used every year since he returned to the ice, each time with decreasing confidence. Are we really taking that gamble again?

Enemy Incoming? Bertuzzi back on Wings’ radar

I didn’t want to post on this because I spent the weekend in denial, but now the audio’s come out and I can’t ignore it any more. 13:57 in or so, Devallano says he “believes” they’re going after Bertuzzi and hope to have him signed to a one year deal within the week.

I don’t even know what exactly to say about it. My negative reaction is really too overwhelming to put into words other than, “Please no” and “Ugh.”