Evening news: articles regarding the Red Wings’ free agent signings, and the consequences thereof

Of Red Wings-related note this evening:

1. The Associated Press’s Stephen Whyno penned an article regarding today’s Red Wings’ free agent signings

Ken Holland once transitioned the Detroit Red Wings from Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and that generation of greats to the one that followed with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Now he’s trying to do it again.

The veteran general manager knows it won’t be as easy this time, so he’s adding and keeping some older players to bridge the gap. On Sunday , the Red Wings signed 34-year-old winger Thomas Vanek and 29-year-old goaltender Jonathan Bernier and re-signed 32-year-old defenseman Mike Green.

Vanek signed a $3 million, one-year deal, Bernier got $3 million per season on a three-year deal and Green will make $5.375 million annually over the next two years as part of a series of transitional deals for the rebuilding Red Wings.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time, we have to have some patience,” Holland said. “I believe we’re headed in the right direction. In the short term, trying to bring in some veteran players obviously to mentor, to role-model the young kids. We need to be competitive. It’s important to develop players if they’re in an environment that’s positive and we go into every game we have a chance to win and we’re trying to obviously juggle having veterans on the roster and moving young players into the roster.”

2. And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan took note of the players’ respective conference call comments…

“I love it there in Detroit, I really do,” said Green on Sunday. “I love the organization, I love the culture, love the guys. There’s a lot that weighed on my decision to stay, and yes, it’s easy at times to go somewhere else, especially with the transition that’s going on in Detroit, but I feel I can be useful in the next couple of years to help the younger guys develop quicker and speed up the process.”

Green’s season ended in March when he needed surgery on his cervical spine. But Green said Sunday the rehabilitation has gone smoothly and he’ll be ready for the start of training camp in mid-September.

“I’ve gone through rehab, talked to the doctors, and everything has gone beyond what we’ve expected,” said Green, who expects clearance for contact just before training camp. “I’ve been training full-throttle. I feel great.”

“I loved it there, it was a good fit,” said Vanek of his time in Detroit. “I really liked the whole culture of the organization and the guys were great. We tried to make it work last year (sign a new contract) but it didn’t work out, so I’m happy it did this year.”

Vanek has moved around extensively in his career, so the no-trade clause he has in this contract – he’d have to waive it to be dealt at the trade deadline – was important.

“I’m not going to lie, you want to finish with the team you started (the season) with,” Vanek said. “I understand the business side of it. I get it. But having the option for myself this year is great. At the same time, I’m hoping it won’t come to that and we’ll be in the mix and we can add.”

3. Kulfan took note of Holland’s comments regarding Henrik Zetterberg as well…

“The last I talked to him, he’s planning on playing,” Holland said. “Obviously his back is going to determine whether he can or can’t. Do I have a clear green light (as to whether Zetterberg is returning)? I’m expecting him to play. Do I have a clear green light? No.”

Zetterberg, who will be 38 on Oct. 9, has played all 82 games the last three seasons, but this past season missed numerous practices to keep the back in condition to play.

Zetterberg missed the 2014 Olympics because of back problems, which required surgery.

“When you’re dealing with the back, and you’re dealing with the health of a person, it’s hard to read the future when it comes to health,” said Holland, who will keep in touch with Zetterberg throughout this month.

4. MLive’s Ansar Khan wondered aloud whether Holland is still committed to the youth movement

“As we go forward over the next year or two and we’re trying to transition from older people, it’s important that we’re competitive,” Holland said. “It’s important that we’ve got some veterans around our kids. At the same time, it’s important that our kids are going to get an opportunity. We believe we can make both things happen.”

The Red Wings expect forwards Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen, their top picks in each of the past two drafts, to compete for roster spots in training camp and the preseason and possibly make the jump from juniors to the NHL. Left wing Evgeny Svechnikov, their 2015 top pick who experienced a down year in 2017-18 with the Grand Rapids Griffins, also is in the mix for a job.

They are counting on right-shooting defenseman Filip Hronek, coming off a strong rookie season with the Griffins, to seriously push for a job. Holland said 2016 top pick Dennis Cholowski as well as Libor Sulak and Joe Hicketts will battle for a spot as well.

Green’s signing likely leaves only one spot on a blue line that includes Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Nick Jensen.

“We’re going to give a lot of young players a long look in preseason,” Holland said. “The hope is that two or three kids crack our lineup. But they’ve got to be ready. I don’t believe you just put them on the team. The message to these players was you’ve got to come in and win a job and we’re going to give them every opportunity.”

Holland said it’s important to have veterans around to mentor the youth and for the team to be competitive.

“The longer we can hang in, the better the environment is for everybody – fans, players, especially young players,” Holland said. “But also, my focus is probably a little bit down the road. Hopefully we can hang in and be in the playoff race. Some of the young people that were on the team last year need to take another step. We need some of the veteran players to play at the same level or a touch better.

“How good can Rasmussen be? How good can Zadina be? How can good can (Tyler) Bertuzzi be? What does (Anthony) Mantha do this year? What does Dylan Larkin do this year? What does (Andreas) Athanasiou do this year? Dealing with young people, there’s no track record. If all those young people can take a little step, we can be relevant. If not enough of those players take a step forward or there’s some that step backwards, it’s going to affect our ability to compete.”

5. And finally, The Athletic’s Craig Custance discussed the Wings’ free agent signings as they affect “the kids“:

The Red Wings signed defenseman Mike Green to a two-year contract worth $5.375 million annually. It has a no-trade clause that doesn’t lift until February 2020. Forward Thomas Vanek signed a one-year deal worth $3 million. It also has a no-trade clause. Goalie Jonathan Bernier signed a three-year deal worth $3 million per season, this one without trade protection.

On the surface, the contracts seem counterintuitive for a team going through a rebuild, even if the salaries and contract lengths are reasonable. And you can’t dismiss the idea that the organization would be better off keeping that cap space and handing spots to younger players, even if just to see what they would do with more opportunity. Chances are, with the signings, the Red Wings lowered the odds of landing Jack Hughes, the consensus to go No. 1 overall next year.

Instead, this management group is doubling down on the notion that a competitive environment is a crucial part of the development of young players, that the payoff of increasing lottery odds incrementally isn’t worth the cultural cost. And at the very least, the failure of other franchises to emerge from the tailspin that came with removing that environment provides validity to the plan.

And so, with the free-agency dust settled, the most important question to ask is this: What does this weekend’s action mean to the young players in the organization?

Custance continues (paywall), noting that Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen still have good chances of making the team out of training camp, while players like Evgeny Svechnikov, Joe Hicketts, Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek will have a harder time cracking the lineup. Custance also doesn’t rule out a trade to make space on the wing…

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.