A week from today, we should have a pretty good indication of where the Detroit Red Wings rank in the hearts and minds of the NHL or at least in the hearts and minds of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
After two decades of unprecedented excellence, the Wings immediate future rests on whether they can attract one or both of this year’s cream of the crop free agents.
Up until this past weekend’s NHL draft in Pittsburgh, everything appeared to be falling Detroit’s way. Then the Penguins pulled off a blockbuster trade – sending Jordan Staal to Carolina – plus a few other moves, which has cleared up an enormous amount of cap space.
Indications are the Penguins are still trying to clear more cap room because they have every intention of making a serious run at Parise and Suter.
Parise and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby are good friends and Suter has a history with Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero, dating back to Shero’s days as an assistant GM with Nashville.
Usually such connections wouldn’t be much of a concern for Detroit because the Red Wings are, well, the Red Wings.
However, with Nick Lidstrom’s retirement and a roster comprised of aging superstars, the luster of the Red Wings mystic has been slightly tarnished.
Detroit is still a very good hockey team and with the addition of Suter and/or Parise the Wings would maintain their status as one of the league’s elites.
But each day more and more teams are maneuvering to become part of the Suter-Parise free-for-all and several of them (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles and the Rangers) offer younger rosters loaded with talent, which translates into a long-term future of competing for the Stanley Cup.
The Wings will counter with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nik Kronwall, a solid management team and a commitment from ownership that’s second to none. These factors still make Detroit an attractive destination, but just how attractive is anybody’s guess.
Leading up to noontime on July 1, we will hear all kinds of scenarios of where Parise and Suter will sign. My prediction goes as follows: As next Sunday approaches, the Wings chances will become slimmer and slimmer of landing either one.
Logic will dictate that Detroit is a franchise on the decline, while their main competition for Parise and Suter are teams on the rise. But, given that the money will be the same, the Wings will be willing to front
load their deals and overpay for the services of hockey’s most sought
after free agents.
If Detroit holds a clear advantage over their competition it’s owner Mike Ilitch.
Do not under estimate the persuasive powers of Mr. Ilitch.
Winning, the amenities (the building) and the quality of life will be key factors and that’s where ownership comes in.
Over the years Mr. Ilitch has been able to click with athletes — it seems that every free agent that the Red Wings or Tigers have ever signed point to their meeting with Ilitch as the deciding factor.
Whatever he says convinces the very best to give Detroit a try. Obviously, the money and the Wings tradition of competing loom large, but there’s more to it than that.
Mike Ilitch makes them feel wanted. He instills a sense of community and his love for Detroit is boundless.
Also, being a former athlete and a self-made man is inspiring. Athletes can relate to a person that has worked their tail off for everything that they’ve earned. The Mike Ilitch story is their story.
So, as this week progresses, don’t lose faith despite what you may hear in the rumor mill. As long as Mike Ilitch gets a shot at Parise and Suter, the Wings will never be out of the game.