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PHT Morning Skate: Why can’t Detroit attract top free agents?

Jul 7, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Matt Niskanen Getty Images

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Detroit doesn’t appear to be a top destination for free agents anymore, but why is that? (Winging it in Motown)

Did the Edmonton Oilers successfully identify a diamond in the rough when they took Greg Chase in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. (Edmonton Sun)

Stars GM Jim Nill is a popular man in Dallas right now. (SB Nation)

It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s draft. Here’s a very early look at the class of 2015. (The Hockey Writers)

Do the Carolina Hurricanes have a decent shot of making the playoffs next season? (News & Observer)

Here’s the argument in favor of the Oilers shopping defenseman Justin Schultz. (Edmonton Journal)

  1. jmcurran28 - Jul 7, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    The Wings offered more money to Niskanen, Boyle and Ehrhoff than they signed for with their respective new teams. They obviously had other reasons they believed it was better to not sign in Detroit. As a diehard Wings fan it stung at first but ultimately I don’t want anybody on the team who doesn’t want to be there. We will find our right handed shot in Sproul or Ouellet.

    • cbaum44 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Truth. But we do have a few players on the roster that are just dead weight. I have no clue why they would state they were letting Quincey go to free agency and then pick him back up for 8 mil on a two year contract. Sometimes Holland makes dumb choices that bite the team in the ass.

      • pwshrugged - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:03 AM

        It seemed like a knee-jerk move to keep some depth on the roster. Without Quincey, they would have had to rely on a Grand Rapids call-up (or Kindl) to fill the 6th defenseman spot on the roster come October. Better Quincey for two years, and let guys like Sproul or Ouellet mature at length. If injuries force their hand, so be it, but ultimately, Quincey was a depth signing. An expensive one, but with how much cap room the Wings have (much of which looks to go unused), it’s really not a big deal. The Wings like Quincey, and while I’m not a big fan, I can acknowledge that he played better in the second half of the season than in the first by a pretty good margin. He’ll do fine on our 3rd defense pairing, and really isn’t worth getting all bent out of shape about.

      • rbbbaron - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:42 AM

        Yeah, ummmm, the cap room thing– so they’ve got about 9.5mil left with Tatar and DeKeyser unsigned, a couple players who can lay claim to some of the best advanced on the team last year. If Holland is willing to piss them off, then he’ll have more than half that 9.5mil left to offer to Cleary (which he is reportedly doing) and Alfredsson (though the Quincey signing is a pretty good signal to Alfie that he should just hang them up). So yeah, the Quincey signing was no biggy, lol

  2. jaybaileys - Jul 7, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    Maybe it has to do with the uncertainty of what Babcock is doing, who wants to sign a 6 or 7 year deal if they don’t know what he’s doing after next year?

  3. pw1265 - Jul 7, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    Look at the way the corrupt Governor’s office is treating that city! I wouldn’t go there either!!!!!

    • clefty1 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      The city of Detroit went downhill back in the 1970’s and has been run by democraps since 1962. Do some research before spewing off….

      • patthehockeyfan - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        Can we please keep the freakin’ politics out of it?

  4. rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Well, if you ask some of the more enlightened wings fans here, Holland is just too smart to overpay those weak free agents (despite having tried to). If they can just stay healthy then they’re contenders (despite having their @sses handed to them by Boston…surely a healthy Z and Ericsson were going to be the difference between them not just getting thru the first round but putting them on the cusp of a championship)

    • c9castine - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Did you just say Holland is too smart to overpay free agents even though he tried to? That statement totally contradicts itself you know that right

      Ehrhoff didnt get overpaid in fact he signed for a bargain.

      • rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        No– didn’t know that, didn’t have a clue, lol

      • pwshrugged - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        Ehrhoff’s deal is a good one, but the Wings weren’t after him – they don’t need another lefty D-man.

  5. 101starmymedic - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Amazing Red Wings article. Even non Wings fans should read it. It covers so many aspects on the complexity of the league.

    I also think Holland is smart, actually, he’s more rational than smart. These are teams paying superstar dollars to non superstar players simply out of desperation. Kenny doesn’t take that bait.

    The Wings will endure.

    • rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      “Kenny doesn’t take that bait.”
      Are you saying his offers of $38.5mil to Niskanen and $10mil to Boyle weren’t genuine?
      Desperation is when you have to go back to a guy who you previously told you weren’t interested in and ponying up an above market price for him.

      • 101starmymedic - Jul 7, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        What? Surprised a PHT member can admit they were wrong?

      • rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 4:42 PM

        Relax, the “Jaysus” was for c9castine (otherwise known as the guy who has absolutely no sense for when someone is being facetious)

      • pwshrugged - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        Got sources on his contract offers there?

      • rbbbaron - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:49 AM

        Oh JAYSUS! A quick google will get you sources, both on those numbers and on how Holland was after Ehrhoff. Please inform yourself.

    • c9castine - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Yeah again holland tried to pay these guys and they said no.

      Dont try to rewrite the story to make the team look good after the fact

      • 101starmymedic - Jul 7, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Actually, you both having said that, totally true. I literally think Holland is an idiot. Quincy and Cleary…No idea what the hell he is thinking.

      • rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:15 PM


  6. DED - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    No disrespect intended (my father’s a Red Wings fan), but maybe they view the Red Wings as a franchise in decline. Some very talented players have retired; other star players are aging. The next generation of players has come up from Grand Rapids to fill in the roster holes created by injured players. While they’re talented, they’re still a little inexperienced. It might give FA’s the mistaken impression that the team is going through a re-building phase despite the fact that they’re still making the playoffs.

    Then there’s the economic health of the city to consider.

    • pwshrugged - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      The perception of the Red Wings will change completely once Tatar, Sheahan, Nyquist, and DeKeyser sustain a high level of play for another season. I can understand some skepticism there right now, as none of those guys have a true full season under their belts… but if the Wings make the playoffs again, even as an 8-seed, next season, and those guys continue to mature… well, the rebuild will look over and FAs will be less reluctant.

  7. penguins87and71 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Athletes are people too. They need to live in homes, and they have families just like us. They probably don’t want to be raising their kids in a environment like Detroit. They still want what’s best for their kids, regardless if they’re athletes or not.

    • thethorntonstrokes - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      Michigan suburbs are some of the richest in America. Just because the big city isn’t family friendly, doesn’t mean the suburbs surrounding it are not.

    • clefty1 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Another one with no clue. The players do not live within the city of Detroit they live in the nice suburban areas which are a 180 from the city… Do Penguin players live within the city of Pittsburgh?

      • paperkid96 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        Penguins players live in Mario’s basement.

    • rmccleary97 - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      When Modano went to Detroit, he had to make the choice between having a nice place to live or feeding his dog.

  8. beergold - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Likely because all of the top players are signing in Toronto to play with the Cup bound Leafs lead by the two best franchise players in NHL history Phaneuf and Kessel!

  9. whiskytango333 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Not to sound disparaging, but the fact that the Red Wings are in Detroit probably plays a huge factor in the inability to attract top free agents. If you’re getting offered the same money or even a little less to somewhere else (and move your family there), you’re probably taking that offer.

    To be fair…cities like Edmonton don’t attract big names either…

  10. beyor35 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    It’s pretty obvious… Since they are the team with the best overall record over the last 20 years or so it comes down to 1 thing… The city is one of the worse places in this country to live with all of the crime and poverty. I am not a wings fan but have a ton of respect for the organization and find it very sad that it has come down to this… The organization is a class act but the city is one of if not the last place in this country that I would ever want to live in…

    • clefty1 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Get a clue. The players and their families do not live in the city.

      • purpleguy - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        It may not be true, but it nonetheless is a perception the Wings have to overcome.

      • pwshrugged - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        The suburbs aren’t exactly excellent, either. They’re not as bad as the city, no, not at all, and in truth, the city isn’t as bad as it used to be… but when you have the whole country to pick from, well, Detroit’s not the most appealing option, it’s true. The “nice” suburbs are easily 30+ minutes from the city, if not more. And even those are still impacted by runoff crime from the city. I don’t know; I don’t mean to sound dire about it, but as a former resident who lives elsewhere now… well, I know how I feel when I look around now on visits back. I can understand the wariness.

    • rmccleary97 - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      If “quality of the city proper” was a huge deciding factor, no player would go to St. Louis. The fact is, players who go to St. Louis live out in the suburbs (Creve Coeur, Ladue, Wildwood, etc.) – not in the crappy places of the St. Louis area like the north part of the city, the north part of the county, or across the river in East St. Louis, Centerville, Brooklyn, or Washington Park. Those who’ve retired in the area, … same thing – they’re not doing it where crime is a daily thing and walking around is dangerous whether it’s day or night.

    • adamal17 - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:13 PM

      The city isn’t the issue. Not in the least bit. Yes; compared to New York and LA it won’t bring in the sexy pick. But let’s compare it to Chicago. Statistically the worst big city in the USA when it comes to crime. I spend a total of two weeks a year in Chicago and you cannot turn the news on without hearing of at least four murders a day…all to often involving a shot cop. I’m a Wings fan but I also root for the Hawks (now that the wings are in the east) but they are now the wings of the 10’s. Just like the Wings, very few live in the city. The city of Detroit will finish it’s transformation when the new arena is finished…and that’s literal. The Ilitches bought out every bad area that’s left in the heart of Detroit and is putting a mini city in it’s place…ran by Olympia Entertainment; which you guessed it, is owned by the Ilitches. The city isn’t the issue; Why does Steve Yzerman’s family still live in Michigan? The Howe’s? Ciccarelli? Federov still has a home here, I live twenty minutes from Joe Louis Arena; in the county with one of the least crime rates in the state. And where most of the Wings live…year round.

  11. snipedanglecelly13 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I don’t think it’s our city that doesn’t attract big names bc we’ve had a ton of talent come to Detroit via free agency. And players on the wings don’t raise their families in Detroit…they live far from Detroit in nicer cities like northville or novi. It’s just simply bc Detroit is declining as a franchise

  12. rainyday56 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Maybe it’s because things didn’t work out there for previous high profile UFA’s. Ref: Hossa and Modano.

    • adamal17 - Jul 8, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      Hossa went to a cup final in his one year; Modano was hurt most the year and went to the playoffs for the first time in a few years. Alfie will be back (only as a wing), Remember when Rafalski and Drake won a cup in their first year with the Wings? Who else had a “worse year” than their previous year before joining the Wings? Even Weiss had a better year last year then his last one with the Panthers…and he was awful last year.

  13. paperkid96 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I think Mike Illitch was very involved in wooing FA’s to Detroit. As he has aged and his health declined I don’t think he is as active in recruiting as he was. Perhaps the owners presence in the recruiting process was more significant than previously thought. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock seem smart but they don’t seem as personable as Illitch.

  14. isphet71 - Jul 7, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    I think FAs are insane for not wanting to come to Detroit.

    – Who wouldn’t want to pass the puck up to Datsyuk and Zetterberg, not to mention the new guys, Nyquist and Tatar?

    – The Red Wings more than take care of their superstar players long term and are very loyal, almost to a fault.

    – It’s an original 6 franchise, the Winged Wheel is iconic, period.

    – They are going to get a new arena soon. Always a good time to be part of a franchise.

    Detroit is still a darn good place to play, period. And it’s like every other city in the US where there are some good areas and some not so good areas. If you haven’t been to Detroit and the surrounding areas, you really have no idea what you are talking about when you insult the city. Because yeah Grosse Ponte is sooo ghetto and third world… *rolls eyes*

    The only real reason people are freaking out is because the Red Wings are clearly NOT in the absolute top tier of franchises right now with the likes of Boston and Chicago, though they CAN beat either of those teams on any given night.

    • rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      “Boston and Chicago, though they CAN beat either of those teams on any given night.”
      Selective memory? The Boston series wasn’t all that close, and Boston went on to…lose in the next round. Otherwise if you’re talking about the regular season, sure the Wings can beat those teams on any given night– but so can just about every other team in the league. The parity is there.

  15. pwshrugged - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    I don’t think it’s that Holland won’t offer market value for free agents, as others here have mentioned that he’s offered as much per year as the other teams some free agents signed with. I suspect he’s not offering length; I doubt he offered Niskanen seven years.

    I can also see the situation with Babcock being discouraging to free agents, as his future with the Wings does look surprisingly uncertain.

    The fact also is that no one is going to be a superstar in Detroit – our teams have just never worked that way. Was Steve Yzerman a “superstar”? He was a great player and universally liked, but Detroit as a city just doesn’t seem to foster superstardom on its players. As much as we love guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk, they’re superstars by virtue of hard work and skill – not because a spotlight is purposely shined on them by coaching/front office/whoever.

    I will buy the argument that Detroit is not an attractive place to live compared some of the other hot free agent destinations; as a former resident of the suburbs… yeah. When I go visit, it’s kind of bleak compared to my nearest metro area (Minneapolis). Similarly, as much as I love it as a fan, the Joe -is- dated. I’m not sure that really plays into a free agent mentality, but that is true.

    I thought the Wings looked more fun on 24/7 than the Leafs did, though; however, the recent Wings/Leafs 24/7 was pretty boring.

    In the end, I’ll say this – the Wings are largely built on talent from within and their main goal is going to be to hold and develop that talent. They’re going to save the big bucks for DeKeyser’s future, for Nyquist’s future, for Tatar’s future. They’re not going to spend it on an outsider who just came off two good seasons and that’s it. They’ll bring guys in here and there, but they’re depth additions largely. The franchise savior isn’t on the free agent market; he’s either in the minors, or on the roster already. Simple as that. There’s no spotlight in Detroit for a free agent, and that I can see being a detractor. That, and the Wings appear to still be in rebuild mode… but that doesn’t stop them from being a perennial playoff team.

    If the Wings stay healthy next year, nail down a playoff spot again, and Babcock signs a long-term extension – the Wings will be a more desirable free agent option, for sure, and we’ll wonder why this was ever an issue. But for right now? I can respect a degree of wariness from free agents, and I can respect Holland’s office not overpaying anyone – in dollars or in contract length.

    Oh, and as we’ve seen on these boards, Wings fans are showing themselves to be disappointingly entitled and whiny. I’m shocked. 23 years in a row in the playoffs, with 4 Cups in that time, and we’re freaking out because we didn’t land a free agent this week? Seriously? Any of the big free agents could be total busts in a year. Holland is taking the cautious route, knowing none of the big free agents were surefire bets, and knowing that our young studs will need to be locked up this year or next, and that our farm system is flush with talent. The team was better-than-expected last year despite incredibly bad luck with injury; young players exploded on the scene and got NHL experience. There’s no dire need to turnover the roster. So we lack a big righty D-man. Big deal. We have some top young talent to go with top veteran talent on a team that looks built to contend for another 10 years.

  16. canada2014gold - Jul 8, 2014 at 12:18 AM

    Younger players would be a fit for Detroit. They have lots of good 2 way prospects in the pipeline. I think right now they are built to be competitive but are looking to 2-4 years from now to be in the elite.

  17. multiplemiggs - Jul 8, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    LMAO The headline to the article is hysterical

  18. adamal17 - Jul 8, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    IMHO I think it’s a number of things. The biggest of which has to do with how much the wings rely on (and rightfully so) the development program. Look at the Wings team and point out more than three players that are true impact players that are on the team….Aside from Alfie and Monster there isn’t one; maybe with the exception of Miller. If you were a player looking to get ice time (and you know Babcock won’t favor a new player over an incoming with a huge contract) you think twice about that. When basically the entire team is homegrown it’s a great thing for the team as a whole. I think that Niskanen and Boyle (less) took the same money to play where they wanted to…and after that the choices weren’t worth throwing money at to just dump in two years when Marchenko, Sproull and Jensen are 100% NHL ready. It would just be a shame if it costs us the best coach in hockey…which is most likely another reason top UFA’s are questioning coming to the wings; the possibility of playing for Blashil in two years…who will (mark my words) will be the next coach of the wings if Babcock leaves. The thought of playing for a first time NHL head coach is uncertain for a lot of players…luckily for the wings almost all of their players would have played under him…and won a cup (Calder) with him. Either way; the sky isn’t falling. We have the same team as last year…and hopefully we don’t set a record of man games lost…again.

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