A few days ago several blogs reported that the Detroit Red Wings were finalists for top free agent netminder Tomas Vokoun, and that they lost out on the guy when the Washington Capitals signed him to a one year, 1.5 million dollar deal—a deal that I feel is the best of all signings so far.
I don't think I'd feel the same way if Vokoun had gone to the Red Wings.
This deal would have made sense for Detroit two years ago, but it would have baffled me if they had signed Vokoun at this point.
Jimmy Howard may never be a Vezina finalist, but he doesn't need to be on this team. His money goaltending is an emerging aspect of his game, and after a shaky round against San Jose two seasons ago Howard showed up in a big way across a seven game classic against the same club this postseason.
Anyone who watched all seven games against the Sharks can testify that he was Detroit's best player not from Russia, and made timely saves when he needed to. While he could have had a mild case of the Gigueres, I just don't think that is the case.
After all, in the 2009-2010 season it was Howard that kept the Red Wings afloat and in the playoff race when they were losing bodies every two or three games (or every time they played the Blue Jackets, oddly enough.)
The New York native is only 27 years old and is entering the prime of his career. He's a Red Wing-groomed player and works well within the system.
He's the starter. End of story.
This is something that Vokoun wasn't alright with Kenny Holland and Mike Babcock were clear that Howard was their guy (I would assume), so Vokoun signed in Washington where he could have the lion's share of the minutes in the crease.
While other teams use the free agent market to bring in the cogs of their team, the Red Wings know that this isn't the way to build a consummate champion. Draft your nucleus and sign your protons and neutrons via free agency (bad science analogy for the day...check!)
This choice is another in a long string of moves (or non-moves) that show why Detroit is always among the best teams in the League. The Brendan Shanahan deal is still one of the better moves in recent memory.
One doesn't need to look too far back to see more examples of outstanding management, patience, and poise from the front office.
When July 1st hit, the Wings were in the market for a defenseman. That wasn't a secret after Brian Rafalski retired, Ruslan Salei hinted that he wanted to be closer to his family and Jonathan Ericsson (at the time) valued himself at a number which Detroit didn't agree with.
Then capitalism struck.
The slim number of quality, difference making free agents coupled with a sky rocketing salary cap created a market fit for inflation. While other teams were forced to play ball in this market place fit for busts galore, Detroit refused to play along.
Thankfully, they didn't have to.
Holland and Co. refused to get into a bidding war for the services of players like Jaromir Jagr and wouldn't overpay for a player like Christian Ehrhoff even though they needed a player of that caliber to shore up their blue line. They sent out their offers and stuck to their guns. The message was clear.
"If you want to be a Red Wing, here's your deal."
At the end of the day, Mike Commodore and Ian White were the new additions to the back end. While some folk—myself included—dreamed of bringing in a big agent or two, Kenny Holland kept his eye on the ball and addressed needs without overpaying.
Not a lot of teams can say the same thing at this point in the offseason.
While some make take issue with the lack of big names coming to the D this season, this summer exemplifies why this team is always among the best in the NHL. They don't overpay players, they build from within and they have faith in their ability to attract the right guys to plug holes via the free agent market.
I'm in the crowd that thinks the Wings will shake up their roster a bit at some point this season. No one would bat an eye if they dealt Jiri Hudler, but something bigger could be brewing. Regardless of what the deal is, the Red and White faithful can be sure that the moves will be in the team's best interest moving forward, and that hype and namesake will not be a factor in the Championship pedigree equation.
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