Ilitch could be deciding factor
JUN 27, 2012 4:06p ET
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 -- and made a few other moves, which has cleared up an enormous amount of cap space.
Indications are that 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.
Such connections usually 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 made up 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 with 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 New York 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 the free-agent period advances, the Wings' chances will become slimmer and slimmer of landing either one. If they don't sign 'em quickly, that's a good indication that Detroit is seen as a franchise on the decline, while Parise and Suter are looking for teams on the rise.
Still, the Wings might have one more bullet in their chamber, owner Mike Ilitch, and don't underestimate his persuasive powers.
Over the years, Mr. Ilitch has been able to click with athletes. It seems that every free agent 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 who has worked their tail off for everything. The Mike Ilitch story is their story.
As long as Mike Ilitch gets a shot at Parise and Suter, the Wings will never be out of the game.
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