Kirk Maltby close to re-signing with Red Wings

kirkmaltby1.jpgThe life of a free agent this summer is proving to be a difficult one as we’ve documented all off-season long. If you’re a veteran free agent just looking to re-sign with a team you’ve spent 14 seasons with, you’d think this process might be a little easier, but for Kirk Maltby times are tough.

The career grind-liner for the Red Wings is seeing that spots to play on the Red Wings have evaporated with the team re-signing Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm. The Wings bringing Mike Modano on board and bringing Jiri Hudler back from Russia have essentially put the writing on the wall for the veteran Maltby, but he wants to stay a Red Wing badly and he might just get his wish as The Detroit News’ Gregg Krupa finds out.

As the Red Wings prepare for their first preseason skate together, they may well have the ol’ grinder back in the fold. At the very least, no prospects should be eyeing the sweater with the No. 18 hanging in Maltby’s locker quite yet.

“We are having discussions with Detroit, and we hope that something will be finalized next week,” Anton Thun, Maltby’s agent, said Friday.

Thun said he has had “conversations with others,” including general manager Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay. But Maltby’s preference is to play a 15th season in Detroit. And it sounds like Maltby has at least contemplated a two-way contract that would have him playing a bit in Grand Rapids.

A two-way contract makes the most sense at this point in time for Maltby. Playing time and roster space is going to be at a premium and with the possibility that even established veteran Kris Draper could be fighting for ice time with the likes of Helm, Miller, Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves the likelihood of Maltby getting through all those guys for a spot on the team seems slim.

Giving Detroit the ability to call up Maltby to and from Grand Rapids without negotiating waivers would be beneficial to the front office, not so much for Maltby. It’s up to Maltby how much he wants to stay in Detroit at this point and how much pride he wants to suck up in order to do so. The free agent market is, indeed, a cruel mistress this year.

(Stick-tap to George Malik for the story)

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    Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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    Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

    OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

    It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

    Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

    In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

    Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

    That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

    Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

    For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

    Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

    graphic via NHL
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    It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

    The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

    “It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

    The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

    Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

    Alrighty then.

    Click here for more details.

     

    Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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    Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

    Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

    Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

    We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

    Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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    Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

    The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

    Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

    With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

    They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.