Well…I didn’t see that coming

Photo Credit: LIFE. Obviously.

I don’t even know why we’re surprised anymore when Ken Holland reveals something borderline-shrewd and otherwise unforeseen.

Earlier today, when the Wings failed to clear the necessary cap space to activate Andreas Lilja, we were all convinced there were two possible options:

  • Option 1 :: Lilja isn’t medically cleared by team doctors, which seemed incredibly unlikely given that he’s played four AHL games (something he wouldn’t be allowed to do if he wasn’t physically fit to play).
  • Option 2 :: A player (one who earns more than $700,000) was waived to make room under the cap. The trade freeze became effective at 3pm Eastern, but teams are still open to waiver movement and IR transactions. This could have been Lilja himself being waived (perhaps thinking no team would take him because of his recent history), with the intention of keeping him in Grand Rapids until further moves could be made. In other words, he’d be full-on jailsexed for another few weeks, while frolicking in Western Michigan. 

We were wrong. We were clued in this morning, by TSN’s Bob MacKenzie, who told us that Ken Holland was going to waive Brad May (which he did) and put someone on Long-Term IR. There were two players – that we knew of – that were battling injuries: Niklas Kronwall, who told NHL Live that he’s healthy enough to play tomorrow, and hopefully for the Olympics; and Patrick Eaves, who doesn’t make enough to create enough space for Lilja. To make matters more interesting, Holland would reveal that Lilja has been called to Detroit — to be checked out by doctors, and the GM didn’t rule him out for tomorrow’s game against the Senators. Hm…

Turns out long-time winger Kirk Maltby has been struggling with a lingering shoulder injury — one that will require surgery at some point, but may have been able to wait until season’s end. If Maltby opts for surgery sooner rather than later, his $883,333 cap hit come off the books for the entire time he’d be on IR – which, from the sound of it, was the rest of the regular season. The salary cap is not in effect during the playoffs.

All of a sudden, the lack of movement before the 3:00 deadline doesn’t seem so fishy. It does seem convenient that today is the day, of all days, that we hear about Kirk Maltby’s shoulder injury. If Maltby does not opt for surgery, however, a player will have to be waived. Jason Williams seems to be the most likely candidate, due to his salary and other factors, but something tells me Maltby will opt for that procedure – perhaps with a wink and a nudge from the organization.

There’s been a lot of talk that this may be Maltby’s last season with the Wings — if not the NHL. He is going to be an unrestricted free agent, and the emergence of players like Justin Abdelkader may have made Kirk Maltby expendable to the organization. If he decides to hang them up, it’s a decision I’d respect because I love Kirk Maltby, and always have, but I sincerely hope we haven’t seen him play his final game as a Red Wing — or that his career ends with an injury.

This is a life and death Red Wing we’re talking about, and if this is the end of the road for him in red and white, everyone should send a stick tap Malts’ way. He’s a legendary penalty killer, grade-A agitator, fifty-goal scorer in major-junior, original Grind Liner, and four-time Stanley Cup champion.

In other words, he’s a Detroit Red Wing. To the bone.