Wings Sign Whitney to Four-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings moved to fill the hole left at center by Sergei Fedorov‘s signing with Anaheim, coming to terms with free agent Ray Whitney. Detroit’s deal with Whitney is reportedly worth $12.5 million over four years.

Whitney was not resigned by the Columbus Blue Jackets after they moved to acquire Todd Marchant instead.

In two full seasons with the Blue Jackets, Whitney scored 45 goals and totaled 137 points. He joined the Blue Jackets at the March, 2001 trade deadline, when the Florida Panthers dealt him there. Whitney was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1991 and played with them until 1997.

It was in Florida that Whitney finally had breakout years, scoring 97 goals and 227 points in over three-and-a-half seasons.

Czech Police Recommend Hasek be Charged

Dominik Hasek could see jail time for injuring a player during an inline hockey game last spring.

Czech police investigating the case have sent a report to the state prosecutor recommending that Hasek be charged with causing bodily harm, an offense punishable by up to eight years in prison.

The incident occured during the May 18 game between Hasek’s Bonfire Strida and SK Pardubice. According to media reports, Hasek collided with SK Pardubice’s Martin Sila. Hasek then knocked Sila down with a crosscheck to the back, sat on him, and hit him in the neck with his stick.

Hasek has since denied any wrongdoing. One of his representatives said Friday that Hasek would like to have the case settled as soon as possible.

After the incident, Hasek was suspended from the Czech inline league for one year.

In July, Hasek shocked hockey fans worldwide by announcing his intention to return to the Detroit Red Wings, the NHL team he retired from after winning the Stanley Cup with them in 2002.

Robitaille Signs with Los Angeles

Former Detroit Red Wing Luc Robitaille signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. This marks Robitaille’s third tour of duty with the Kings.

Reportedly, Robitaille took a severe pay cut to return to Los Angeles. He earned $4 million with Detroit last season but will earn only $1.1 million in 2003-2004. That amount could rise to $2.5 million with bonuses.

Robitaille was originally drafted by Los Angeles in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. He has played twelve of his seventeen NHL seasons with the Kings, also spending time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and the Red Wings.

“We are very happy to have Luc back in Los Angeles with the Kings,” said Kings general manager Dave Taylor. “He has had great success in a Kings uniform and has proven to be one of the great scorers in league history. His experience and leadership abilities will be a great influence on our younger players as well.”

“My family and I are very excited to be returning to the Kings” said Robitaille, from his off-season home in Park City, Utah. “The Kings is where it all started for me, and the fans of Los Angeles have always treated me and my family so well. I look forward to playing for them once again.”

Stars Acquire Numminen

In a three-team deal on Tuesday, the Dallas Stars picked up Phoenix Coyotes captain Teppo Numminen. Dallas sent defenseman Darryl Sydor to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who then sent center Mike Sillinger to the Coyotes. The Stars also received a second-round draft pick from Columbus and sent a conditional pick to Phoenix.

Numminen had been involved in several trade rumors since last March’s NHL trade deadline. He refused to waive his contract’s no-trade clause when the Detroit Red Wings inquired about him then but accepted the trade to Dallas.

Numminen, 35, had played his entire 15-season career with the Phoenix Coyotes / Winnipeg Jets franchise. He was selected by the Jets in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and joined the team for the 1989-90 season. His 1,098 career games with Phoenix / Winnipeg is second-most with one franchise among active players, behind only Detroit’s Steve Yzerman.

“Teppo Numminen is a talented player who adds veteran leadership and experience to our defensive corps,” Stars general manager Doug Armstrong said. “He plays a solid game on both ends of the ice and is the consummate professional. We’re very excited to add him to our team.”

Sydor has split his 12 NHL seasons between the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas. He was deemed expendable as several of the Stars’ young defenseman have continued to develop.

Sillinger has spent parts of a 12-year NHL career with Detroit, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Columbus.

Yzerman to Return to Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have come to terms with longtime captain Steve Yzerman. Yzerman agreed to a one-year deal reportedly worth $6 million on Monday. The contract has yet to be signed, but negotiations are done.

A series of performance-based bonuses could lift Yzerman’s salary up to $8 million. One of those bonuses is based on the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup.

Last season, Yzerman did not make his debut until February 24. He spent the first half of the season rehabilitating a surgically-realigned right knee.

Yzerman’s resigning comes only two days after superstar center Sergei Fedorov bolted the Red Wings to sign with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Yzerman was drafted fourth-overall by the Red Wings in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Last season he claimed the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. In 1989 he won the Lester B. Pearson Trophy for most valuable player as selected by the NHL Players Association. Yzerman was the MVP of the Red Wings’ 1998 Stanley Cup run, claiming the Conn Smythe Trophy. In 2000, he won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward. He was named Best Role Model by the NHL Fans Association in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

Fedorov Signs With Ducks

Sergei Fedorov has signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, ending his eighteen-day run as an unrestricted free agent.

The first two years of the contract are guarenteed, while each of the final three are at Fedorov’s option.

On July 2, Fedorov’s agent, Pat Brisson, had announced that Fedorov would not return to the Red Wings. After Fedorov failed to sign quickly with any team, it was assumed that Fedorov was again considering Detroit as an option.

The Mighty Ducks are looking to replace superstar captain Paul Kariya, who signed with the Colorado Avalanche after leading Anaheim to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Fedorov secord 36 goals and 47 assists for 83 points last season with Detroit. He was awarded the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1994 and the Frank J. Selke Trophy as Best Defensive Forward in 1994 and 1996.

When asked for a comment about Fedorov, Red Wings spokesman John Hahn said: “That’s Anaheim’s comment to make not ours.”

NHL Releases 2003-2004 Schedule

The National Hockey League released its schedule for the 2003-2004 season on Wednesday.

The new schedule features a focus on intra-division rivalries. Teams in the same division will play each other six times while intra-conference foes will meet four times. Teams from opposite conferences will meet at least once.

While the NHL says stresses rivalries and features more home-and-home series’ that previous years, the Red Wings will actually partcipate in fewer home-and-home matchups than last season. In 2002-2003, Detroit was involved in five such series’, this year they will compete in only three: one against the Columbus Blue Jackets, one against the Original Six foe Boston Bruins, and one against the arch-rival Colorado Avalanche.

The new season’s schedule features several quirks for the Red Wings. Detroit will play two five-game West Coast road trips in the second half of the season. They have only one five-game homestand scheduled, taking place in mid-February.

Detroit also plays game on consecutive nights twelve times in 2003-2004. Of those twelve sets of games, the second game is on the road eleven times.

The Red Wings open their season at home on October 9 against the Los Angeles Kings.

Later that month, new Red Wing Derian Hatcher will face the team he formerly captain for the first time since leaving when the Dallas Stars visit Detroit on October 24.

The Red Wings first rematch with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim will come on December 3, when the Ducks visit Detroit for the first of four meetings between the two clubs.

The Red Wings will host the Atlanta Thrashers in their annual New Year’s Eve game.

All four of Detroit’s matchups with the Colorado Avalanche will take place in the months of February and March.

Wings Sign Dandenault, Kronvall

The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Mathieu Dandenault to a one-year deal on Tuesday. Reportedly, the contract is worth slightly more than the $1.3 million qualifying offer the Red Wings made to Dandenault on July 1.

By signing with Detroit, Dandenault, 27, avoided salary arbitration.

In the 2002-2003 campaign, Dandenault had four goals and fifteen assists in seventy-four games. He also had sixty-four penalty minutes.

“We felt he took a big step in development, especially in the second half of last season,” general manager Ken Holland said in a statement. “He has steadily improved from playing at forward into a solid NHL defenseman and we expect he will continue to improve.”

Dandenault was drafted by Detroit with the team’s second pick in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

Detroit also signed Swedish defenseman Niklas Kronvall to a two-year contract. As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not announced.

Kronvall was the twenty-ninth overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He has spent the last four seasons playing with Djurgardens IF Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League.

If Kronvall doesn’t make the Red Wings’ roster in training camp, he will play with Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Hasek Announces Return

Dominik Hasek officially ended his one-year retirement today, announcing in a conference call with reporters that he will return to the NHL next season.

“I’m looking forward to getting on the ice once again with my teammates,” said Hasek, who retired in 2002 after claiming the Stanley Cup.

Rumors regarding Hasek’s comeback started circulating shortly after the close of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Red Wings added substance to the rumors by announcing they had been in touch with Hasek and by picking up their $8 million option on him for next season.

Hasek didn’t officially make his decision until Monday night, when he notified Red Wings general manager Ken Holland of his intention to return to the NHL.

Hasek’s return leave the Red Wings with two $8 million goaltenders as Curtis Joseph, signed to replace Hasek last spring, has two years remaining on his deal with Detroit. Joseph’s contract includes a no-trade clause, which Hasek’s does not.

“To this point, I have not asked Curtis or his agent to waive his no-trade clause,” Holland said before Hasek’s decision was made. “Once Dom’s final decision is announced, then I will look at our options.”

The Red Wings have indicated that they would be open to trading Hasek instead of Joseph if the offer were right, but they have been shopping Joseph in recent weeks and may ask him to accept a trade.

Monday the Red Wings announced the signing of prospect Jiri Hudler to a three-year contract. Hudler, Detroit’s top pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, is expected to compete for a roster spot in the fall.

NHL Free Agent Scene Finally Roars to Life

After two days of inactivity on the NHL’s free agent front, the silence was finally broken Thursday with four major signings and a three-way trade.

The free agent market opened one minute after midnight on Tuesday morning but the only major move made between then and Thursday was Philadelphia’s signing of goaltender Jeff Hackett from the Boston Bruins.

Thursday, some of the big-name free agents finally found homes as teams finally opened up their checkbooks. The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings were the big spenders of the day, both picking up players in an attempt to claim one more Stanley Cup before the NHL lockout expected to begin in the summer of 2004.

Colorado bolstered an already impressive forward corps with the addition of former teammates Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya.

Kariya, embittered by the fact that Anaheim, the team he captained for many years, failed to make him a qualifying offer, signed with the Avalanche for only $1.2 million for one season. Selanne also signed a one-year deal, reportedly worth $5.8 million. Both players accepted less than their market value for the chance to play together and compete for the Cup.

Detroit began their attempt to shift to a more defense-minded system with the signing of former Dallas captain Derian Hatcher. Hatcher, a native of the Detroit area, did not receive an offer from the Stars before accepting the Red Wings’ five year deal. The contract is reportedly worth $30 million over its lifetime.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made the first foray into big free agency spending in franchise history, signing tough checking forward Todd Marchant away from the Edmonton Oilers. Marchant was coveted by many teams, including the usually-big-spending New York Rangers, but accepted less money from the Blue Jackets than he had demanded from the Broadway Blueshirts.

After the free agent deals of the day were done, a trade shook up the rosters of three NHL teams.

Colorado, desparate to find roster space for Kariya and Selanne, dealt center Steve Reinprect to the Buffalo Sabres for defensive prospect Keith Ballard. The Sabres then packaged Reinprect with blueliner Rhett Warrener in a deal with the Calgary Flames for former Avalanche center Chris Drury and center Steve Begin.

The long summer still has time for the many star free agents available to find a home. Sergei Fedorov, who has announced that he will not return to the Red Wings, is reportedly in talks with several teams. Rangers captain Mark Messier and top defenseman Brian Leetch are both still available. Detroit’s Luc Robitaille and Anaheim’s Adam Oates are also still on the market.

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