Wings Sign Defenseman Kronwall

The Detroit Red Wings finally wrapped up one of their “big three” restricted free agents, announcing Friday that Niklas Kronwall had signed a two-year deal. As per club policy, financial details were not announced, but reportedly Kronwall will earn just under $2 million over the life of the deal.

Kronwall shone in the games he played with Detroit before a leg injury sidelined him in 2003-04. His play with the Grand Rapids Griffins during the 2004-05 season earned him the Eddie Shore Memorial Trophy as the American Hockey League’s top defenseman.

Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill complimented Kronwall’s physical play.

“He’s not imposing to other players until he hits — then he’s imposing,” Nill said. “He hit a guy in center ice, with his shoulder, a clean hit. The guy had his head down, and he ended up with a broken jaw and a concussion.”

Management hopes that Kronwall will continue to play that kind of game in the NHL, slotting him as one of Detroit’s top four defensemen, alongside Nicklas Lidstrom, Mathieu Schneider and Jiri Fischer.

With Kronwall’s signing, general manager Ken Holland only has young superstar forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg left to sign. Datsyuk is entertaining offers from Russian club Moscow Dynamo but his agent states that his priority is to return to Detroit.

Wings Sign 2003 Pick Howard

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday the signing of 2003 draft pick Jimmy Howard to a three-year entry-level contract. Howard will forego his senior season at the University of Maine and is likely to join the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Howard, a 21-year-old goaltender, was drafted by the Wings with their first pick (2nd round, 64th overall) of the 2003 NHL entry draft. In three seasons with the Maine Black Bears, he posted a 1.84 goals against average, a .931 save percentage, and a school record 15 shutouts. His overall record was 47-23-10.

“Howard had an outstanding collegiate career,” said Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill. “We expect him to come into camp battling for the No. 3 position. He’s a strong prospect and we look forward to having him in our organization for many years.”

“I have been dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League all of my life, and to get one step closer to that goal is special,” said Howard. “I really enjoyed my three years at Maine. Playing in front of the greatest fans in college hockey is something that I will never forget. It has been a priviledge to wear the Maine sweater. I wish all my teammates the best this season.”

Wings Sign Two for Added Depth

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland announced the signing of two depth players on Wednesday, as the Wings came to terms with veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja and center Don MacLean.

Lilja spent the 2003-04 season with the Florida Panthers and signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators in the summer of 2004. With the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, he never played a game for the Predators, instead splitting his time in Europe between Sweden’s Mora IK and Switzerland’s Ambri-Piotta.

In 180 NHL games with Florida and the Los Angeles Kings, Lilja has scored 8 goals and 19 assists, adding 186 penalty minutes.

“Lilja brings NHL experience along with the size and toughness we needed on our blueline,” said Holland.

MacLean has spent most of his career in the American Hockey League after being drafted 33rd overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Los Angeles. He played 22 games for the Kings in 1997-98 and didn’t return to the NHL until 2000-01, when he played three games with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He appeared in three playoff games with Toronto the following season and four regular season contests with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003-04.

“MacLean gives us depth on offense and will have a chance to compete in training camp. We’re happy to have both players signed and look forward to seeing them in the Red Wings’ jersey,” Holland stated.

Both players signed one year deals. As per club policy, financial terms were not released.

Wings Sign Three as Roster Takes Shape

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday the signings of defenseman Andy Delmore and forwards Jason Williams and Darryl Bootland. The all three agreed to one-year deals.

Delmore, a native of Windsor, Ontario, is likely to share time on the Wings’ third defensive pair with Jamie Rivers and Chris Chelios. In seven seasons of NHL experience – most recently with the Buffalo Sabres – he has played 276 games, scoring 43 goals and adding 58 assists.

He entered the NHL after signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers for the 1998-99 season.

Williams returns to Detroit for his fourth NHL season, all with the Red Wings. He accepted the one-year qualifying offer that the Red Wings made to him as a restricted free agent, allowing him to become unrestricted following the 2005-06 season.

He has played in 95 career NHL games, scoring 17 goals and 15 assists. He spent the cancelled 2004-05 season playing with Assat Pori of the Finnish League, where he led his team in scoring.

Bootland looks to crack the Red Wings’ lineup after appearing in 22 games with the team in 2003-04. He spent the last three seasons in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The signings give the Red Wings 20 players under contract for the 2005-06 season, with three notable restricted free agents – Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Kronwall – still unsigned.

Osgood Returns to Wings

A familiar face will return to the Red Wings crease for the 2005-06 season, as Detroit announced on Monday that they had signed goaltender Chris Osgood. Terms of the contract were not officially announced but the deal is reportedly for one year at $900,000.

Osgood broke into the NHL with the Wings in 1993-94 and helped them claim their second Stanley Cup Championship in as many years in 1998. His 221 wins and 30 shutouts as a Red Wing are second only to Terry Sawchuk in team history.

In his 12-year NHL career, Osgood has 305 wins, 41 shutouts and a 2.44 goals against average. In the playoffs his record is 44-33 and his GAA is 2.22.

Osgood shared the Detroit crease with Tim Cheveldae and Bob Essensa in 1993-94 and with Mike Vernon from 1994-1997 before establishing himself as the full-time starter during Detroit’s Stanley Cup run in 1997-98.

He became the scapegoat for the Wings’ 2001 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings and after the team acquired future-Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek that summer, Osgood was claimed by the New York Islanders in the waiver draft. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues at the 2003 trade deadline.

After Slow Start, NHL Free Agent Frenzy Picks Up

When the National Hockey League’s free agent signing period opened at noon on Monday, many fans were surprised to see a league that was relatively quiet as GMs and players alike took a wait-and-see approach.

Early on Monday, only two notable signings – Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk agreeing to terms with the Florida Panthers – were on record. The Boston Bruins’ trade for Edmonton Oiler Brad Isbister rounded out the major moves.

Things picked up Monday night, as the Columbus Blue Jackets made their first-ever major free agent signing, picking up defenseman Adam Foote from the Colorado Avalanche.

The signings and trades continued into Tuesday as the Philadelphia Flyers made the first big splash in the free agent pool, signing defensemen Derian Hatcher (Detroit Red Wings), Mike Rathje (San Jose Sharks), and Chris Therien (Dallas Stars) and resigning forward Jon Sim.

The Chicago Blackhawks picked up one of the top remaining free agent defensemen, signing Adrian Aucoin of the New York Islanders.

Shortly thereafter, the Atlanta Thrashers signed forward Bobby Holik from the New York Rangers.

In one of the more inevitable signings of the offseason, the Red Wings re-upped longtime captain Steve Yzerman, who will return to the team for at least one more season.

The Bruins continued on Monday’s moves by resigning winger Glen Murray and bringing in forwards Shawn McEachern (Atlanta) and Dave Scatchard (NY Islanders), while the Panthers continued their signings by bringing in Martin Gelinas (Calgary Flames).

Calgary moved to replace Gelinas with grinding forward Darren McCarty (Detroit) and add to an offense already boasting Jarome Iginla by signing Tony Amonte (Philadelphia).

The Los Angeles Kings broke into the free agent market by signing All-Star winger Pavol Demitra from the St. Louis Blues and AHL goaltender Jason Labarbera from the Rangers organization.

The Rangers then shored up their goaltending by resiging Kevin Weekes. They added to both offense and defense by bringing in forward Martin Straka (Los Angeles) and defenseman Marek Malik (Vancouver). Meanwhile, the cross-island rival Islanders filled the gap left by the departure of Aucoin by signing Buffalo’s Alexei Zhitnik.

The first player to depart the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning was Cory Stillman, who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday evening.

The biggest move of the day was saved for late Tuesday night, as the Blues, already burdened by the contracts of Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk, traded former captain and Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for defencemen Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch, and Jeff Woywitka.

Wings Resign Schneider

After losing Derian Hatcher to a buyout and Mathieu Dandenault to the Montreal Canadiens, the Detroit Red Wings made a move to shore up their defense by resigning Mathieu Schneider.

Schneider joined the Red Wings from the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline in 2003. In his only full season with Detroit, he was a +22 with 14 goals and 32 assists.

The contract is reportedly for two years at a total of $6.6 million. Other All-Star defensemen such as Sergei Zubov, Hatcher, and Sergei Gonchar have signed for anywhere from $ million to $5 million annually.

Schneider has played 16 seasons in the NHL with Montreal, the New York Rangers, Los Angeles and Detroit. In 992 games he has score 168 goals and added 384 assists.

Dandenault Signs with Montreal

The Montreal Canadiens announced on Wednesday that they had signed Mathieu Dandenault, the free agent defenseman from the Detroit Red Wings. The four-year deal was reportedly worth $7 million.

Dandenault had spent his entire 9-year NHL career with Detroit, where he broke into the league as a forward in 1995-96. He returns to the area where he grew up, having played for his hometown of Sherbrooke in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

In 616 NHL games, Dandenault has 48 goals and 101 assists for 149 points. His plus/minus rating is +46, one of the better ratings among Red Wings defensemen in recent years.

The Canadiens hope Dandenault can fill the hole left by the departing Patrice Brisebois, who – conincidentally – has been rumored to be a target of Detroit general manager Ken Holland in previous years.

Yzerman Returns for 22nd Season

The last image of Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman in an NHL game will not be of a man writhing in pain, being helped off the ice while bleeding from one eye, the result of a slap shot deflected into his cheek bone.

Yzerman signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings on Tuesday, extending his career into a 22nd season, his 20th as captain of the team. As per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced, but the offer that Detroit general manager Ken Holland made to him last week was reportedly worth $1.5 to $2 million.

“I’m very pleased to have Steve re-sign for another season with the Red Wings,” Holland said while announcing the signing. “I’m confident that he has a lot of great hockey left to play.”

Yzerman ranks sixth in NHL all-time regular season scoring and helped lead the Red Wings to Stanley Cup Championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002. He is the longest-tenured team captain in league history.

Defense-first for Wings in NHL Draft

The Detroit Red Wings selected Czech Jakub Kindl with their first-round pick in Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft. At 19th overall, the defenseman for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers was Detroit’s highest draft pick since they selected Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick in 1991.

Kindl was highly-touted last fall when he came to the OHL but his stock dropped when he had a bad first season in North America.

They shifted from a European defenseman to a local forward for their second pick, selecting Justin Abdelkader of Muskegon, Michigan, with the 42nd overall choice. A graduate of Mona Shores High School, the 18-year old played with Cedar Rapids of the USHL last season and will join Michigan State University this fall.

The Wings went back to Europe for their next two picks, selecting Christofer Lofberg of the SEL’s Djurgarden in the third round and fellow Swede Mattias Ritola of Leksand in the fourth.

The Red Wings rounded out their selections with forward Darren Helm of Winnipeg; big Swedish forward Johan Ryno; defenceman Jeff May of Richmond, British Columbia; Finnish forward Juho Mielonen; and defenseman Bretton Stamler of Calgary.