Two Red Wings Named U.S. Olympians

Detroit Red Wings defensemen Chris Chelios and Mathieu Schneider were two of the 23 players named to the United States’ mens ice hockey rosrer for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. The roster for the team was announced on Monday.

Chelios, along with Keith Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues, will be making his fourth trip to the Olympics. He was previously named to Team USA in 1984, 1998 and 2002, as well as for the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and 2004.

“There’s no doubt the intangibles Chris Chelios brings to any team have to be discussed,” said Wings general manager Ken Holland. “We brought him back for his ability to play, but also because of his leadership and competitiveness. When he’s on your team, he believes your team is going to win, and he has an impact on the players around him.”

“I feel very lucky at my age and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Chelios, who will turn 44 in January.

Schneider, seemingly a lock for the team after his strong play in the 2003-04 season and early this year, will be making his second Olympic appearance for the United States. He was named to Team USA for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, but did not make the team in 2002. He also played for Team USA at the World Cup in 1996 and 2004.

“With his ability to skate and handle the puck… the way he played two years ago and this year, it became pretty obvious that he had to be on the team,” Holland said.

“We think our depth on defense is as good as it’s ever been,” Team USA general manager Don Waddell said.

Almost half of the team has ties to Michigan, either having come from the state, played for the Red Wings, or played for one of the area’s college teams.

The full roster is as follows:

Goaltenders (3)
Rick DiPietro
Robert Esche
John Grahame

Defensemen (7)
Chris Chelios
Derian Hatcher
Jordan Leopold
John-Michael Liles
Aaron Miller
Brian Rafalski
Mathieu Schneider

Forwards (13)
Jason Blake
Erik Cole
Craig Conroy
Chris Drury
Brian Gionta
Scott Gomez
Bill Guerin
Mike Knuble
Mike Modano
Mark Parrish
Brian Rolston
Keith Tkachuk
Doug Weight

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.

Wings Waive Three

The Detroit Red Wings placed three veteran players on waivers today, clearing a way for a buyout of their contracts.

If no other NHL team claims Derian Hatcher, Darren McCarty or Ray Whitney within 24 hours, they will be eligible for buyouts that would render them unrestricted free agents.

As part of the transitional phase of the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement, a one-time buyout period is in effect until Friday at 5:00 PM EDT. Any player that is bought out in this period cannot play for the team that bought him out during the 2005-06 season.

Hatcher spent 2003-04 with Detroit after starting his career with the Minnesota North Stars and following that franchise to Dallas. He was limited to only 15 games for the Red Wings after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

McCarty broke into the league with the Red Wings in 1993-94 and has been with the team ever since. A member of the famous “Grind Line,” McCarty has been a fan favorite but has had several injuries in recent years.

Whitney joined the Red Wings for the 2003-04 campaign after spending time with the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. He finished second in scoring for Detroit during the 2004 playoffs, with his seven points trailing only Robert Lang‘s nine.

Three Wings Join UHL Team

The United Hockey League’s Motor City Mechanics announced on Tuesday that Detroit Red Wings defensemen Derian Hatcher and Chris Chelios and forward Kris Draper would be joining the team.

All three, along with many other locked-out NHL players, were looking for a place to play that was close to their metro Detroit homes. With the NHL season on the brink of cancellation, more and more players look for places to play to stay in game shape. Over 350 NHL players have signed with European teams. Others, such as Red Wings defenseman Jason Woolley, have been working out with college teams. Still more, including New Jersey Devils forward Scott Gomez and now Hatcher, Chelios and Draper, have signed with minor-league teams.

Chelios had talked of signing with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves early on in the lockout. An unrestricted free agent, Chelios hopes to return to the NHL when the lockout ends.

Hatcher spent most of the 2003-04 NHL season recovering from a torn ACL and is looking to continue his rehabilitation on a more regular schedule.

Draper joins the Mechanics with the hope of earning a spot on Canada’s World Championship team this spring.

Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby was also rumored to be signing with Motor City but he denied those reports.

The Mechanics, a first-year team, are currently in last place in the UHL standings. They also announced that Detroit native Steve Shannon would take over as head coach from former Red Wing Garry Unger.

Wings Skate for Charity at Yost

Thursday night should have been time off for the Detroit Red Wings, a day to rest one day after hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets and one day before the Chicago Blackhawks came to town. Since the NHL lockout began on September 16, most of the team has done nothing but rest, so a night off wasn’t needed.

On a night that should have been between games where the Red Wings would see 20,000 fans cheering them on, a handful of current and former Detroit players played in front of 7,000 fans at the University of Michigan’s Yost Arena in a charity game to benefit Mott Children’s Hospital, as part of an all-pro team facing off against the U.S. under-18 national team.

Current Wings Manny Legace, Derian Hatcher, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Kris Draper and Steve Yzerman were all present. Former Wings Doug Brown, Steve Duchesne, Aaron Ward, Kevin Miller and Sergei Fedorov were there.
Former Wolverines David Roberts, Chris Tamer, Bill Muckalt and David Harlock, former Michigan State University Spartans Bryan Smolinski and Kip Miller, former Detroit Viper Sergei Samsonov, and former Detroit Jr. Red Wing and Michigan K-Wing Jeff Mitchell rounded out the pro roster.

Detroit native Kid Rock dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff and acted as coach for the pro team, flanked by celebrity assistants Bobby Higginson and Tera Reid.

The pros didn’t beat up the teenagers too badly, taking only a 1-0 lead after the end of one period and finishing the game up 6-2. Chelios, the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, played most of the game as a forward, cherry-picking at Team USA’s blue line.

Ward opened the game’s scoring and goals by Draper and Fedorov followed in the second period. Draper scored again before Team USA got a goal when Phil Kessel crached the net to finish the second period scoring. Draper finished his hat trick early in the third. Andreas Vlassopoulos scored Team USA’s second goal before Kip Miller closed out the scoring, putting in the rebound from a Doug Brown shot that bounced off the glass behind the goal and came back out in front.

The game could have been overshadowed by the announcement earlier in the day that the NHL and NHLPA would meet for the first time since the lockout began, but it wasn’t. For one night it wasn’t about the lockout, it was about a packed arena where seasoned veterans took on teenagers to benefit charity.

The PA announcer mocked the players. Chelios put fake hits on a linesman. It wasn’t the NHL, but it wasn’t supposed to be.

Hatcher Out of World Cup

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Derian Hatcher has withdrawn from the United States’ entry in the World Cup of Hockey. Hatcher’s agent, Pat Morris, said that the tough blueliner was worried about jumping into a high level of competition so quickly after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season.

“I think he’s concerned about the knee,” Team USA general manager Larry Pleau said. “I don’t think there’s any long-term concern at all. I think it’s just the short term.”

Hatcher is the fourth Red Wing to pull out of the tournament. He joins Steve Yzerman and Robert Lang, who withdrew from the Canadian and Czech squads, respectively, due to injuries. Mathieu Schneider quit the American team due to insurance worries.

“We were counting on both guys,” U.S. defenseman Chris Chelios said of Hatcher and Schneider. “That hurts. But we’ve got some young kids here that are going to get some experience.”

Fischer Added to Czech World Cup Roster

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer was named to the Czech Republic team for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, replacing injured Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Pavel Kubina.

Kubina was injured during the Stanley Cup Finals as his Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames in a seven-game series. Fischer’s last game of the season was also against Calgary, in Game Five of the second-round matchup that saw the Flames eliminate the Red Wings in six games.

Fischer was a healthy scratch in Game Six of that series, having struggled throughout the season after returning from a torn anterior-cruciate ligament the season before.

Fischer was a key member of the Red Wings’ 2002 Stanley Cup Champtionship team, playing the best season of his young career alongside the veteran Chris Chelios, who will play for Team USA in the tournament.

Other Red Wings representing their respective countries at the World Cup include Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby for Canada, Derian Hatcher and Chelios for the United States, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg for Sweden, and Pavel Datsyuk for Russia. Steve Yzerman and Robert Lang were forced to withdraw from the Canadian and Czech rosters, respectively, due to injuries.

Former Red Wing Brett Hull, who signed with the Phoenix Coyotes this summer, will play for the United States. Red Wings unrestricted free agent Mathieu Schneider has withdrawn from the tournament for insurance reasons, as he has yet to sign with an NHL team.

Wings Bring Back Rivers, Mowers

The Detroit Red Wings signed two of their key depth players from the 2003-04 season before allowing them to become unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Jamie Rivers agreed to a two-year deal while forward Mark Mowers signed a one-year deal with a player option for a second year.

As per club policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

Rivers signed with the Red Wings last summer to provide them with depth and a veteran presence with the Grand Rapids Griffins, their American Hockey League affiliate. He spent less than a month with the Griffins before being called up when Derian Hatcher was injured in the third game of the season. Rivers went on to play 50 games with the Red Wings. He was solid defensively, earning a +9 plus-minus ranking, and scored seven points.

Mowers signed with the Red Wings in the summer of 2002 and was an early-season call-up when injuries began to hit the Red Wings. He played 52 games before suffering a foot injury with four games remaining in the season that kept him out through the playoffs. He had three goals and added eight assists on the season.

With Mowers and Rivers resigned, the Red Wings’ potential unrestricted free agents include Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Kris Draper and Mathieu Schneider.

Former Wing Hull Reportedly Injured at Charity Event

ESPN 103.3FM in Dallas reports that former Red Wing Brett Hull has suffered a serious calf injury during warm-ups for a charity baseball game over the weekend. Hull was to be one of the top stars at the event, which raises money for the Mike Modano Foundation.

Details about the injury are currently unavailable but it is reportedly a career-threatening injury.

In early June, the Red Wings informed Hull that they would not bring him back next season. He was rumored to be planning to sign with the reborn World Hockey Association which begins play this fall. Hull ended those rumors when he announced that he hoped to retire as the NHL’s second-leading scorer of all-time.

Hull was previously named to the United States’ entry in this summer’s World Cup of Hockey, along with Modano and Red Wings Derian Hatcher and Chris Chelios.