Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ken Holland Jolts Me Awake From a Year-Long Slumber

I will not even begin to try to cover everything that has happened in Detroit and U of M sports since I last posted on this site. I have no legitimate reason for the year-long layoff, except general laziness and the nearly unstoppable force that is inertia. Instead of trying to recap a bunch of stuff you, in all likelihood, are already fully aware of, I'll jump right back in to blogging as if nothing ever happened. Good? Good.

One of my first posts on this site praised Red Wings GM Ken Holland for his ability to adjust to the NHL's post-lockout cap rules while maintaining an elite hockey team. In the 25 hours since the free agency period began, Holland has showcased his ability to sell a winning atmosphere to potential signees and manage to stockpile an arsenal of talented players without breaking the bank.

Yesterday Detroit managed to re-sign defenseman Brad Stuart (4 years at $3.75 million per season) and land free agent goaltender Ty Conklin (1 year, $750,000), filling two important spots on the team going into next season. Stuart had a tremendous playoff run with Detroit last season, forming an imposing duo with Niklas Kronwall and finishing +15 over 21 games. Retaining Stuart gives Detroit arguably the best defensive corps in the league, highlighted by the top pairing of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Conklin, who went 18-8 with a 2.51 GAA and a .935 save percentage as Pittsburgh's backup goalie last year, fills the void left by Dominik Hasek's retirement. He should be a solid backup to Chris Osgood next season, and could be called on to be the number one goaltender should Osgood struggle or go down with an injury. Keeping Stuart and picking up Conklin at such a low rate were exactly what the Stanley Cup champions needed out of the gate.

The solid signings of yesterday, however, pale in comparison to what Ken Holland managed to do this afternoon. Despite supposedly boasting multi-year offers of up to $9 million per year, RW Marian Hossa agreed to a one-year, $7.4 million contract to play for the Red Wings next season. Clearly, Holland could offer something no other team could guarantee: a very legitimate shot at a Cup next season. The four-time got a first-hand look at just how good Detroit is last season as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who the Wings dispatched in six games in the Stanley Cup finals. His desire to win a championship apparently outweighed his desire for a lucrative multi-year deal, which is exactly the type a player Detroit should want on their team.

Hossa gives Detroit a lethal lineup next season, especially if Holland is able to secure restricted free agent F Valtteri Filppula. With approximately $4 million in cap room left, that should be no issue for Detroit. Wings fans are already dreaming about a power play unit of Hossa, Lidstrom, Rafalski, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterburg. The best team in the NHL last season just got a whole lot better, and a second consecutive Stanley Cup will be the expectation for Detroit next year.

ESPN: Red Wings Sign Hossa
Lets Go Wings: Salary Cap & Contracts

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