By Nick Barnowski –
After missing out on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer, critics questioned whether the Red Wings had the same appeal to free agents as they used to during the 1990s and 2000s.
Today, they won’t have much to talk about.
In what Red Wings general manager Ken Holland called “an exciting day in Detroit,” the club signed forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss within the first hours of free agency.
Alfredsson, who signed a one-year contract, and Weiss, who signed for five years, add scoring and depth to the Red Wings, which was a hole that the team was looking to fill this offseason.
“With the addition of Alfie and Stephen, we think we’re going to be a lot deeper up front,” Holland said. “We’re adding a playmaker, we’re adding a scorer, and both players provide leadership and character.”
Both Alfredsson and Weiss said during a press conference this afternoon that the way the Red Wings’ playing style and the opportunity to compete for a Stanley Cup were huge factors in their decisions to come to Detroit.
“Everybody knows Detroit’s goals are to be at the top of the game and to win championships and they’ve done that in the past,” Alfredsson, 40, said. “I’m really excited to get this opportunity at this stage in my career to go for a Stanley Cup and fulfill a longtime dream.”
Weiss echoed some of Alfredsson’s statements.
“It was a pretty easy to decision to come and play for Mr. Holland and Mr. Babcock and a Red Wings organization that’s had a culture of winning over the years,” Weiss, who has spent his entire NHL career with the Florida Panthers, said. “Their goal every year is to win a Stanley Cup and I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity to come to this team, and I’m gonna do everything in my power to help out.”
For Alfredsson, the decision to sign with the Red Wings was not an easy one. The former Ottawa Senator spent 17 seasons with the club, the majority of them as captain, and holds the record for most goals, assists, and points in team history.
“I have made a very difficult decision to leave Ottawa,” he said. “I didn’t really see myself making a change if you would have asked me a week ago, but as the week got closer to free agency, doubt started creeping in.”
When asked whether he was concerned about tarnishing his legacy with the Canadian club, Alfredsson said that even he would be slightly upset if he was in a fan’s position.
“No, I’m not worried about my legacy,” Alfredsson said. “I expect there will be resentment and anger from fans, and I think there definitely should be. I thought that question through, as well. I have my favorite sports teams too, and if something happens to a player that I don’t like or if it doesn’t benefit my team, I don’t like it. But I know what I’ve done in Ottawa. I’ve gave it everything I have throughout my career, and have so many people to thank. They’ve been almost too good to me, and this is purely a situation for me where this is about me. This is a decision that I made for myself, not for anybody else. It’s all about trying to get the Stanley Cup.”
The desire to win a Stanley Cup along with Detroit’s style of play were huge factors in the veteran’s decision.
“I just really liked the way Detroit plays hockey,” Alfredsson, who had 26 points in 46 games last season, said. “It’s a puck possession game and I just think that with the personnel they have throughout their lineup I could come in and be of help in different areas and be part of something really good.”
The decision to sign with Detroit meant an opportunity for Weiss to resume playing in state of Michigan. From 1999-2002 he was a standout with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, putting up 223 points in 172 games en route to being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2001 Entry Draft by the Panthers.
“It’s pretty neat to come back to a city where I’ve played before,” Weiss said. “The Red Wings were always a team that I looked up to growing up. Obviously playing in the area I got to see some Wings games and I always dreamt about maybe playing for them one day.”
Weiss, who is moving on from a 10-year stint with the Panthers, will likely jump into the second-line center role and is looking forward to learning from some of Detroit’s top forwards.
“When you look at [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk and coach [Babcock] says he wants to put those guys together and have me in the two spot, it’s pretty exciting, getting a chance to play with those two players and learn from them.
Despite a wrist injury limiting him to playing in only 17 games last season, Weiss has been durable throughout his career, can play on the power play and penalty kill, and is a two-way forward the Red Wings have coveted, especially after the departure of Valtteri Filppula.
“I like going up against the best players and trying to shut them down, and also be accountable offensively, too,” he said. “I’m going to play my own game and do what’s asked of me, and just try to help the team win all of our games.”
While the Wings were very active on the first day of free agency, Holland said that he is not done shaping his team for the upcoming season.
“Obviously this is going to be a work in progress over the course of the summer,” he said, noting that he feels good about the team’s nucleus after the two signings.
“I feel good that Pavel Datsyuk re-upped for three years, we have Pav around for four more years. We believe we have a tremendous goaltender in Jimmy Howard, so, you know, with the addition of Alfie and Stephen, we think we’re going to be a lot deeper up front.”
Expect the Red Wings to make more moves within the next month or two as Holland continues to explore his options. The signings of Alfredsson and Weiss were just the start. Holland said that he hopes to see Darren Helm return to form at the Wings’ development camp, and that he is not expecting Damien Brunner to sign with the club.
The Wings’ GM is still in contact with free-agent forward Dan Cleary.