By Nick Barnowski –
EAST LANSING – Valtteri Filppula is back in town this week, skating at Munn Ice Arena in Michigan State University’s annual pro camp.
The former Detroit Red Wings forward spoke with MiHockey about leaving the club and starting new with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Filppula signed a five-year contract with the Lightning on July 5, ending his eight-year tenure with the Red Wings.
“It’s bittersweet,” the 29-year-old said after the first day of a week-long camp on the campus of Michigan State. “It’s definitely a tough team to leave. I had a great time over here, great organization, great players I got to play with.”
He was recruited by former teammate and current Red Wing Drew Miller to skate with a number of Spartan alums this week.
After tallying only 17 points in 41 games with the Detroit last season, the club elected to not re-sign him in free agency. It didn’t take long for Filppula to find a new home though, as Lightning general manager and former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman came calling quickly.
“It’s a new beginning. I’m really excited about Tampa,” he said. “Obviously Yzerman was a big part of the decision, I talked to him quite a bit before.”
With his struggles to produce offensively in Detroit behind him, Filppula is excited to start his new life in Tampa.
“I’m happy with how things went,” he said. “They have a young team, a good future ahead of them.
“The main thing is always about hockey but living wise it’s going to be a little bit of a difference.”
Second line center was a hole on Tampa’s depth chart heading into free agency, and signing Filppula was one of Yzerman’s main goals. The Lightning are hoping he can produce similar to what he did in the 2011-12 season, where he had 23 goals and 43 assists.
Miller said it’s “weird that Val is a former teammate,” and despite the fresh start, it will still be tough for him to come back and play against his old team. The Lightning are now in the same division as the Wings, and Filppula’s first chance to face Detroit will be on November 9 at Joe Louis Arena.
“[Coming back] will be emotional for sure, the first couple of games,” he said.
Filppula understands that moving on happens in sports, and is all in on making the most out of his time in Tampa.
“A lot of players change teams and it’s part of the sport,” he said. “But I’m really, really excited. It’ll be fun.”