DETROIT – Mikael Samuelsson never wanted to leave Detroit and now he’s back.
“I had hoped to hear from them and I did,” Samuelsson said during a phone interview Monday. “It was a pleasant surprise.”
The Wings signed Samuelsson on Sunday, the first day of free agency to a two-year deal worth $3 million a season with a no-trade clause.
“It’s always a little bit of a surprise when teams are calling,” Samuelsson said. “I was definitely interested right away. I’m so glad to be back.”
Samuelsson was one of four players the Wings signed on the first day of free agency. They also signed forwards Jordin Tootoo and Damien Brunner and goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
“I kind of knew who was high on my list and yet there were a bunch of other teams,” Samuelsson said. “That was surprising that many teams called. That put me in a good situation and allowed me to choose where I wanted to be and that was Detroit.”
After spending four seasons with the Wings and helping lead them to the Stanley Cup in 2008, Samuelsson signed a much more lucrative deal with the Vancouver Canucks after the 2009 season.
“I’m not going to lie, I wanted to re-sign (with the Wings),” said Samuelsson, who got a three-year deal with $2.5 million a season from the Canucks. “It didn’t happen. (Marian) Hossa was a big part of Detroit, or I didn’t know if he was going to be there or not. A couple of circumstances came down to it.
“Vancouver called really fast around July 1 and that was a good contract I couldn’t say no to,” Samuelsson added. “It was a good situation. They were potential winners too. I saw a good team in them and a nice city and good players as well. It was a good situation for me and I couldn’t turn it down at that point.”
Hossa wound up signing with Chicago Blackhawks that same offseason.
“We wanted to keep him three years ago but the salary was beyond where we wanted to go,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said on Sunday.
The Wings like Samuelsson’s size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds and that he’s a right-handed shot that can play the point on the power play.
“When I choose a team at this point in my career it’s for if they’re going have a chance to win or not,” Samuelsson said. “That’s the main reason why I chose Detroit. I know many of the players there and I know what it’s like from last time. It was a really tough decision for me to leave the last time I did. It’s very comfortable for me here. It shouldn’t take me any time to get adjusted to the game or the system that they’re playing. I know they play the same way like they did when I left.”
Several of his fellow Swedes are still in the dressing room – Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen and Jonathan Ericsson. He talked to Zetterberg before signing.
In his four seasons in Detroit, Samuelsson had 67 goals and 92 assists in 278 games. He was also had a plus-49 rating.
Samuelsson’s role on the team hasn’t been discussed, but he knows it’s going to be just like it was the last time he was in Detroit.
“If you play good you get your ice time and that’s how it should be,” said Samuelsson, who is a member of the Triple Gold Club having won gold medals at the Winter Olympics and World Championships and a Stanley Cup. “I have to be good and it doesn’t matter if I play on the second, the third or the first, it doesn’t matter.
“They haven’t talked top six (forward) or bottom six (forward),” Samuelsson continued. “They said they needed a right handed shot on the power play. Hopefully I’ll play there. They didn’t mention much what was going on and at the same time I know what Detroit is about.”
Samuelsson had a rough third year in Vancouver due to an injury he suffered in the playoffs the season before. He had surgery to repair his adductor tendon and a sport hernia.
After playing in six games with the Canucks he was dealt to the Florida Panthers. He missed the first 20 games following the trade do to a groin injury.
“It was a surprise, getting traded, it always is,” Samuelsson said. “When I got traded to Florida I wasn’t healthy. The GM said I was day-to-day, but I felt like I was months away. I think around Christmas I came to play or a little before that.”
Samuelsson had 13 goals and 15 assists in 48 games with the Panthers and helped lead them to the playoffs and the Southeast Division title, marking the end of their decade-long postseason drought.
“I liked Florida,” Samuelsson said. “It was a little different group of players, they were a little younger and not such an experienced team. Every win was exciting so that was very positive, that was a little different from the atmosphere from being in Detroit and Vancouver where you expect to win almost four out of five games. Those were high expectations. When we made the playoffs that was great to see the franchise rebuild and be a part of that too.”
The Panthers lost in the first round to New Jersey, falling in Game 7 in double overtime.