DETROIT – Each and every season defenseman Jakub Kindl somehow finds a way to work his way out of the lineup.
Those days appear to be over.
The Wings have inked the soon-to-be restricted free agent to a four-year extension worth $9.6 million.
Kindl, 26, had four goals and nine assists in 41 games last season and was a plus-15, second only to Pavel Datsyuk (plus-21) on the team.
Kindl got a considerable raise after making $1.05 million last season. His average salary over the next four seasons is $2.4 million.
This past season, he found himself a healthy scratch behind rookie Brian Lashoff early on.
“He’s got to move the puck,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said at the time he reinstated Kindl back in the lineup over Lashoff. “He’s a skilled guy on the back. He’s got to shoot the puck. The big thing is he’s got to grab a piece of the action. That’s up to him. That’s what these opportunities are for. You’ve got to reach out and grab hold of something and then make it your own. If you don’t, you’re not in the lineup.”
Kindl’s game improved from that point.
“Whenever I get the chance I just have to show I can play,” Kindl said last season.
Kindl, who has seven goals, 23 assists and a plus-14 in 147 career games, has always had to battle for ice time.
Two years ago it was veteran Mike Commodore he was in competition with for a spot on the Wings’ third pairing.
Three years ago, Kindl was unable to beat out Ruslan Salei in training camp and therefore found himself as the Wings’ seventh defenseman.
“It’s never been about skill level with him, it’s been about competition level,” Babcock said two years ago. “He needs to have the confidence to compete at the highest level. When he does he can move the puck and he knows how to play. We expect big things out of him.”
Kindl was projected to be a highly skilled, puck-moving top-four defenseman when the Wings selected him 19th overall in 2005.
In his first season in Grand Rapids he was prone to turnovers and made bad decisions with the puck. He finished that year a minus-34 rating and had just 17 points. The next year he finished with 33 points and improved to a minus-14. In his final year with the Griffins, he had another 33-point season and saw his plus/minus go to a minus-4 rating.