DETROIT – Unlike the 2012 offseason, Detroit this year seems to be a destination for free agents wanting to win a Stanley Cup.
The Wings made a big splash on the first day of NHL free agency Friday with the signings of forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss.
Alfredsson, 40, gets a one-year deal at $3.5 million to go with possibly $2 million in bonuses that would bring the deal up to $5.5 million.
Weiss, 30, agreed to a five-year deal worth $4.9 million a season.
Both players came to Detroit with hopes of winning a Stanley Cup, which both have yet to win in their careers.
“I didn’t really see myself making a change if you would have asked me a week ago, but as we got closer to free agency, thoughts started creeping in that it’s been 18 years and I haven’t won the Stanley Cup,” Alfredsson said. “That’s my dream.”
“Coming from Florida and being there for about 10 years, only playing in the playoffs one year it was a pretty easy decision to come and play for the Red Wings’ organization that’s had the culture of winning over the years and like Alfie said their goal every year is to win the Stanley Cup,” Weiss said.
Both players had spent their entire careers with one team prior to choosing Detroit.
But for Alfredsson, 40, the decision was probably a bit more difficult since he’s close to calling it a career.
“It was extremely difficult,” Alfredsson said. “It pretty much came down to I have not won a Stanley Cup and that’s a big priority to me. I feel with Ottawa I think they’re getting closer and closer and going in the right direction and have a really bright future in front of them, but at this point of my career I don’t have that kind of time to wait for that. It was a tough decision to make and it still hasn’t sunk in. I’m doing this for myself, I feel this is right for me and I really like to (finish) it with the Detroit Red Wings.”
Alfredsson, who plans to move his family to Detroit, spent 17 seasons in Ottawa.
“I can’t say I had 29 choices to make,” Alfredsson said. “I did have some teams that were interested and expressed their interest and I talked to a few teams. I talked to a couple of guys. (Henrik) Zetterberg I talked to two or three times. He was the one I bounced around ideas with mostly.”
Alfredsson will be the eight Swede in Detroit’s locker room joining Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Gustav Nyquist and Jonas Gustavsson.
Wings general manager Ken Holland spoke with Alfredsson on Wednesday about the possibilities of playing in Detroit.
“I really expected to kind of get a response that he was going to stay in Ottawa,” Holland said. “Daniel was taking some time with his family and was considering talking to some teams and to explore what was out there. We set up a conference call (Thursday) where Mike Babcock and I talked to Daniel and J.P Barry (his agent) for about 45 minutes to tell them about our team. We got the news this afternoon that Daniel had decided to come join us, so a lot of this happened fast.”
Alfredsson mentioned he liked the style of hockey the Wings play, puck possession and pushing the pace.
“I just think with the personnel they have I think I can come in and be of help in different areas and be part of something really good,” Alfredsson said. “I know quite a few of the guys from before. I know their personalities. I know how they play. The culture of Detroit really appealed to me with all the conversations I’ve had with different players that have been there.”
Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray said he understands why Alfredsson did what he did, but it was still hard to hear.
“For me it was a devastating conversation, a disappointing one, hard to swallow like it is for a lot of people,” Murray said during a conference call. “But I understand a veteran player that hasn’t won, and wants to win and sees a better opportunity. Whether we did the right thing or not, I said, ‘Hey Alfie, I discourage you from doing it.’ I talked about Ottawa, but the bottom line is he wanted to try (something different). He deserves the opportunity to do what he did. He’s a great guy here. He’s been more than a player. I regard him as a friend and a guy I could sit and talk to as a friend. He has great insight into the game and we’re going to miss him. There’s no question we’re going to miss him as a person and a leader. He deserves all the credit he’s gotten here and more.”
Alfredsson, who’s a right-handed shot, had 10 goal and 16 assists in 47 games this last season.
Over his 1,178-game career, he has 426 goals and 682 assists.
“I offered him an opportunity to sign a contract with us with the promise that at a particular time of the year, he could pick the date, if he felt that we weren’t in a position to be a real competitive club come playoff time, that I would send him to the team of his preference,” Murray said. “And I think rightly so on Alfie’s part, he didn’t want to go to a new team halfway through the year and find his way. He felt that starting with a new team, it was very important to go in at the start and be part of the whole group.”
Alfredsson, who had been the league’s longest serving captain, can play the point on the power play and kill penalties.
This isn’t the first player the Wings have added that’s nearing the end of their career.
Mike Modano spent his final season in the league two years ago with the Wings. Things didn’t work out for him in Detroit after suffering an injury early in the season.
This also isn’t the first Swede the Wings added in free agency as his career ended. Detroit signed long-time Toronto Maple Leaf Börje Salming, who played just the one season and in just 49 games where he scored two goals and had 17 assists.
What makes the move more interesting is the fact that the Wings will be playing in a division with the Senators, whom Alfredsson will have to play four or five times with at least two of the meetings taking place in Ottawa.
Detroit jumps to the Eastern Conference next season to compete in a yet-to-be-named division with Ottawa, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida.
The same goes for Weiss.
“I’m looking forward to the pressure of playing in that type of market,” Weiss said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done it, but I’m hungry to be a part of that type of situation again. I think my game will thrive.”