Pulkkinen to get his shot with Detroit

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings may have gotten the best bargain this offseason.

The team announced Tuesday the signing of restricted free agent Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year deal worth $735,000.

Pulkkinen, 23, split his time last season with the Wings and Grand Rapids and despite playing in just 46 games with the Griffins a year ago he led the American Hockey League in goals with 34, 10 of which came on the power play.
He also registered 27 assists, which put him second on the team with 61 points.

In 31 games a year ago in Detroit he had five goals, three assists and was a plus-5. Two of his goals were game winners.

After the Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Pulkkinen joined the Griffins and tallied 14 goals in 16 games to help lead Grand Rapids to the Western Conference finals. He also had four assists.

In his first year in Grand Rapids he had 31 goals and 28 assists and followed that with five goals and six assists in 10 playoff games.

Pulkkinen, who needs to make the roster out of training camp or would have to clear waivers to go back to Grand Rapids, will again be a restricted free agent next season. He had an average salary-cap hit of $698,333 on his first three-year, entry-level deal.

The right-handed shooting forward is known for one thing: his shot.

“I think the thing we like about Pulkkinen is he’s got a tremendous shot,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in January. “He’s got a weapon. His shot is his weapon. He likes to use it and he seems like he knows how to get open.”

Pulkkinen equaled a Grand Rapids franchise record last season prior to being called up by registering a goal in eight consecutive games. The mark was set by Donald MacLean in the 2005-06 season.

“It’s amazing,” Riley Sheahan said of Pulkkinen’s shot last January. “It’s almost like every time he shoots the puck it’s either going in or the goalie’s not going to know where it’s going and it’ll hit off him and create another scoring chance. It’s hard. It’s accurate. He gets it off pretty quick. Not many guys have a shot like him.”

That right-handed booming shot, which is compared to that of Brett Hull, could come in helpful on the blue line as well.

“Obviously he has a real good shot,” Henrik Zetterberg said in January. “But also he’s good at finding the open ice to be able to receive passes. He doesn’t need much.

“It’s almost like Brett Hull in a way,” Zetterberg added. “He doesn’t need a lot of room to get a shot off. It’s going to be interesting to see what he can do. Obviously he’s done a real good job down in Grand Rapids and we’re looking forward to having him around with us.”

“I’ve heard them,” Pulkkinen laughed nervously when asked about the comparisons with Hull. “Since I was a little kid I had fun with my friends going out to shoot pucks, play different games. I enjoy shooting and I’ve been practicing that since I was a little kid.”

Pulkkinen slipped in the entry draft after injuring his shoulder and the Wings were able to get him in the fourth round, 111th overall, in 2010.

The year he was drafted he set a record for assists (36) by a rookie in the Finnish Elite League, breaking the mark set by Teemu Selanne.

Tomas Jurco is the lone restricted free agent the Wings need to sign.

Detroit has 24 players signed, 15 of which are forwards, at just over $72 million.

The salary cap this season is $71.4 million.

Teams can be 10-percent over the salary cap until the day before the season begins, which will give the Wings enough time to decide if Pavel Datsyuk (ankle surgery) and Johan Franzen (concussion) will be able to start the season or head to injured reserve.

Detroit could also free up cap space via a trade or by sending a player to Grand Rapids.

“We’ve got to get to camp, let it play itself out and pick a team,” Holland said earlier this offseason. “With the additions we made on July 1, we’re a little deeper than last year. We’re hoping for a competitive training camp.”

On the first day of free agency, the Wings added defenseman Mike Green and forward Brad Richards.

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