DETROIT >> Let the debate begin.
That debate being, should the Detroit Red Wings retire No. 91.
And it all began with the signing for unrestricted free agent Brad Richards, who wore No. 91 his only season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said when asked if Richards would wear No. 91. “You’re a step ahead of me.”
The only Wings player to wear No. 91 is Sergei Fedorov, who was just named, along with Nicklas Lidstrom, to the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame class.
“Jimmy D, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and at the appropriate time I’ll weigh in, whether his number should be in the rafters or not,” Holland said. “Certainly being selected to go in the Hall of Fame is an incredible accomplishment. He was a great player and a great Red Wing. So it’s certainly worth serious consideration.”
Lidstrom had his No. 5 retired last season by the Wings after spending all 20 seasons of his career in Detroit.
Richards wore No. 19 for the longest time, including his three seasons with the New York Rangers before having his contract bought out. He wore No. 91 with the Dallas Stars.
No. 19 is already retired by the Wings.
“I don’t want to gauge it, but we’re certainly going to have that conversation,” Holland said. “I’m not sure when we’re going to have that conversation. I think at the tail end of his career we tried to re-sign him and it didn’t work out and he ended up leaving.”
The Wings selected Fedorov in the fourth round (74th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
He was as versatile as they come, being able to play wing, center and on the blue line.
Yzerman called Fedorov the “best skater” he had ever seen.
Fedorov won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1993-94, after racking up 56 goals and 120 points. He won the Selke Trophy twice, handed out to the league’s top defensive forward (1994 and 1996), and was part of three Cup-winning clubs in Detroit.
The first road block occurred when Fedorov, a restricted free agent at the time, had a lengthy holdout to start the 1997-98 season. He signed a six-year offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes worth $38 million.
The Wings matched it and because of the wording in the offer sheet Fedorov made $28 million that first year of the deal.
Fedorov finally left Detroit after signing a mega free agent offer sheet with Anaheim in 2003. He turned down four- and five-year offers by the Wings worth $10 million a season.
And the fans made him hear their disappointment as every time he touched the puck when he returned to Joe Louis Arena he was booed heavily.
“I don’t know, we’ve never talked about it,” Holland said if that would be a sticking point. “All I’m saying is he had a great career, he’s going into the Hockey Hall of Fame. At the
end of his career he left. It’s a little easier to make the decision when the player plays 20 years for you and he retires and it’s Steve Yzerman, who’s the captain and it’s Nick Lidstrom, who’s one of the greatest defenseman that ever played the game with seven Norris Trophies. Those are decisions that I think get made very quickly.
“In Sergei’s case, at the end of his career I think he left,” Holland continued. “Is that going to factor in? I think part of the reason we put players’ jerseys in the rafters is because of what they accomplished for the Detroit Red Wings. I think if we start just putting jerseys up there – if you think about the ’02 team, we could start putting jerseys up there every year. But many of those great careers were elsewhere. They came here for a very short period of time.”
He’s one of nine players from the Wings’ 2002 team in the Hall of Fame – Lidstrom (2015); Igor Larionov (2008); Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille (2009); Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan (2013) and Dominik Hasek (2014).
With the Wings, Fedorov finished with 400 goals and 954 points – fourth and fifth, respectively, on the franchise list.
“I think we’ve got to factor in and look at what they accomplished in a Red Wings jersey versus what they accomplished in their careers,” Holland said. “I think it’s a long answer to say you take a little bit of time to make sure. Those jerseys that go in the rafters are incredibly special. He’s certainly somebody that will be discussed and talked about but we haven’t got to that decision yet and I really don’t have an answer for you why.”
Fedorov’s career took a downturn from that point and had five undistinguished seasons with Anaheim, Columbus and Washington before finishing his career in his native Russia.