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Blackhawks sign Marian Hossa, Kopecky

Wednesday, 07.01.2009 / 5:39 PM / 2009 NHL Offseason News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Maybe Marian Hossa's Stanley Cup jinx will end in Chicago. Boy, would the Windy City faithful love that.

Barring a trade, the Slovakian star forward will have 12 years to try to help the Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup since 1961 and he may have to go through his last two teams to get it done.

Arguably the biggest fish in this year's free agent pool, Hossa, who scored 40 goals and 71 points while playing under a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings this past season, signed a stunning 12-year contract with the Blackhawks that is worth a reported $5.2 million per season.

Another Slovak and former Red Wing, Tomas Kopecky, is following Hossa to Chicago with a two-year contract. Kopecky had a career-high 19 points in 79 games this past season and 32 points in 183 games spread over four seasons with the Red Wings.

"We had talked to Ritch Winter, (Hossa's) agent, last year briefly, but I think the success the team had last year helped influence his decision," Chicago GM Dale Tallon said. "It's nice to know that players want to come here. How could you not? We have a great, young team, we sell out every night in a great building that is rocking and it's a great city to live in. Those were all the things Marian was concerned about and he made his decision based off of that."

If Hossa plays out the length of his contract, he'll be 42 when it expires. Nevertheless, his signing gives Chicago another major piece to what could be a championship puzzle. It also signaled the end of Martin Havlat's time in Chicago after four seasons marred by injuries.

Tallon negotiated with Havlat, who scored 29 goals this past season when he was finally healthy, until noon ET Wednesday, but couldn't come to an agreement on the terms of a contract.

Similarly, Tallon spent part of Wednesday trying to get goalie Nikolai Khabibulin back in the fold, but the 36-year-old veteran eventually signed with Edmonton for four years and $15 million.

Cristobal Huet appears to be the No. 1 goalie going forward as his contract calls for another three years and more than $16 million, but the Hawks like their organizational depth at the position with Corey Crawford, Antti Niemi, Joe Fallon and Alec Richards.

"I want to wish Marty and Nik all the best," Tallon said. "They were tremendous assets and great Blackhawks, but we're turning the page and moving forward."

They're moving forward with a player who chased a Stanley Cup this past year only to fall short for the second straight season.

After being on the wrong end of the 2008 Cup Final while with Pittsburgh, Hossa decided the Wings gave him his best chance at winning the Cup in 2009, so he signed a one-year deal. Pittsburgh wound up beating Detroit in seven games.

Hossa knew all along that re-signing with Detroit at his market value was going to be difficult in the salary cap world. It became nearly impossible when the Red Wings locked up Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen to long-term contracts this past season.

Winter still negotiated with Red Wings GM Ken Holland until Wednesday, but the Wings couldn't budge from their offer. It was much less than what the Hawks wound up paying Hossa, who admitted some surprise at how hard the Hawks came after him.

"It showed me how serious they were for me and that they really wanted me," Hossa said. "That drove me to sign the contract with them. They showed me they really wanted me and I didn't think about other stuff and I just signed with them."

Hossa, who has scored at least 40 goals three times, is joining a lineup that already has plenty of star power, including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp. Dave Bolland recently re-signed for five years. Tallon is negotiating new contracts with restricted free agents Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, Cam Barker, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser and Crawford.

"Chicago is hungry," Hossa said. "They haven't won the Stanley Cup in a long, long time and they have showed improvement. You can see the hunger. Detroit is a great hockey town with lots of history and winning Stanley Cups, and this is a young, hungry team and they want to go for it."

As grand as Hossa's signing is for Chicago today, the Hawks window of opportunity may be small.

Kane, Toews and Keith are all due new contracts after this season and they will command top dollar. Seabrook and Dustin Byfuglien are each signed for another two seasons before they could potentially become restricted free agents.

Still, while the salary cap could start rearing its ugly head soon, Tallon said the terms of Hossa's deal gives him more flexibility in his quest to keep the core together. Hossa praised Tallon and Winter for coming up with the terms for this deal.

"The type of contract that Marian has agreed to will not influence our core," Tallon said. "They will get taken care of. We have identified who the top guys are in our organization and this will not affect that."

The Hawks are Hossa's fifth NHL team, and fourth in less than 17 months. Atlanta traded him to Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2008. He finished the '07-'08 season with the Penguins before signing his famous one-year contract with the Wings on July 2, 2008.

A year later Hossa is a Blackhawk, but this marriage should have some lasting power.

"I'm going to be one of the oldest guys, which is strange for me," Hossa said. "It's going to be a little bit different, but I'm looking forward to playing with the young team."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com




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