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Colaiacovo ready for new start in Detroit

Friday, 09.14.2012 / 4:52 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

When Carlo Colaiacovo was traded from his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs to the St. Louis Blues in 2008, he didn't know what to expect.

Carlo Colaiacovo
Carlo Colaiacovo
Defense
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 19
SOG: 68 | +/-: 7

Colaiacovo, 29, soon would settle into his new home and learn St. Louis wouldn't be a bad place to play the rest of his career.

"Ultimately that was my wish and my hope," Colaiacovo told NHL.com Friday.

Unfortunately for Colaiacovo, the business side took center stage with his career, and Friday he traded in his Blues jersey for a Red Wings model when the veteran unrestricted free-agent defenseman signed a two-year, $5 million contract with Detroit.

The Red Wings also re-signed restricted free-agent forward Justin Abdelkader to a four-year contract. Financial terms for that deal were not released, but MLive.com is reporting the annual average value to be $1.8 million.

During four seasons in St. Louis, Colaiacovo watched the Blues rise from near the bottom of the League to one of the elite teams after last season's Central Division title and 109-point season.

But after a summer of uncertainty and not knowing whether the Blues had interest in bringing him back, Colaiacovo felt the opportunity to join a Central Division rival in Detroit was too good to pass up.

"It's been a long summer in many parts, contract-wise and the uncertainty of hockey, where I'm going to be next year," said Colaiacovo, who will make $2.15 million this season and $2.85 million in 2013-14. "... At the end of the day, I wasn't really stressing out about it, I wasn't really worried about it, because at the end of the day, I knew something was going to work out for me. I'm glad it has.

"It's a team in Detroit that's got Stanley Cup aspirations and a team that competes every year and a team full of world-class players that I'm happy to be a part of. It's a great situation for me."

Colaiacovo, who had 19 points in 64 games last season, averaged 19 minutes per game playing mainly alongside rising star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Colaiacovo was one of the top remaining free agents available, and the main reason was the hope that something could be worked out with the Blues.

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"It's been sort of a torn summer, too, because I think deep down inside, my heart was in St. Louis in the fact that I was there for four years through tough times and through great times," Colaiacovo said. "To be part of something great moving forward and to develop friendships and relationships with the people there, you would hope that it would be something you can continue moving forward and be a part of.

"I had a great time in St. Louis. I have nothing bad to say about it. I wish things could have still worked out there, but it's a business, it's a game. People move on. There's changes every year and unfortunately it was a decision for myself too to move on. I have a lot of great friends and people I'm leaving behind there, but they'll be people I hopefully can still keep in touch with. ... You never know. One day, the opportunity might present itself again [in St. Louis]. But right now, my mindset has moved on and the excitement to join the Red Wings is overwhelming right now."

Colaiacovo didn't mention specific teams that became interested in him, but after talking with his family and fiancee and having a great familiarity of playing against Detroit six times a season, it was a pretty easy choice.

"Being in St. Louis and playing against Detroit, every time we played them it was like playing an all-star team," Colaiacovo said. "They're a team full of world-class talent. Hopefully joining a team like that will present the opportunity for myself to be a part of that elite group.

"... Detroit was a team that we both targeted as a team if we were to move on. It was a team and a situation that we both wanted to pursue. Obviously St. Louis was a team we were both in favor of and were hoping something could still be worked out, but it didn't seem like the feeling was there. They were a team that looked like they pretty much had their roster set."

Colaiacovo, who played 259 of his of his 370 NHL games with St. Louis, said it will be strange seeing the Winged Wheel instead of the Bluenote on his chest, but moving forward, he feels like the Blues will be in good hands.

"[Blues general manager] Doug Armstrong was a guy I respect a lot, has done a lot for me in my career, really helped me out with a lot of things," Colaiacovo said. "The coaching staff there, Ken Hitchcock and [assistant coach] Brad Shaw are two of the great coaches I've had in my career.

"I think they've got a good thing going for them. We're going to be enemies now. But I think the transition will be easy because I'm coming to sort of a similar situation where the coaching staff is here, a team that has aspirations of winning, a team full of talent. It really makes the transition easy."

Abdelkader, 25, had eight goals and 14 assists in 81 regular-season games last season, and played in five Stanley Cup Playoff games. A 2005 second-round pick of the Red Wings, Abdelkader has 18 goals and 29 assists in 209 NHL games spread across five seasons. He also has three goals and two assists in 37 playoff games.

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said after their 4-3 OT win vs. Pittsburgh in Game 2, the franchise's first ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory