Detroit coach Mike Babcock firmly believes it's only a matter of time before Mike Modano
signs with the Red Wings.
Modano, an unrestricted free agent, is reportedly being courted by the Red Wings, Minnesota and San Jose, but Babcock met with him in Detroit earlier in the week and the vibe he got suggests that the former Dallas Stars
great is intrigued by the idea of going home to Michigan.
Modano was born in Livonia, which is only a short drive from Joe Louis Arena.
"This is a no brainer for Mike Modano
-- the highest scoring American player of all time to come back to your hometown, play in Hockeytown," Babcock told NHL.com Friday. "It's not about the cash, it's about the legacy and the fit. He'll fit and he'll be excited to play. I look forward to him signing. I think that's inevitable. I think that's what is going to happen."
Babcock, of course, was smart enough to leave himself an out, just in case.
"I think this is all going to work out; I'm pretty certain of that for us, but I've been around before and if you would have told me Jiri Hudler
was leaving for Russia, I wouldn't have believed it," he said. "I've been wrong. Some people think I have the market cornered on being wrong."
Babcock, though, thinks he's got this one right. Yet, he doesn't want to get in Modano's way either. Since his meeting with Modano earlier in the week he has sent him a text message, but otherwise has left him be to make his decision on his own.
He doesn't expect Modano to decide until Aug. 1 -- at the earliest.
"These veteran players, why would they be in a hurry? Why not see how your body feels?" Babcock said. "There is no question Mike plays physically, but does he want to go through the grind again. In Detroit, it won't be a grind if we've got all of our players. We'll get 100 points and you'll get the puck on your tape."
Babcock not only believes that Modano will play one season in Detroit, but he thinks he'll re-up for a second, too.
"I think we're a good fit for him and I think he knows it," Babcock said. "I know the veteran players we have dealt with over the years, so I'm a big believer if Mike Modano
comes to Detroit he won't be here for one year, he'll play for two."
Babcock's plan is to place Modano in the middle of Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler
to give Detroit one of the most talented third lines in the NHL. Babcock envisions playing Pavel Datsyuk
with Henrik Zetterberg
on the top line, so Valtteri Filppula
will be the second-line center.
"These veteran players, why would they be in a hurry? Why not see how your body feels? There is no question Mike plays physically, but does he want to go through the grind again. In Detroit, it won't be a grind if we've got all of our players. We'll get 100 points and you'll get the puck on your tape."
-- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock
"We want him to be thrilled to be a Red Wing. We are big believers in that," Babcock said. "We believe we have a good shot (to win the Stanley Cup), and we believe he'll give us a better shot."
As much as Babcock believes Modano to Detroit is a sure thing, he also believes the Wings will have a bounce-back season. They finished fifth in the Western Conference with 102 points despite significant injuries to key players such as Johan Franzen
, Cleary, Filppula and defenseman Niklas Kronwall
"Chicago's going to be thinner as we all know and I think we're going to be better," Babcock said. "I like what has happened for the Red Wings as far as the dispersal of talent goes in the Western Conference."
Hudler is a key addition. He left after the 2008-09 season for the KHL, but returned after one season in Russia and is under contract for another two seasons. Hudler had career-highs in goals (23), assists (34), points (57), games played (82), shots (155) and power play goals (6) in '08-09.
"That's 70 points guaranteed and the power play becomes unreal," Babcock said. "He's as good as they come with the puck. It's good that he's back and we want to have him. He's thrilled to be back. He's had an experience and now we're happy to have him back."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl