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Flames sign Hudler to four-year contract

by John Kreiser

Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster wasted no time going all-in on landing Jiri Hudler. One day into free agency, he got him.

Hudler, coming off a career-best 25-goal season with the Detroit Red Wings, left the only NHL team he'd ever played for when he signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Flames on Monday.


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Feaster said he identified Hudler as the Flames' top target before the free-agent signing season opened Sunday and wasted no time going after him. He told Hudler's agent, Petr Svoboda, that "We were not out there throwing five lines in the water and maybe we'll catch Jiri but maybe we won't and we'll get somebody else.

"He kept asking me to be patient and give Jiri some time, and I told him, 'Petr, I'm going to be candid with you. We're all-in with you. We have not been going after other guys in this top-six forward role because this is our guy.' We were not hedging our bets. We put all the poker chips in the middle of the table with Jiri."

Hudler said he was delighted by Feaster's quick move to sign him, but added, "I have to prove what the organization believes I can do. I'm really excited about it."

Feaster said the deal does not include any no-trade or no-movement clauses.

The 28-year-old native of the Czech Republic had spent his entire eight-year NHL career in Detroit, scoring 87 goals and 214 points in 409 regular-season games. He contributed 12 goals and 33 points in 66 postseason games and was a member of the Wings' Cup-winning team in 2008.

Of Hudler's 25 goals in 2011-12, 23 came at even strength. Feaster said Hudler is expected to be part of the power play under new coach Bob Hartley, but that he's "not one of those players who picks up all his points on the power play."

The signing completed a busy week for Feaster, who acquired and signed defenseman Dennis Wideman to a five-year deal last week and has re-signed forwards Lee Stempniak and Blake Comeau as well as defenseman Cory Sarich.

"I think in the case of Jiri and Dennis, these guys bring what I call 'personality,'" Feaster said.

"Jiri does have a personality, and that, I think, is the biggest issue in terms of our room. Over the last few years, our room has been kind of a quiet room. We want more personality. I don't want just plain vanilla. That's something I think these acquisitions have been good for."

Hudler was a role player in Detroit, a team with stars such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. He said he's looking forward to the extra pressure that will come an increased role on a new team.

"In the locker room, the vocal thing, it didn't happen in Detroit, to be honest. I was fortunate to play with some great players, unbelievable leaders. You learn a lot. I'm just easygoing … I just want to play hard," Hudler said.

"It's going to be a little different -- I'm going to have a bigger role. I never like to be without pressure. Pressure is a good thing when you use it the right way."

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