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Green, Richards give Red Wings coach more flexibility

by Paul Harris / NHL.com

DETROIT -- Coach Jeff Blashill says the signings of defenseman Mike Green and center Brad Richards provide the Detroit Red Wings with more flexibility.

"I think, in a lot of ways, they give us more options," Blashill said Thursday. "We think they fit in with our team and bring some unique skills."

The Red Wings signed Green to a three-year contract and Richards to a one-year contract Wednesday, the first day of NHL free agency. Green's contract is worth $18 million, and Richards is guaranteed $3 million for the 2015-16 season but could make $4 million with bonuses, according to TSN.

Blashill is going into his first season as Red Wings coach after replacing Mike Babcock, who left Detroit after 10 seasons to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Green, 29, is a defenseman with offensive ability who can run the power play. He scored 113 goals and had 247 assists in 575 games with the Washington Capitals, who drafted him in the first round (No. 29) in 2004.

Green is a right-handed shot, something Detroit has long been seeking in a defenseman. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Wednesday that Green would be paired with Dan DeKeyser.

"That's something we talked about, something we feel could be a good skill-set match," Blashill said. "We think both guys could benefit."

Green struggled defensively and played on Washington's third pair at even strength in 2014-15. DeKeyser is an outstanding skater who is rarely out of position in his zone and makes a strong first pass out.

Richards, 35, is a skilled center who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup last season.

Holland said with everyone healthy, Richards will be Detroit's No. 2 center. But with the uncertainty about Pavel Datsyuk, who had surgery on ruptured tendons in his right ankle last Friday, Richards could open the season as the No. 1.

"Throughout his career, he's been productive as a top-couple-of-lines center," Blashill said. "... He's a great power-play guy who can run it from up top and who can pull up on the half boards."

Blashill said he is comfortable with Richards' age.

"He's slowed down, but I think he's got some great hockey left in him," he said. "He's been great in the playoffs, he just won a Cup and he has two (also with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004)."

Blashill said he talked to Green and Richards on Wednesday. The coach added he already had an idea about what type of player and person Green is.

Blashill was coach of the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, the past three seasons. One of his assistants in Grand Rapids was longtime NHL player Mike Knuble, who was Green's teammate in Washington and played for Detroit.

"Mike Knuble had good things to say about [Green] as a person and a teammate," Blashill said.

It remains to be seen how Green and Richards will fit in with the Red Wings.

"I don't know the exact picture," Blashill said. "We won't know that until we get to camp. … But you'd rather have more options than not enough."

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