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Red Wings sign Modano to one-year deal

by Dan Rosen
Mike Babcock expressed his firm belief that the Detroit Red Wings would sign Mike Modano when he gave an exclusive interview to last month. Now that it has come true, with the team announcing Thursday that he signed a one-year deal and that it would welcome Modano in a news conference Friday, Babcock is not the least bit surprised.

"We think he'd be a good fit for us and excited to play for us and we think he'll have a real good year," Babcock said. "If he comes to us I'm a big believer he'll end up playing again next year, too. I think he's got that kind of legs left in him. And, remember, he's not coming here to be the guy; he's coming here to be one of the guys."

Modano became a free agent when the Dallas Stars opted not to re-sign him. He reportedly drew interest from other teams, but in the end, he decided to return to the city where he played his youth hockey.

"We think he'd be a good fit for us and excited to play for us and we think he'll have a real good year. If he comes to us I'm a big believer he'll end up playing again next year, too. I think he's got that kind of legs left in him. And, remember, he's not coming here to be the guy; he's coming here to be one of the guys." -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock

"Detroit pushed very hard from the start," Modano told the Morning News' Mike Heika. "They want me there, they think I can help, and they're very open about it. That was neat. It's such a good organization and they really, really believe they're going to have a great team this year. They said the injuries were ridiculous last year, and they're ready to bounce back from that. I really think they're a team where you can think about winning it all."

Modano confirmed to the Morning News that he'll be in Detroit on Friday for a news conference to announce the signing.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the team's website that Modano fits a unique niche with the Wings.

"I've been patient, I guess, because it's not like we're saying, 'We need a player and if it's not Mike Modano we're sitting on the sidelines and players are moving,'" Holland said. "We're probably going to go with Helm and Abdelkader anyway. I just thought that when Mike Modano hit the market on July 1 that it was a unique situation, because he's a local Little Caesars' player that is one of the greatest American-born players ever, and he can still skate."

Babcock, who has been stumping to get Modano on the roster for a while now, sees his options for line combinations and power play units growing. He also sees the Red Wings getting back to being the puck possession team that won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and played to Game 7 of the Final in 2009.

"We're trying to get back to being the Red Wings, not like last year when we were taped together all year, had no depth and we rode people too hard so when we got to the playoffs we were exhausted," Babcock said. "We think Nick (Lidstrom) has some left in him, but not if we're defending all the time. We need to get the puck and go. Our goal is to be loaded up."

Modano fits into that philosophy because he would give the Wings another scoring option. In 1,459 career games, he has 1,359 points -- more than any U.S.-born player in NHL history.

"What he is is just another guy that can score, another guy you have to worry about a little bit," Babcock said.

Modano said he's looking forward to playing for Babcock.

"He's such a great coach," he told the Morning News. "You talk to guys like Brenden (Morrow) who played for him at the Olympics, and they say the way he runs practices and the way he makes decisions in a game, it just gives you a lot of confidence. You just feel like you're playing on a winning team."

Before the summer began Babcock penciled in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to start the 2010-11 season together on the top line with Tomas Holmstrom serving as the other wing. Babcock is still planning on that.

If Datsyuk and Zetterberg, who played on different lines for long stretches last season, are playing together that means Valtteri Filppula assumes the role as the Wings' No. 2 center. Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi would be his wings, Babcock envisions.

With the top six already ironed out, Modano's value becomes greater. Babcock sees the native of Livonia, Mich., fitting in as the third-line center between Dan Cleary and the returning Jiri Hudler, who spent last season playing in Russia.

Holland also said he isn't concerned about Modano's age -- after all, age has never been a concern in Detroit, where the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in both 1997 and 1998 with older players like Slava Fetisov and Igor Larionov. The same formula worked again in 2002 when Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille joined the team. Ditto in 2008, when Dominik Hasek and Dallas Drake were part of the mix.

"We're not expecting them (older players) to come here and do all of the heavy lifting," Holland told Bill Roose of "When Hull and Robitaille came here, (Nicklas) Lidstrom, and (Steve) Yzerman and (Sergei) Fedorov, and others were in the prime of their careers. Hull and Robitaille could come here and be real good supporting pieces, and we could play to their strengths.

"When you look at our team today, the heavy lifting is really done up front with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, and on defense Rafalski and Lidstrom, Kronwall and Stuart," Holland said. "The Modanos, (Chris) Chelios, (Todd) Bertuzzis, they just have to come in and really just be real good supporting pieces.

"These players come in and accept a little bit of a lesser role. They want an opportunity to compete for the Cup. As a player, and as a fan, the biggest thing that you can have is hope. And if everything goes right, we can go for a long playoff run, and that's one of the reasons why they come here, because we provide hope, we provide potential that if everything goes right we can go for a long run."

With Modano centering the third time, that means Justin Abdelkader, who would have been the third-line center, can drop into the fourth-line rotation with Darren Helm, Kris Draper, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and maybe Mattias Ritola.

"It puts Abby and Helmer in a spot where they should be for another year if they're going to on a winning team," Babcock said.

Modano may be 40, but he scored 30 points in 59 games last season on a non-playoff team. Babcock confirmed that Modano will be given the chance to play not only on the third line, but also on the point of the Wings' second power-play unit opposite Niklas Kronwall. It's not farfetched to think if Modano stays healthy he could produce upwards of 50 points.

"That's kind of what I'm thinking," Babcock said. "Because of his ability to shoot the puck, if he gets the puck to Hudler and he gets open, he can score."

Hudler, who had 57 points in 2008-09, will be expected to produce north of 60 and Cleary likely around 50. If they all stay healthy, the Wings could have one of the best third lines in the NHL.

"Hudler is a better player than people think," Babcock said. "I missed him way more last season than I thought I was going to miss him. To me the kid is magic. We're thrilled to have him back. I like our team here. I even said that to my wife."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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