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Strange but true, Hossa's in Hockeytown

by Mike G. Morreale

Marian Hossa has decided to sign a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings.
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After winning the Stanley Cup for the 11th time in their illustrious history in June, the Detroit Red Wings reeled in the biggest prize of the offseason Wednesday when General Manager Ken Holland announced the signing of unrestricted free agent right wing Marian Hossa to a one-year contract.

Incredible as it may sound, the rich just got richer.

"I talked to Marian's agent (Ritch Winter) on Tuesday and expressed that we had an interest and made a long-term offer that we thought would fit into our cap with the team moving forward," Holland said. "Early this morning, (Winter) called while I was at a gas station and asked what my thoughts were on a one-year deal. I was initially shocked, but obviously wanted to find a way to have Marian on our team. He likes our defense and its ability to move the puck. Given that we had the cap space for a one-year deal, we began figuring out a way to make it happen."

If there was one player available who could actually make Detroit's talent-laden lineup doubly potent, Hossa was certainly the guy. And now, after leading all scorers during the Stanley Cup Final as a member of the runner-up Pittsburgh Penguins, the 29-year-old Slovakian joins the Stanley Cup champion.

"Basically, what this comes down to is Marian's commitment to sacrifice money to come here because he feels we give him the best chance to win the Stanley Cup," Holland said. "It shows how important winning is to him and his desire to play with good players. Marian made this day happen. He's a premier power forward who wanted to make this marriage happen and we're thrilled to have worked out a one-year contract."

In fact, would it at all be surprising if Hossa surpassed his career-high 100-point total (43 goals) in 2006-07 as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers? Not really. It would probably come as a shock if he didn't register 80-plus points, particularly if he shares a line with Lady Byng and Frank Selke Trophy recipient Pavel Datsyuk (97 points) and Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Henrik Zetterberg (92 points). Any concerns over Detroit's secondary scoring, behind Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom (40 points), can now be put to rest.

"Marian is a premier player in this League," Holland said. "We wanted to add another forward who could fit into our top six, and now we have a forward that could fit into our top three. He's strong down low in the offensive zone, is capable of hanging on to the puck and has a tremendous work ethic. He kills penalties and will back check and play defense. This was certainly a deal we couldn't pass up."

In addition to the Penguins, the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins were also in the bidding for Hossa. Edmonton, in fact, offered a lucrative long-term deal. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound lefty turned them down, however, stressing his desire to join a team he feels will provide the best chance to win a Stanley Cup in 2008-09.

"When we (Hossa and Winter) realized the offers we were turning down, we did shake our heads, but I feel I have a good chance to win a Stanley Cup in Detroit and I would do anything to make that happen," Hossa said. "It wasn't easy, but I feel I made the right decision. It wasn't easy to throw the money away, but I guess we'll know this time next year if I made the right choice. And this was my decision."

Hossa had 29 goals and 66 points in 72 regular-season games in 2007-08. He was a dominating force in the playoffs, scoring career highs with 12 goals, 14 assists, five power-play goals, 26 points and a plus-8 rating in 20 games to help the Penguins reach the Cup Final for the first time in 15 seasons. He led all scorers in the Conference Finals with nine points and the Cup Final with seven (three goals, four assists).

"Marian and Sid (Crosby) were the two best forwards on Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final," Holland admitted. "Marian was a guy we had to pay special attention to because of his strength and great scoring ability. I never imagined we'd have an opportunity to sign a player with this much impact, but adding a Marian Hossa will certainly be a motivation for the rest of our team, much like Dallas Drake was for us this past season."

In 10 NHL seasons, Hossa, a four-time NHL All-Star, has scored 299 goals, 349 assists, 93 power-play goals and sports a plus-85 rating. In addition to his scoring, however, Hossa has also proven to be an extremely effective back-checker, a role fans of Hockeytown will certainly come to appreciate. Hossa finished with 30 hits and a team-leading 19 takeaways in 20 playoff games with Pittsburgh.

The Penguins acquired Hossa and Pascal Dupuis at the February trade deadline from Atlanta for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round draft pick (forward Dalton Leveille). On Tuesday, Dupuis signed a three-year contract to remain in Pittsburgh.

Hossa was drafted in the first round (12th overall) by the Ottawa Senators in 1997. He joined the Senators full-time during the 1998-99 season, finishing runner-up to Chris Drury of Colorado for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. In August, 2005, Hossa was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers along with defenseman Greg de Vries for forward Dany Heatley. That season he collected 39 goals, 53 assists and 92 points to surpass his previous career-high by ten points.

Hossa becomes the fifth player to leave Pittsburgh via free agency this week. Forwards  Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and Adam Hall signed with Tampa Bay, and backup goalie Ty Conklin signed with the Red Wings. According to Hossa, Pittsburgh offered a long-term deal and not a one-year contract.

"Of all the NHL teams, I always had Pittsburgh and Detroit in mind since they were the two teams I really liked," Hossa said. "At the end of day, I felt strongly about Detroit. I had a great time in Pittsburgh and they have great players, coaches and fans and that made this a tough decision. I do feel I have a better chance to win the cup with Detroit."

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