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Wings confident they'll rejuvenate Mo's career

by Dan Rosen
Mike Babcock and Ken Holland have both said they wouldn't be surprised if Mike Modano has more than just one season left in his illustrious career.

"If he's playing outstanding and he's happy, I don't see why he'd want to leave," Holland told

The Red Wings, Babcock added, have a way of rejuvenating a player and basically forcing him to keep his skates sharpened even when it would seem the time is right to hang 'em up.

"We're a good fit for him and he knows it," Babcock told "I know the veteran players we have dealt with over the years, so I'm a big believer … he won't be here for one year -- he'll play for two."

Why so certain?

"In Detroit, it won't be a grind if we've got all of our players," Babcock answered. "We'll get 100 points and you'll get the puck on your tape."

Babcock offers a strong argument, but for now Modano, a Michigan native, is content with the one-year contract he signed in early August that will pay him a base salary of $1.25 million. But he's also not putting any restrictions on his career.

"I have been saying one more year for five or six years now, so I think I'll say the same thing," Modano told "It depends how I feel and how the year goes. It's a year-to-year thing for me. If I get rejuvenated and have fun, and my body holds up, I don't know what that number can be."

After 20 seasons as a Star, including four in Minnesota, Modano was told by GM Joe Nieuwendyk that he was not going to be offered another contract. Nieuwendyk is turning the page on the Stars' past and opening up a new chapter in Dallas, and it was assumed by many people in the business that with that the book had closed on Modano's NHL career, too.

Not so fast, Modano said.

Sure, he thought about retirement, admitting he "needed something to jar me and get me excited about" playing a 21st NHL season, but at every turn he was encouraged to give it another go.

The Wings gave it to him by showering him with interest, starting with a phone call from Holland to Modano's agent, Mike Liut, on July 1. They wined and dined him in Detroit a few days later, taking him to a Tigers game, showing him all the upper west side neighborhoods where the players live and diagramming the lines on some napkins over lunch.

"Mike Babcock and I did most of the talking," Holland told "Mike has a gift of gab and I have a gift of gab, so there probably wasn't much time for Mike Modano to talk."

Modano felt the encouragement at home, where his wife, actress Willa Ford, told him he needed to go to Detroit "to prove a lot of people wrong, to show you can still play."

He sought advice from his close friends, including Brett Hull, Chris Chelios and Todd Bertuzzi, asking them about their experience with the Wings. Hull and Chelios were part of Detroit's legendary Cup-winning team in 2002, and Bertuzzi is entering his second season with the organization.

Predictably, nobody had a bad word to say.

"Those three guys had a big impact," Modano said. "After that it was just a matter of me getting up the excitement to do it one more time."

Holland looked at the calendar and saw it was nearing August, so he called Modano to give him one last pitch. He already knew Modano was near a decision and it was likely that he would sign with the Red Wings, but leaving no stone unturned, Holland laid it out for Modano in one conversation.

"I thought the longer he waited into August, the less time he gave himself to be mentally prepared for the season," Holland said.

A few days later, Modano told Liut he wanted to be a Red Wing. Liut gave the good news to Holland, and once Modano returned from a boys' trip to Scotland he was brought to Detroit and introduced as a Red Wing.

The kid who grew up in Westland, Mich., and spent his formative years playing the odd game or practice at Joe Louis Arena with the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Association was now being celebrated in the Olympia Club of that same old arena, pulling on a red winged wheel sweater with No. 90 on the back.

"It didn't make sense going anywhere else just to play," Modano said.

Modano, who will likely start the season as the third-line center between Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler, is motivated to have a similar Detroit experience as Hull.

The "Golden Brett" came to the Wings in 2001 as a 37-year-old with the goal of winning another Stanley Cup.

He did it that very season.

"Quite frankly if (the Red Wings) didn't have a chance to win, I wouldn't have come," Modano said. "At this age you want to win and you want to have fun. For me there isn't anything else to obtain. The last few years were draining and I figured I was done, but to have the opportunity to play with some world-class players certainly changed that.

"Everybody in the League has been chasing the Detroit Red Wings for years, but no one has come close. I'm just elated. It's exciting to come home."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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