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Chelios signs one-year deal with champs

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Chelios has been an outstanding influence on the Red Wings' young defensemen, like Kyle Quincey (right).
DETROIT – It was inevitable that Chris Chelios would return for a 25th NHL season, but it finally became official Tuesday afternoon when the 46-year-old defenseman signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings. His illustrious career dates back to the 1983-84 season when he skated in 12 games for the Montreal Canadiens.

“Obviously in my situation and age, and being on the best team in the league -- you have some young guys on the team that you have to play or you’re going to lose them -- so I understand the situation and I love playing here,” Chelios said. “My role, I’ve accepted that, so I’ll make the best of it. I guess I can say I’m a survivor because I’m still here at this age. But things change quick in this game. We’ll start the season and I’ll make the best of it and work hard.”

Chelios agreed to accept a lesser role this season, noting that many of the younger defensemen – namely Brett Lebda, Kyle Quincey, Derek Meech and Jonathan Ericcson -- need more ice-time.
“The only difference is that guys have to play. It’s understandable,” Chelios said. “But when you watch and see what happened with Brett Favre -- and I don’t put myself in the same class as him by no means -- but that’s the nature of the beast. For now, I’m happy to be back, and I’m looking forward to another great year.”

Chelios was back for his first day of informal workouts at Joe Louis Arena before the team heads to Traverse City for training camp in less than two weeks. Also back in town for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in June where forwards Valtteri Filppula and Aaron Downey, and defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

Chelios, the second oldest player in league history, played in 69 games last season, scoring three goals with nine assists and a plus-11 rating. He suffered a knee injury in the playoffs that forced him to sit-out the Stanley Cup finals. He had arthroscopic surgery in mid-June.

“The biggest thing in the three rounds that I played, I felt that I contributed and didn’t hurt the team’s chances to win,” he said. “It’s hindsight, and it gave some guys the opportunity to play and we won, which was the biggest thing.”

The Red Wings’ logjam of defensemen means that Chelios will likely sit more games that he’s been accustom throughout his career, but general manager Ken Holland is excited to welcome back his veteran’s leadership.

“Obviously, the base is a little less than he made last year with taking the bonuses out, but he’s anxious and he’s in great shape,” Holland said. “We’re deep on defense; it’s going to be a competition and we’re going to dress the best six.”

As for retirement, Chelios said he thought he was close to hanging up his skates after the 1998-99 season. But now he doesn’t predict when that day may come.

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