|Draper, who has been a mainstay in the organization, will be with the Red Wings for another three seasons after signing an extension on Friday. |
– By the time Kris Draper’s new contract is up the Red Wings’ veteran will have reached a milestone.
“I was kidding around with Cheli that I’m going to take a run at him,” said Draper, referring to 46-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios. “I can’t believe that when this deal is up I’ll be 40 years old. . . . “
On Friday, Draper, 36, reached an agreement on a new three-year contract extension that will keep him with the Red Wings through the 2010-11 season.
“He’s made a commitment to us and we’ve obviously made a commitment to him,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re glad that guys want to say here and play here. He’s obviously been a part of a lot of success here and we want him to be a part of a lot more success here. I thought it was an important move for our organization.”
For the last 14 seasons, Draper has been a mainstay with the Red Wings’ organization. He’s been a contributing factor in three Stanley Cup championships, and he was honored as the league’s best defensive forward as the winner of the Frank J. Selke Award in 2004.
Considered one of the top face-off men in the league, Draper continues to excel as an unselfish defensive forward, which allows others to concentrate on scoring.
“He’s still playing at a high level, and that’s why we’ve brought him back for so many years,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s doing it on the ice. He’s always done it on the ice. He’s a Red Wing at heart and it’s what he brings to that dressing room with the young kids and helping them be better players.”
This season, Draper, who began his 16-year NHL career in Winnipeg, has had an outstanding start to the 2007-08 campaign. Through 10 games, he has scored five goals -- coincidentally collecting a goal in five consecutive games from October 8-15.
“I’m just excited that everything worked out,” Draper said. “There’s no secret how much I enjoy being a part of the Red Wings and the organization. To be able to sign a three-year extension is something I’m certainly proud of and I’m really excited about it.
“To be here for 15 years already and to have an opportunity to finish my career here is something that I’m certainly excited about and proud of.”
Asked if this will be his final player contract, Draper didn’t hesitate.
“No,” he said, “and I already told Kenny (Holland) that. I feel unbelievable and in as good of shape as I’ve ever been in. I certainly take a lot of pride in conditioning during the off-season and maintaining it through the season, and if I can keep that up, I know that I’m never going to lose the passion for this game. When you look at guys like Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek and how they keep coming to the rink because they love it, I put myself in that category. Every morning I wake up and I do what I love to do and I want to play as long as I can.”
With the exception of a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the final 15 games of the 2003-04 season, Draper has missed only three other games dating abck to the 2001-02 campaign. Over the last five seasons, he's played in an average of 78.4 games.
For those who know Draper’s dedication and commitment to his stringent workout routine, it’s no surprise that he’ll be around for at least another three seasons.
“He keep himself in great shape,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. “If you look at the workout room, he’s one of the first guys in there. He can play beyond those three years. He keeps himself in great shape just like Cheli does. You never know, but I think he can play as long as he wants to play this game.”