The Red Wings have locked up a vital cornerstone to their future, signing defenseman Niklas Kronwall
to a new seven-year contract extension Monday.
Kronwall would have become an unrestricted free agent in July, but the 6-foot Swede wanted to remain in Detroit. And the Red Wings certainly wanted to keep him.
“I felt pretty good that we were going to come to terms at some point. I had no doubt in my mind,” Kronwall said. “To me, there was never any doubt that this has become home for me and my girlfriend. I don’t want to go anywhere else. Just the history and the tradition and the culture of the team and the state of Michigan and the fans, it just feels really good to be a part of it.”
A first-round pick in 2000, Kronwall’s extension, which runs through the 2018-19 season, is worth $33.25 million.
But with half of their defensive corps set to become unrestricted after the 2011-12 season, it was imperative for the Wings to get a deal done with Kronwall, sooner than later.
“If you look at our defense, (Nicklas) Lidstrom’s unrestricted, (Brad) Stuart’s unrestricted, and we’re going through a little bit of a transition,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’re trying to rebuild a little bit, so signing Kronwall and keeping him here is a real important step for us in the next 12- to 24-month process of trying to figure out where we will be going forward.”
Whether the 41-year-old Lidstrom decides to return next year for a 21st season or not, the Wings feel that Kronwall is the heir apparent to the captain’s throne. But Kronwall isn’t in any hurry to assume Lidstrom’s role.
“With the way he’s playing he can easily go on for a few more years,” Kronwall said, “so I think we should leave it at that for now.”
While Kronwall certainly isn’t in Lidstrom’s class – and nobody is – the 30-year-old’s physical play makes him a different kind of asset to the Wings.
“We want him to play hard, but we don’t want him to play as physical, because he’s not a big guy; he’s an important guy, who plays big,” Holland said. “I think there’s more there offensively. But what I like about him is that he’s a big team guy. He probably could be on the first power-play, but he’s OK with being on the second power-play because it’s Ian White
and Nick. But when you put a team together you want to spread your wealth. We have a guy who is a team guy.”
Kronwall has proven to be a punishing hitter, but last season he set new personal highs for goals (11), power-play goals (5), game-winning goals (3) and shots on goal (131).
“At some point down the road, I’m anticipating that Kronner will have a bigger role on our team, offensively,” Holland said. “But for right now, he’s comfortable with his role with the team. He’s formed a good pair with Brad Stuart
, but we want him to continue being good defensively and making good outlet passes.
“When you have a player who can play in any role or situation, and they are competitive, they’re hard to find.”
Kronwall could have easily received a rich contract had he tested the open market next summer. But it wasn’t all about the money, he said.
“Here, it’s all about winning and about competing for the Stanley Cup every year,” he said. “And I love that mentality and that attitude around here, not only from the team itself, but from fans in general. I’m really proud to be a part of something like that.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill