DETROIT – Thought it’s been three years since he wore a Red Wings’ uniform, in some small way Mikael Samuelsson feels like he never left.
The 35-year-old forward signed a two-year free agency contract on Sunday to return to the Red Wings, who still have plenty of his friends on the NHL roster.
“The time that I was there we were in two (Stanley Cup) finals and one of them we won, so it is hard to leave, but that’s what the salary cap does to you,” said Samuelsson, who left for Vancouver and a lucrative contract in 2009. “Some players have to leave, but I definitely have a strong feeling toward the guys in the locker room and the organization as well. I knew what I wanted when I hit the market and I’m happy that they wanted me too.”
Entering his 12th NHL season, Samuelsson has played for six different clubs, producing 148 goals and 194 assists in 669 games. He was a fifth-round draft choice of the San Jose Sharks in 1998. But three years later, he was acquired by the New York Rangers, which was the first of three trades in Samuelsson’s first two NHL seasons. Then last October, he was traded for the fourth time in his career when the Canucks sent him packing for Florida. He also played a handful of games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003.
This time, several teams showed interesting in acquiring Samuelsson, he said, but when he canvassed the offers, returning to a team, an organization, and a community which he’s very familiar with was far more attractive to him and his family.
“This doesn’t feel right now like I’m changing teams again,” said Samuelsson, in a phone interview from his home in Sweden. “It feels like I know what the organization is about, and I think I know how we play, or supposed to play, and I know the guys. It’s not going to be one of these situations where you have to take some time to adapt in a couple of weeks to learn the new guys. I know a lot of the guys in the locker room there.”
A couple of his Wings’ teammates reached out to Samuelsson on Day 1 of the NHL’s annual free agency period, namely Henrik Zetterberg, who phoned, and Niklas Kronwall who offered a congratulatory text.
“I actually talked to Hank yesterday before I signed,” Samuelsson said, “and Kronner texted me after I signed and said, ‘This will be great, it’s so nice to have you back.’ ”
Being back in an organization that makes the playoffs a prior is also a quality that helped coax Samuelsson back to Hockeytown.
“It’s a contender to win the Cup, that’s the main reason I came back,” he said. “The other reasons are that I’ve been there before and really liked it. It was a hard time when I left, but I know that I will like it again because they have a good team with hard practices and good coach and a good group of guys.”
In his first tour with the Red Wings, Samuelsson played a versatile role as a top six forward, who also averaged more than 2 ½ minutes of ice-time on the power play. He continued in a similar capacity with the Canucks, which is something that he hopes he can do again in Detroit.
“I don’t see (my role) changing too much,” Samuelsson said. “They know what kind of player I am, they know what they get from me. First of all, my thoughts are if you play good you’re going to earn your ice-time. Hopefully, my role can be what it was last time, which was being on the second line and contribute, and can be on the power play as well. I can play actually in a lot of different situations.”
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