Besides retaining three of their own potential unrestricted free agents, the Red Wings only signed veteran journeyman defenseman Mike Commodore on Friday, the first day of free agency.
Detroit re-signed defenseman Jonathan Ericsson for $ 9.75 million over three years, right wing Patrick Eaves for three years and $3.6 million and forward Drew Miller to a two-year deal worth $1.65 million.
Commodore, who is best known among hockey fans for his bright red hair – which he grew into a giant ‘fro along with an impressive thick red beard during the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup run in 2006 and the Calgary Flames’ journey to the Cup Finals in 2004 – to a one-year deal worth $1 million.
Commodore, 31 and 6-4, 225 pounds, has played 454 games during parts of nine NHL seasons with New Jersey, Calgary, Carolina, Ottawa and Columbus, picking up 23 goals, 81 assists and 645 penalty minutes.
He’s physical, hard to play against and – while not a big offensive threat – makes a good first pass out of his own zone.
The opportunity to sign with the Red Wings came a a surprise. He says it took him about two minutes to make the decision on Friday.
Commodore spent much of last season with Springfield of the American Hockey League after falling out of favor with Blue Jackets’ coach Scott Arniel. Columbus bought him out of his contract.
So, Commodore has something to prove with Detroit in 2011-12.
He also a history with Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock.
Commodore was a prospect in the Anaheim Ducks’ organization when Babcock’s was a first-year NHL head coach there in 2002. Babcock sent Commodore to the minors and Commodore had been quoted previously that Babcock tried to bury him.
But Babcock says his only issue with Commodore then was his conditioning level and the two spoke on Friday. Both say things are fine now. Babcock even pushed general manager Ken Holland to sign Commodore.
As it stands now, Comodore will likely play in the third defense pairing with Jakub Kindl.
The Red Wings expect Ericsson to step up his play after signing for what will be a significant raise from last season.
The signings of Eaves and Miller, likely means that Kris Draper’s NHL playing career is over. There is no room for the veteran, who is an unrestricted free agent, and he has said he won’t play for another NHL team. Holland has said that Draper has an off-ice job in the organization if he wants it.
The Red Wings are still looking for a defensemen with offensive ability who can play on the power play – basically Brian Rafalski’s replacement – and a backup goalie.
Some of the free-agent defensemen at the top of their list – James Wisniewski, Christian Ehrhoff and Ed Jovanovski – all signed with other teams.
The list of available defensemen, as of Friday evening, includes Tomas Kaberle (Boston), Bryan McCabe (N.Y. Rangers), Ian White (San Jose), Anton Babchuk (Calgary) and Brent Sopel (Montreal).
Detroit could also try to trade for a top-four defenseman.
Among the backup goalies still available are former Red Wing Ty Conklin (St. Louis), Marty Turco (Chicago), Ray Emery (Anaheim) and Curtis McElhinney (Ottawa).
The Red Wings could also bring back Chris Osgood for another season to back up Jimmy Howard.