Red Wings sign Filppula, two other free agents
A familiar face is returning to the Red Wings.
Valtteri Filppula was one of three free agents signed by Detroit on Monday, the first day those eligible officially became unrestricted free agents and were able to sign with other teams.
The other two signings are defenseman Patrik Nemeth and goaltender Calvin Pickard.
Filppula, 35, and a center/right wing, played with the Wings for the first eight seasons of his NHL career (2005-06 to 2012-13) after being drafted in the third round in 2002. He helped them win the 2008 Stanley Cup and was briefly a teammate of Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman.
“I had a great time there the first time on the team,” Filppula said on a teleconference. “That way it was an easy decision to make the call.”
He signed a two-year deal worth $3 million annually.
Filppula was with the New York Islanders last season and had 17 goals and 31 points in 72 games. He was previously with Philadelphia Flyers for two seasons and played with the Tampa Bay Lightning for four seasons after Yzerman, then the Lightning GM, signed him as a free agent from the Wings in 2013 on a five-year, $25-million contract.
Filppula is good defensively and can kill penalties and play on the power play.
Yzerman said Filppula will play center, and Andreas Athanasiou will move back to the wing.
“We had a hole in the middle,” Yzerman said in a teleconference. “Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening (are) down the middle, potentially (Jacob) de la Rose can play there, Abby (Justin Abdelkader) can even play there, Darren Helm could play there. We have options, but we’re looking for someone that can play on the power play. It allows (coach Jeff Blashill) to put Andreas Athanasiou back to the wing. He played some center at the end of the season and looked good there, but his natural position is on the wing.
“Fil’s a very good two-way centerman. He can win faceoffs; he can play in all situations.”
Nemeth, 27, and 6-2, 219 pounds, played with the Colorado Avalanche the past two seasons. The stay-at-home defensive defenseman had a goal and 10 points, was plus-5 and had 53 penalty minutes in 74 games in 2018-19. A veteran of six seasons, Nemeth, a left-handed shot, previously played with the Dallas Stars.
Yzerman said he likely would be paired with either Mike Green or Filip Hronek.
“He’s a big, strong, solid, defensive defenseman,” Yzerman said. “He kills penalties well, he defends well, he’s a heavy body and we felt, whether playing with Mike Green or Filip Hronek, he’s going to be a very good partner for that type of player, a puck-mover, offensive right-handed shot.”
The native of Stockholm, Sweden, also signed a two-year contract worth $6 million ($3.2 million in 2019-20, and $2.8 million the following season).
Pickard, also 27, split last season between the Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia, appearing in 17 games (4-6-2, 3.86 GAA and .875 save percentage). He has a career record of 32-50-9, with a 2.93 GAA, .908 save percentage and four shutouts. Pickard also played for the Colorado Avalanche and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He signed a two-year contract with a $700,000 yearly cap hit.
Yzerman said Pickard will split duties with top goalie prospect Filip Larsson in Grand Rapids.
“We wanted to put a goaltender with some experience to partner with (Larsson), a guy who’s a good leader for a young goaltender, someone with a good work ethic and high character,” Yzerman said. “He’s got NHL experience and can up and play games should we need him to. He’s proven he can do that, excellent in the American Hockey League.
“Maybe the biggest reason is we really liked the character and the attitude that he has so he’ll be a benefit to the young goalies and the young players in the system.”
He added that the Red Wings could still add a right winger and another defenseman.
Right wing Martin Frk and defenseman/forward Luke Witkowski signed with other teams. Frk signed for one year with the Los Angeles Kings and Witkowski signed a two-year, two-way deal with Tampa Bay.