|On Hockey: Red Wing built to last for years|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 06 June 2008 10:52|
``We're going to be good for a while,'' owner Mike Ilitch said.
It's difficult to disagree.
Most of the players who lifted the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh are already under contract for at least next season.
Two of their stars, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, haven't turned 30. Whenever 38-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom does slow down, 27-year-old Niklas Kronwall will likely be ready to be a top defenseman.
Goaltender Chris Osgood might be playing his best hockey at age 35.
From front to back, the Red Wings appear ready to strengthen their case as the best franchise in any league.
Since 1997, the San Antonio Spurs are the only other team in a major North American sport with four titles. The Los Angeles Lakers are shooting for their fourth title during the same span against the Boston Celtics.
The New England Patriots have won three titles since 1997 while the New York Yankees added three more championships to their cache.
The New Jersey Devils, with two Stanley Cups over the past 11 seasons, are the only team other than the Red Wings with multiple NHL titles during Detroit's dominant stretch.
Detroit's 11 Stanley Cups trail only Montreal's 24 and Toronto's 14, but the Canadiens haven't won a title since 1993 and the Maple Leafs last did in 1967.
Even if a free agent or two takes more money to leave Detroit, or chooses to retire, prospects are in place to take their spots.
The Red Wings recovered remarkably well after being forced to slash their payroll in half coming out of the NHL lockout three years ago.
The front office has done more than just spend Ilitch's millions. General manager Ken Holland and his staff have proved drafting can be a science, consistently finding players in later rounds from all over the globe - especially, Sweden. Seven Swedes - including Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Johan Franzen - helped the Red Wings win their 11th Stanley Cup.
Co. also have made savvy choices in free agency, signing hungry veterans for relative bargains. That may be a continuing trend as older players chase the Cup with the Red Wings instead of extra money with a noncontending team.
If unrestricted free agent Brad Stuart doesn't want to stay for what Detroit offers, restricted free agent Jonathan Ericsson has probably shown enough promise to get a shot as a regular defenseman.
If Dominik Hasek decides he doesn't want to be a 44-year-old goalie next season, 24-year-old Jimmy Howard might get a chance as Osgood's backup.
Holland's first order of business will be signing coach Mike Babcock to a new deal, which both sides agree is a few details from being completed. Then he can have discussions with players such as Hasek and Stuart.
``If Dom still has energy and passion, I'd be interested in having him back with Osgood again,'' Holland said. ``We're really interested in having Stuart back with a deal that works for us under the cap.''
After losing his job to Osgood, Hasek isn't sure if he wants to play or retire.
``Obviously, it's not the same if you're not in the net,'' Hasek said. ``But overall, it was a great experience and winning a Cup is why I came back and signed with the Red Wings.''
Starting July 1, the Red Wings can start working on staying at the top of the league into the next decade.
``In the summer of '09, Zetterberg and Franzen are unrestricted free agents,'' Holland said. ``Ideally, we'd like to keep them out of free agency by keeping them around by extending their contracts this summer.''
Five current Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups with the storied franchise. All agree the current team is as good - if not better - than any of the previous championship teams.
``I'm not afraid to say this is probably the best team that we've had here,'' Darren McCarty said. ``It's just unbelievable.''