DETROIT – Dallas Drake’s last act in the NHL was hoisting the Stanley Cup. Not a bad way to cap 16 seasons as a pro.
The Detroit Red Wings forward announced his retirement Tuesday, a month after he finally got to skate with hockey’s Holy Grail. “I think it’s a good way for me to go out,” he said. The 39-year-old Drake said he’s still mentally fit to play, but that “the wear and tear on my body” has become impossible to ignore.
“I just don’t recover very well anymore,” he said. “Physically, I’m done.”
Drake ended the 2006-07 season on the Blues’ injured reserve with a wrist injury. He has several minor injuries this season.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Drake was “a big part of us winning the Stanley Cup this year.”
“The physical pounding that Dallas laid on the other teams’ defences is something we didn’t have in the last couple of years,” Holland said.
Holland said the team signed Drake as a “perfect third-line, fourth-line player” as the Wings looked to improve on their 2007 loss in the Western Conference finals to the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Holland said he expects to speak later this week with free agent Chris Chelios, who will turn 47 next season.
“He wants to come back. I told him we’ve got a spot for him. We both know the ballpark we’re in, salary-wise,” Holland said, adding that completing a deal shouldn’t a problem.
With other signings, including winger Marian Hossa, Holland said some final negotiations with players would involve “some tough decisions.”
“We’re going to be real close to the cap this year,” he said.
When the Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the finals in June, Drake was the second player to raise the Cup, after captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
He would get to hold it again before too long: Drake said he planned to pick up the Cup later Tuesday for a two-day visit to his hometown of Rossland, British Columbia.
The 39-year-old Drake was a sixth-round pick in the 1989 draft. He began his career in Detroit in 1992 after playing four seasons at Northern Michigan University.
The Red Wings traded Drake to Winnipeg in 1994. He played in Phoenix and St. Louis before Detroit signed him to a one-year contract in July 2007.
Drake has 177 goals, 300 assists and 885 penalty minutes in 1,009 regular-season games. He has 14 goals, 19 assists and 79 penalty minutes in 90 playoff games.