DETROIT – Mike Modano wanted to prove there is still a spot for him in the NHL.
The Detroit Red Wings are giving him a chance, agreeing to terms with the star forward on a one-year contract.
“I was leaning toward retirement after the last two years took a lot out of me,” Modano said Thursday night from Dallas in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “But the Red Wings convinced me that a change of scenery would be good for me, and that helped me get my drive and passion back.”
The 40-year-old Modano is expected to be on Detroit’s third line with Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary.
“I think it’s going to be a great fit for him and for us,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the AP. “There’s not going to be pressure on him to carry the team.”
He has 557 goals and 1,359 points in his career, but is coming off his lowest-scoring season since 1995. He had 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games, fading to being a fourth-line centre with the Dallas Stars.
“His role was diminishing in Dallas and sometimes that’s hard to accept as a player,” Holland said. “We think he can still skate and contribute. Mike Babcock and I met with him after he became a free agent July 1, and told him he wanted him to be a No. 3 centreman with a chance to grow into a bigger role.
“I think it will energize for him to come home, where his parents still live, and it’ll be great for us to have one of the greatest American players ever.”
The Livonia, Mich., native has the most points by an NHL player born in the United States. He was drafted No. 1 overall by the Minnesota North Stars and he had a stellar rookie season two years later.
The eight-time all-star led the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup title in 1999. He played in the Olympics three times and helped the Americans win silver in 2002.
After playing 20 seasons for the Minnesota-Dallas franchise, Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk—Modano’s friend and former teammate—decided not to re-sign him. Modano has said it didn’t seem right to play for another team, but wanted to try.
The Red Wings gave him weeks to ponder his next move and he made a decision earlier this week while playing golf in Scotland with some friends in the league.
Minnesota and San Jose wanted Modano, too, but he was swayed by talking to Brett Hull along with other former and current Red Wings.
Dallas’ home opener is Oct. 14 against Modano and the Red Wings. Modano’s jersey with a winged wheel will not be No. 9—the number he’s worn—because it was retired by the team long ago to honour Hall of Famer Gordie Howe.
“I’ve worn No. 9 since I was about nine, but I wasn’t about to ask Gordie to take his number out of the rafters for me,” Modano said. “I’m going to wear No. 90 for the Wings.”