LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings have become the rarest of pro franchises by drafting, developing and keeping their players for more than a decade.
Steve Yzerman did it and Nicklas Lidstrom is doing it.
Niklas Kronwall wants to be a part of the tradition.
Kronwall signed a seven-year, $33.25 million contract Monday that can make the Red Wings the only team he plays for in his career.
“It speaks highly of the organization that players want to play and stay here,” he said Monday night in a telephone interview. “We have an owner who wants to put a team on the ice every year that has a chance to compete, everyone expects to win — and I love that.”
The deal gave Red Wings general manager Ken Holland one fewer move to worry about, keeping the 30-year-old defenseman off the market next summer.
“He could’ve been an unrestricted free agent that we couldn’t have truly replaced,” Holland said. “He wanted to be here and we really wanted him to stay. We’ve known him since he was 18 years old and we know what he brings to the table physically and mentally.”
Detroit drafted the hard-hitting Swede with the 29th overall pick in 2000 and he was a key player for the franchise’s 2008 Stanley Cup team.
“I’ve been with this organization since I came here and there was never any doubt in my mind this is where I want my future to be,” Kronwall said.
He was named an assistant captain this season and will be counted on for even more leadership when 41-year-old defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retires. Kronwall has a goal and an assist in nine games this season. He has 35 goals, including a career-high 11 last season, and 183 points over 394 games.
Kronwall is in what’s known as the Triple Gold Club with an Olympic gold medal, world championship and Stanley Cup title.
“He can play physical, he can help on the power play and you can put him in any situation,” Holland said. “If you look around, you can’t find too many defensemen that can do that. We’re really glad he’s not going to be on the market for another team.”
Detroit retains Kronwall for slightly less money overall and for one more year than a comparable player, defenseman James Wisniewski. The Columbus Blue Jackets gave the 27-year-old Wisniewski $33 million over six years to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent last summer.
Kronwall doesn’t regret for a moment that he’s passing up a chance to find out how much more money he could’ve made as a free agent.
“Me, my girlfriend and my agent made it clear we wanted to stay here,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself leaving on my own terms.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
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