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Numbers Game: Hossa heads to Detroit

Scott Cullen
7/3/2008 2:03:28 PM
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The defending Stanley Cup champs pulled off the major coup of the free agent season.

Numbers Game looks at the deals that set the Red Wings as prohibitive favourites in their attempt at a Stanley Cup repeat.

The Red Wings Get: LW Marian Hossa and D Brad Stuart.

In what goes down as likely the biggest surprise of the free agent season, the Red Wings convinced the premier player of the free agent class to accept a one-year deal for $7.4-million.

Even though his 29 goals and 66 points represented his lowest marks since 1999-2000 and 2001-2002, respectively, Hossa solidifed his value with a strong playoff performance that included 26 points (including seven points in the last four games of the final against Detroit).

His minus-14 rating, earned in Atlanta before the trade to Pittsburgh, also represented a career-low and it was the first time since his rookie season that Hossa played fewer than 78 games.

With all these factors, one might wonder why Hossa was considered the catch of the free agent class.

For one thing, he's scored 29 or more goals in eight straight seasons.  For another, last year's minus rating was the first such rating of his career. 

So, what can Detroit expect by adding this top-flight winger?  Well, Hossa will presumably be playing on the wing with either Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, allowing the Wings to keep their two incumbent star forwards on separate units, making the Red Wings attack even more balanced.

That balance might put a ceiling on Hossa's production, but an 80-point season should be well within his reach.  He'll get to hit the open market again next summer and, if he has a Stanley Cup ring on his finger, Hossa will be in at least as much demand as a free agent.

If there are any concerns in terms of individual production for the Red Wings, it might be for wingers like Daniel Cleary or Mikael Samuelsson, who may not see as much quality scoring ice time.

After dealing Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick (used to select Daultan Leveille) for Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, the Penguins are left to pick up the pieces now that Hossa and Ryan Malone have moved on as free agents.

Reportedly, Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan have signed with the Pens to help fill the scoring void, but it's an undeniable drop-off in productivity.

In re-siging Stuart, the Red Wings keep their defence corps intact and the expectations are much more reasonable for Stuart as the number four defenceman on a Cup contender, rather than as a lead dog on a marginal team.

While his point totals may be limited in Detroit, Stuart is likely to be at least as productive overall when one considers the likelihood that his plus-minus will be much better in the Motor City.  In 30 games with the Red Wings in 2007-2008, including regular season and playoffs, Stuart was an impressive plus-21. 

That Hossa was willing to take a one-year deal from the Red Wings, when much more lucrative offers were on the table, represents a huge victory for the Red Wings -- a reward for the franchise's consistent success -- and the cycle now perpetuates itself with the best team in the league adding the best available free agent talent.

Scott Cullen can be reached at scullen@tsn.ca



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