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Thursday, July 3
 
Hatcher signs five-year, $30M deal

ESPN.com news services

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings already had the Norris Trophy winner. Now, they've added another top defenseman.

The Red Wings pried Derian Hatcher away from the rival Dallas Stars on Thursday, adding him to a defensive corps that already features Norris Trophy winners Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios.

What a great move for the Detroit Red Wings. Adding Derian Hatcher to their lineup likely makes Detroit's defense the best in the NHL.

The Wings now have mobility, toughness, size and depth. It's obvious that Detroit is looking to do whatever it takes to get back to the Stanley Cup finals after being swept by the Ducks in the first round of last season's playoffs.

This will be a very dangerous and incredibly stingy team to face next season. Hatcher is an excellent defensive player and joins a line that already features two former Norris Trophy winners in Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom. At 6-5, 235 pounds, Hatcher is an extremely imposing figure who will help stifle many opposing offenses.

Lidstrom has been given the Norris, awarded to the NHL's top defenseman, after each of the previous three seasons. Hatcher was a finalist this year.

The Red Wings signed the unrestricted free agent to a five-year, $30 million contract. The deal doesn't contain a no-trade clause.

"I'm just ecstatic to be here," Hatcher said. "It would be really special to win a Stanley Cup in the town I grew up in."

Hatcher, a native of the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, captained the Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup. He has played in 827 regular-season and 100 playoff games in his 12-year career, all with the Stars. That includes 23 postseason games in 1999, when the Stars won their only Stanley Cup.

"Obviously growing up, I was a Red Wing fan," said Hatcher, whose favorite Detroit player was Gordie Howe.

The loss of Hatcher is a big blow to the Stars. But Stars owner Tom Hicks told The Dallas Morning News that allowing Hatcher to go to free agency was not a mistake in negotiations.

A year ago, the Stars offered Hatcher a five-year contract extension in excess of $30 million, but Hatcher turned it down. The Stars then added $15 million to last year's payroll with the addition of several free agents, including Bill Guerin. In making a last-minute counter-offer to Hatcher, the Stars were not willing to sign him to a five-year deal this time, the newspaper reported.

"I wouldn't call it a mistake," Hicks told the Morning News. "We're disappointed Derian made the decision he did, but the chance to do a long-term deal with Derian was last year, and he turned that down. We're disappointed that we're losing him, but hockey is the ultimate team game, and we have to be able to overcome the impact of losing one player."

Stars general manager Doug Armstrong said the team still needs to sign forwards Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen and goaltender Marty Turco to new contracts. That prevented the Stars from matching Detroit's offer to Hatcher.

"We thought we could handle things going forward over three years, but not over five years," Armstrong told the Morning News.

The Red Wings' signing of Hatcher came one day after Sergei Fedorov's agent said the star forward, who spent 13 seasons in Detroit, would leave the team via free agency.

Detroit, a year removed from its third Stanley Cup title since 1997, is in the midst of an uncertain offseason.

Core players Fedorov, Steve Yzerman and Igor Larionov became unrestricted free agents earlier this week, and the team faces a sticky situation with goalies Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph both under contract for next season.

The signing of the 31-year-old Hatcher certainly will help.

"I think it's going to be a great addition to our team," Lidstrom said. "That's the kind of defenseman that we need that can play hard and tough like that."

Last season, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Hatcher had 30 points (eight goals and 22 assists).

"He has such a tremendous presence as a defenseman," Red Wings associate coach Barry Smith said. "He competes at such a high level every game and is so hard to play against.

"We haven't had a defenseman like that since ... Vlady," referring to Vladimir Konstantinov, whose career ended in a limousine crash on June 13, 1997, less than a week after the Red Wings won the Cup.

The Red Wings have seven defensemen on the roster to fill six positions. Detroit coach Dave Lewis said one possibility is for Hatcher to play alongside fellow 6-foot-5 defenseman Jiri Fischer, who is recovering from a knee injury sustained in November.

"All of a sudden, it's a lot harder to play against us in our own zone," Lewis said. "You have to respect us more."

With the NHL's collective bargaining agreement set to expire after next season and uncertainty about what will happen after then, Dallas general manager Doug Armstrong said the team would avoid any long-term deals until those issues are settled.

Hatcher set career highs with 159 shots and a plus-37 rating last season, helping the Stars to the most points in the Western Conference. Mike Modano was quickly selected to replace Hatcher as the Stars' captain.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.




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