Before the 2011-12 NHL season, it was clear that both the Detroit Red Wings and defenseman Niklas Kronwall wanted to avoid his unrestricted free agency next summer.
GM Ken Holland was facing a situation in which Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Nicklas Lidstrom were all set to become free agents. (Lidstrom could also have retired. Or he could continue to play until the sun explodes, having amassed several thousand Norris Trophies. One of the two).
Kronwall wanted to talk long-term deal with the Wings rather than be bombarded by considerable riches on the open market, telling MLive.com in September: "I think anyone who is fortunate enough to have a chance to play here for many, many years would love to take that."
On Monday, the two sides got what they wanted: Kronwall inked a 7-year extension with the Wings, the team announced via Twitter.
Kronwall, 30, is third on the Wings in average ice time this season at 22:54 per game, playing in every situation. After a high-water mark of 51 points in 2008-09, he's settled in around a 0.48 points-per-game average in the last two seasons. He's a solid defender who can move the puck; and, of course, he's one of the League's most ferocious hitters.
Via Bob McKenzie of TSN, Kronwall's average cap his is $4.75 million in this contract. That makes him the 12th highest-paid defenseman against the cap currently under contract for 2012-13; that'll change dramatically, given that players like Ryan Suter (UFA), Shea Weber (RFA) and Mike Green (RFA) are up for new deals.
Darren Dreger of TSN had the contract breakdown: $4.50 million in Year 1 (thanks to a $1.25 million signing bonus); $6 million per season from Years 2-4; $5.5 million in Year 5; $3.5 million in Year 6; $1.75 million in Year 7, when Kronwall will be 37 years old. Good to see Ken Holland hasn't lost his knack for creative accounting.
Kronwall makes $3 million against the cap this season. The Wings took some heat for their recent contract with Jonathan Ericsson, who will make $3.25 million against the cap over three years. This deal seems like a solid win for Holland; consider Kevin Bieksa's deal with Vancouver ($4.6 million).
Kronwall joins Henrik Zetterberg (2021) and Johan Franzen (2020) in the Red Wings' long-term signing club. If there's a bit of hesitation here about the Kronwall deal, it's that (a) he's 31 next January and (b) he's not exactly Lidstrom-like in his ability to stay in the lineup. Which of course isn't fair, considering that Lidstrom is a cyborg sent from the future.