On Wednesday, January 28, 2009 the Detroit Red Wings announced that they agreed to a contract extension with one of their star forwards, Henrik Zetterberg, to the tune of 12 years, 72 million dollars; making him the Red Wing with the richest and longest contract in the history of the storied franchise.
The deal is quite honestly a steal by Red Wings brass, lead by Kenny Holland, as they made a deal that creates a relatively small cap hit (6 million dollars against the cap averaged out over the course of the deal) with relatively small risk of the deal being a bust.
Hank has proven over the course of his career with the Red Wings that he is a big game player, ever since his rookie season in 2002-2003. He started to come into his own in the regular season over his first 2 or 3 seasons, and he made noise in the disappointingly short playoff run in 2006 when he posted 6 goals in 6 games played (the noise made though was rained upon by his -2 rating). In the 2006-2007 season he was a key player, along with Pavel Datsyuk, as they both shed the reputation of being weak playoff performers when Datsyuk scored 8 goals and 8 assists over 18 games and Hank scored 6 goals and 8 assists, also over 18 games.
Hank had a great playoff run in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs when over the course of 22 games he scored 13 goals and 14 assists, which along with an astonishingly good +15 rating over the Wings playoff run was enough to garner him the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy. What I'm proving here is that Hank is very deserving of this deal, in fact he could have pulled an easy 8 million dollars per year on the open market if he went into the free agency pool this offseason. But he didn't. He choose to come back to Detroit for less money, because of the type of organization the Red Wings have created over the course of the last 25+ years.
This is where the praise of Kenny Holland comes into play. Kenny Holland knew that if he let Hank hit the open market he would probably lose him, or he would have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to keep him, which would mean the Wings would have lost out on both of their OTHER highly sought after free-agents for this off season, Johan Franzen and Marian Hossa, both of whom are viewed throughout the league as some of the best players in the game.
Kenny worked diligently since the offseason after the Wings won the Cup and came to an agreement with Hank that keeps him in town at a lower price overall then he would have gotten on the free agent market, thereby allowing him to keep his prized player, Zetterberg (who is viewed as the successor of Nicklas Lidstrom as Captain), AND giving him enough cap room that he will be able to make a serious run at keeping possibly BOTH Franzen AND Hossa, if they are willing to give the Red Wings a little bit of a hometown/winning tradition discount.
Bare minimum, Kenny should be able to keep one of the two, but wrapping up the Zetterberg contract has now allowed him to focus on his other two free-agents-to-be, which is a big plus. Now Z can focus on the game, Kenny can focus on his other 2 big free agents, and the rest of the league can sulk as yet again the elite players of the game continue to stick to the Red Wings organization for less money because they know that the Red Wings is a winning tradition and that they will be treated right by the front-office.
Sure, you can score a 10 year 90 million dollar deal with the Atlanta Thrashers, but you aren't going to be fighting for a Stanley Cup anytime soon. Kudos to the Red Wings organization for having cultivated a winning tradition and a reputation for treating their players with respect, for now they are reaping the rewards of such reputations with 'hometown discounts' and 'winning discounts' when players sign with them.
Any team in any league that is looking towards an organization to model themselves after needs to look at the Red Wings, and they will find what is possibly the perfect business model. They draft well, they find the best talent possible, and they bring in players who fit the organization's MO and mantra of winning as a team, not as individuals. Isn't it amazing how the city of Detroit has both the perfect business model in the Red Wings, and quite possibly (no, scratch that, most definitely) the worst business model in the Detroit Lions? If only the not-so-lovable-Losers were to look towards their cross-city compatriots, there might be hope for them in the next quarter century.