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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

Red Wings don't take any chances on Filppula

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Valtteri Filppula, despite a groin injury, played in all 22 playoff games as the Wings captured the Stanley Cup. Valtteri Filppula, despite a groin injury, played in all 22 playoff games as the Wings captured the Stanley Cup.
GENE J. PUSKAR / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings made a subtle move yesterday that could prove to be a spectacular one if Valtteri Filppula lives up to his potential.

Filppula signed a $15 million, five-year contract with the Red Wings that keeps a talented forward on the roster for awhile.

"We love everything about him because he's a complete player with great character, and we think he can get even better," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "He plays hard, he plays hurt. He's got great speed and talent along with versatility because he can play left wing or center.

"The only thing no one knows is how good he can be. But even if he doesn't become a 70-point scorer we think he might be, we'll still love everything about him as a player and person."

The 24-year-old restricted free agent, who avoided salary arbitration with the deal, now is under contract through the 2012-13 season with a team set up for short and long-term success.

"We're really excited about locking in a player this young and this good that keeps him off the market as an unrestricted free agent for a couple of years," Holland said. "He's the kind of player we can build around in the years to come."

Filppula had career highs with 19 goals and 36 points last season. Then despite a groin injury, he played in all 22 playoff games and scored in the Stanley Cup-clinching win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last month for his fifth goal and 11th point of the championship run.

Early in the second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the Filppula, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson line was the best one he had.

Detroit took Filppula, a Finland native, in the third round of the 2002 draft. He has 29 goals and 54 points in 155 games over two-plus seasons in the NHL.

COLUMBUS - The Blue Jackets re-signed restricted free agent goalie Pascal Leclaire to a three-year contract through the 2010-11 season.

The 25-year-old Leclaire is coming off his best season, going 24-17-6 with a 2.25 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and nine shutouts in 54 games. He ranked second in the NHL in shutouts, seventh in goals-against average and 11th in save percentage.

Leclaire's record was the best in franchise history and his shutout total nearly doubled the previous club mark of five set by Marc Denis in 2002-03.

After the season, Leclaire helped Canada win a silver medal at the world championships, going 4-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and one shutout in four games.



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