One of the longest careers in NHL history will soon grow one year longer.
Chris Chelios signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, Tuesday. The 45-year-old defenseman has played 23 NHL seasons, including the past eight with the Red Wings. His 1,547 regular-season games played ranks ninth all-time in league history. If Chelios plays in 69 regular-season games this season, he’ll move past former Red Wing Larry Murphy into sixth place on the all-time games played list.
After next season, Chelios will be two seasons short of Gordie Howe’s record of 26 NHL campaigns. Howe also played six seasons in the World Hockey Association.
“Chris is coming off another outstanding season and was one of the best defensemen on any team through three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. “He has taken conditioning to a new level and has set the standard for how today’s professional athlete trains year-around in order to compete at an elite level. In addition to his high level of play, Chris’ experience and leadership are second-to-none. We’re very happy to have him signed to play in Detroit for another season.”
The deal is worth $850,000, plus incentives. Chelios earned the same base salary last season.
Chelios’ experience has been utilized by pairing him with a novice blue-line partner. During the regular season, Chelios was often alongside Brett Lebda -- a second-year player whose father was born in the same year as Chelios. When 21-year-old Kyle Quincey became a playoff regular because of injuries, he was most often paired with Chelios.
With Chelios – an unrestricted free agent -- on board, the Red Wings have five of their top seven defensemen of last season under contract. Lebda, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Andreas Lilja are all signed. Mathieu Schneider and Danny Markov are both unrestricted free agents.
Chelios ranked fifth among Detroit defensemen during the regular season in ice time, averaging 18:07 per game. Included among that time was a team-high 4:50 per game on the penalty-kill.
In the post-season, Chelios’ performance peaked. His ice time went up to 20:06 per game, ranking fourth among Detroit blue-liners. At 5:10, he remained the team’s most-used penalty-killer. And with Schneider sidelined with a broken wrist, Chelios averaged 1:22 of power-play time per game in the playoffs.
Chelios’ offensive production rose in the playoffs to seven points in 18 games and his plus-7 was second to Johan Franzen among Red Wings.
Despite being sixth among Red Wings in total playoff even-strength time on the ice, Chelios was on the ice for a team-high 11 even-strength goals scored and just five against.
Chelios holds the NHL record, having played in 22 post-seasons. He is one game shy of Patrick Roy’s record of 247 career playoff games.
Chelios has won three Norris Trophies (1989, 1993, 1996) as the NHL’s top defenseman. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is the only athlete to play 400 games for three different franchises: Montreal (402); Chicago (664); and Detroit (481).