Yzerman Back for 21st Year With Wingsfan Favorite is Closing a 1-year, $6 Million Deal With Incentives

Steve Yzerman’s 21st season with the Red Wings is all but signed, sealed and delivered.

Yzerman told the Free Press late Monday that he hadn’t signed a contract yet but “negotiations on the major issues are pretty much done. There’s just some details that we have to work out.”

Hockeytown’s Captain is so close to signing that a close friend, TV analyst Darren Pang, reported on EPSN.com that Yzerman and the Wings had agreed to a one-year deal with a base salary of $6 million. If incentives were reached, the contract would equal the $8 million that Yzerman made last season, when off-season knee surgery limited him to 16 games.

How would Pang know? For starters, he is close enough to Yzerman that after the Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2002, he left Joe Louis Arena in Yzerman’s Range Rover. Yzerman drove; his wife, Lisa, rode shotgun; and Pang, a former goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks, sat in the backseat, next to the Cup.

On Monday, Pang was at Yzerman’s elbow again. The Captain told the rest of the story:

“It’s kinda weird the way this all happened. I’m up vacationing in Canada and I was golfing with Darren Pang and he got a phone call from someone at ESPN.com saying there was a report that I had signed a contract. They didn’t know he was sitting right next to me. He turned to me and said, ‘Is that true?’ And I said, ‘No.’ But the report had a lot of details about the contract, so I figured somebody told somebody something.

“Anyhow, I haven’t signed anything formally yet. Logistically, it’s a bit difficult since Kenny (Holland) is out West and I’m up here and other people are elsewhere. So we’re just faxing each other.”

General manager Ken Holland did not return a call, but Wings spokesman John Hahn said: “We’re making progress, but agreement on a contract has not been completed.”

Asked when his contract could be finished, Yzerman said: “Anytime between the end of this week and September. It’s just the logistics. The language just needs to be worked out. And it will be.”

Holland, in an interview Sunday with the Free Press, sounded as confident a deal would be completed soon. “Steve and I have talked personally over the past week, and we’ve made very good progress,” Holland said. “We’re going to get it done.”

Yzerman, who turned 38 in May, had two goals and six assists last season after missing almost five months recovering from realignment surgery on his right knee. His comeback, which yielded one assist in four playoff games, earned him the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

His return for next season — which never was in doubt even though he became an unrestricted free agent July 1 — helps shore up the Wings at center. They lost Sergei Fedorov via unrestricted free agency to the Mighty Ducks over the weekend.

Yzerman said he wasn’t shocked that Fedorov left after 13 seasons with the Wings. “I thought Anaheim was a possible place,” he said, “even before they lost (Paul) Kariya, just because Bryan Murray is the GM there and he knew Sergei from his time here.”

The Wings would like the option of playing Yzerman on the wing because it’s easier on his knee, and they remain hopeful of acquiring a center for one of the top two lines in return for trading goaltender Curtis Joseph.

Yzerman has spent his entire NHL career with Detroit, scoring 660 goals among 1,670 points in 1,378 games and leading the team to three Stanley Cups.

Contact HELENE ST. JAMES at 313-222-2295 or stjames@freepress.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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