Being a Detroit Red Wing is more important to forward Dan Cleary than adding numbers to his paycheque.
The 15-year National Hockey League veteran on Thursday chose to remain in Detroit on a one-year contract worth $1.75 million US rather than sign a professional tryout (PTO) contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 34-year-old Cleary, who made $3 million last season, met with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday and told the Detroit News in a text message he would arrive at the team’s training camp Thursday evening in Traverse City, Mich.
"He wants to be a Red Wing, he loves the Red Wings, he loves being a Red Wing," Holland told the Detroit News. "He knows his role. He’s made a home in Detroit. He knows his teammates. He’s been here since 2005."
Cleary was second in Red Wings’ scoring in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs with four goals and 10 points in 14 games and played a strong physical game.
Last season, Cleary was one of four Detroit players to appear in all 48 regular-season games but it was the right-winger’s least productive, in terms of points-per-game (0.31), since 2005-06 (0.19).
The six-foot, 208-pounder also has played for Chicago, Edmonton and Phoenix. A 13th overall draft pick of the Blackhawks in 1997, Cleary won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.
According to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, Philadelphia reportedly was prepared to sign Cleary to a three-year, $8.25-million contract.
The Flyers, Friedman added, included Cleary in their training camp lineup for Thursday morning.
With Cleary on board, the Red Wings will need to make some roster decisions as they have 16 forwards at training camp and plan to keep 14. They are also about $640,000 over the $64.3 million salary cap.
"Pretty well everybody here believes we’re a better team if he’s on our team," said Holland of Cleary.
Prior to the start of unrestricted free agency on July 5, Detroit reportedly offered Cleary a three-year deal worth about $6 million.
Cleary rejected that offer and the Red Wings moved on, signing forwardsDaniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss.
"I wanted to retain [Cleary]," Holland told the News. "The manager wants him back, the coach wants him back, all of the players want him back. He’s a leader in the locker room. He’s a good pro. He’s versatile."