Darren McCarty is back in the NHL, and a Grind Line reunion might not be far off.

The checking winger on Monday signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, three weeks after joining their American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., on a conditioning stint.

McCarty, 35, started the 2007-08 season with the International Hockey League's Flint Generals before signing a contract with the AHL Griffins on Feb. 4.

"Darren has earned this opportunity," said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. "He's made great strides in the past several months and we wanted to give him the chance to continue in hopes he can contribute to the Red Wings once again."

McCarty spent the past two years with the Calgary Flames following 11 seasons in Detroit, playing on three Stanley Cup-winning teams.

The native of Burnaby, B.C., was limited to 32 games in the 2006-07 campaign because of a back injury.

"It's a great story first of all," Red Wings winger Dan Cleary told CBCSports.ca reporter Doug Harrison, referring to McCarty's gambling, bankruptcy and substance-abuse problems in recent years. "It's a testament to where he's been and where he is now today, so that's a positive."

McCarty made a name for himself in Detroit on the popular Grind Line with Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby.

"We all know what he brings," said Cleary, currently sidelined with a broken jaw. "He brings grit, he battles and he's a winner. He'll be good in the locker room. Everybody speaks highly of him.

"I think he's going to bring us that jam that we need come the playoffs. Those are the kind of players that really make an impact."

Cleary cited the Anaheim Ducks' acquisition of Brad May in February 2007, a key move in the team's run to its first-ever Stanley Cup title.

"Brad May was a huge addition," Cleary said. "It might go unnoticed throughout the league but it certainly didn't against us [after a 4-2 series loss to Anaheim in the Western Conference final]."

In 742 career NHL games for the Red Wings and Flames, McCarty has 126 goals and 160 assists for 286 points.

Cleary said McCarty's arrival can only help a Red Wings club that has been decimated by injuries. Their top four defencemen — Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall — are sidelined along with goaltender Dominik Hasek.

Despite losing eight of its last nine games, Detroit continues to lead the NHL with a 42-17-5 record for 89 points.

With files from the Canadian Press