July 17, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Daniel Cleary motivated by Red Wings fans' disapproval of his return

Danny Cleary, injured much of last season, has finished with 30 or more points in six of his seven season with the Red Wings. (David Guralnick)

Detroit — Daniel Cleary doesn’t live on social media.

And that might be a good thing.

Since last week, social media have been ablaze with fans dumbfounded by the Red Wings re-signing the forward to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million (with the potential for $1 million in bonuses).

“That’s just the way it is these days,” Cleary said. “There are going to be opinions on everything. You can’t let it affect you, and I don’t.

“People are going to say whatever they want, and especially about pro sports. You can’t let it get to you.”

Cleary doesn’t.

But don’t think for a second it doesn’t add a bit more fuel to Cleary’s offseason workouts as he hopes to rebound from a disappointing season (eight points, four goals, 52 games) cut short by a knee injury.

“You want to prove people wrong,” said Cleary, who is working with Plymouth-based trainer Mike Barwis. “My main objective is get healthy and play the way I know I can. Last year was a tough year.”

Cleary was an unsigned free agent as teams headed to training camp last season. But as camps began, he had an offer from the Panthers and a tryout with the Flyers, who also were pitching a three-year deal worth $8.25 million.

But nothing felt as right.

“I’m a Red Wing, and I wanted to be part of this organization,” Cleary said.

So, Cleary flew to Traverse City and met with general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock, and agreed to a deal.

And there was a promise by the Red Wings the sides would work something out this summer, too.

“He’s a player the coaches and his teammates like, and wanted him back,” Holland said. “He’s one of the leaders.”

So, Holland is living up to his end of the deal. But he also believes Cleary can rebound and be the versatile, productive player he had been.

“Dan had a tough season,” Holland said. “But he’s working hard, and we’re hopeful he’ll bounce back.”

Cleary was thankful for the opportunity to return — this will be his 10th season with the Red Wings — and an opportunity at a “bounce-back” year, a term Cleary uses often.

He also understands a spot in lineup isn’t a given. He essentially could be the 14th forward on a roster to start the season.

“But that’s always the way it is, there’s always competition,” Cleary said.

“Mike has always been consistent about that, about using who is playing well. Nothing will change.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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