Wings land free agent Frans Nielsen on 6-year deal

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Frans Nielsen

Detroit – The Red Wings have signed unrestricted free agent center Frans Nielsen to a six-year contract worth $31.5 million. The average annual value of the contract and the salary cap hit will be $5.25 million.

Nielsen, 32, played in 81 games with the New York Islanders last season and he had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists). Nielsen has been with the Islanders his entire 10-year NHL career. He was drafted by the Islanders in the third round, No. 87 overall, in 2002.

Two seasons ago, Nielsen had career highs with 25 goals and 33 assists (58 points).

“I wanted to try something new, play for a new team and for new coaches,” Nielsen said on the NHL Network, shortly after signing with the Wings. “See something else.”

The big attraction to the Red Wings, said Nielsen, was his ability to play with good, all-around players on all four lines.

“I can play with good players up and down the lineup,” Nielsen said. “I like the mix of young and old.”

Nielsen, from Denmark, is a good playmaker, a heady passer who is known to make his linemates better.

Nielsen can play both special teams, and is a good defensive player.

The drawbacks are his size – Nielsen isn’t a physical force, being 6-foot-1, 188-pounds – and he can be frustrating in that he doesn’t shoot the puck much. Last season he had a career-high 181 shots and a shooting percentage of 11.1. His career shooting percentage is 10.3.

The Red Wings went with Nielsen after players such as Milan Lucic (Edmonton), Kyle Okposo (Buffalo), Loui Eriksson (Vancouver) and Troy Brouwer (Calgary) all signed elsewhere.

Krupa: Nielsen fills big hole, but he’s not Datsyuk of old

The Red Wings were busy Friday morning, also, re-signing forward Darren Helm and defenseman Alexey Marchenko.

In 66 games last season, Marchenko, a restricted free agent, scored 11 points (two goals, nine assists) with a minus-5 rating.

Earlier Friday, the Wings brought back Helm, a potential unrestricted free agent, on a five-year contract worth $19.25 million, just hours before the official start of free agency at noon.

As for the other restricted free agents besides Marchenko, the Red Wings still have goalie Petr Mrazek, defenseman Danny DeKeyser and forward Teemu Pulkkinen to re-sign.

Wings bring back Helm for 5 years, $19.25M