Traverse City — Daniel Cleary is remaining in the Red Wings organization.
Cleary, 37, signed a one-year contract Friday with the minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Red Wings are viewing Cleary as more of a mentor, almost a player-coach, which is fine with Cleary.
“I’m looking forward to going down there and working with the guys, playing, and hanging out and making sure I’m a good role model,” Cleary said.
Dan Cleary on why he stayed with the Red Wings.
Cleary played in 35 games with the Griffins last season scoring three goals with 12 assists, and was credited with helping develop prospects such as Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha, among others.
“It was a great experience to go down there and work with young players,” Cleary said. “My goal is to be a good leader for these guys and help them become great Red Wings.
“I love the Red and White. I’ve seen huge strides in a lot of these young players that have come up here and will become good Red Wings for a long time.”
Coach Jeff Blashill feels Cleary is an important veteran to have on the Griffins roster.
Dan Cleary talks about staying in the Red Wings' system.
“Dan Cleary did a real good job from all accounts, from all people I spoke to,” Blashill said. “Of being a real good mentor, of helping guys, helping players learn how to handle the daily pressures of being a pro.
“There’s just so many things they go through. He’s lived it. He’s been on a lot of different situations in pro hockey. He’s been at the top, where he was a go-to player, he’s been a third- or fourth-line player. He’s somebody that can help the situation.”
Cleary, incidentally, was sporting a cut that required 14 stitches on his face during a workout at Joe Louis Arena.
“I should have retired effective last week,” Cleary said.
The Red Wings also signed restricted free agent defenseman Ryan Sproul to a two-year contract.
Sproul and Xavier Ouellet are battling for the seventh defenseman spot.
Both defensemen are out of minor league options and could be exposed to waivers if they don’t make the NHL roster.
Sproul, 23, is on a two-way contract the first year. The second year is a one-way NHL contract worth $650,000 (he’ll make $600,000 if he’s in the NHL this season).
Sproul has good size (6-foot-4, 205-pounds) and is a mobile, right-handed shooting defenseman.
“It’s nice, it’s been a long time obviously coming,” said Sproul of the signing. “I was looking forward to signing something. It’s very important this year, I’ve said it before, they’re looking for guys to step up in this camp and that’s my goal, to step up and make it hard for them to send me down.”
Dylan Larkin returned to Traverse City Friday after North America was eliminated in the World Cup of Hockey.
Blashill expects Justin Abdelkader and Petr Mrazek to rejoin the Red Wings early next week.
Alexey Marchenko (Russia), Frans Nielsen, Tomas Tatar and Thomas Vanek (all Europe) are still participating this weekend in the semifinals.
“Overall they all seem to have played pretty good,” said Blashill, who’ll take it easy on those players returning. “I won’t use them the first week of preseason at all. I’ll use them the second week in a little bit of feel where they are injury-wise, what kind of bumps and bruises they have.
“With Abby, he knows what we’re doing. But we want to make sure they’re mentally fresh, too.”