Fedorov signs with Ducks

Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2003

LOS ANGELES Sergei Fedorov figured it was time for a change. So he's heading to California.

Fedorov signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Saturday, leaving Detroit after 13 seasons to reunite with general manager Bryan Murray, his first NHL coach.

The free-agent center helped the Red Wings win three Stanley Cups, but two weeks ago his agent Pat Brisson said Fedorov wouldn't return to Detroit next season.

''I do not have any bitterness leaving Detroit. I enjoyed my years in Detroit,'' Fedorov said by telephone from Moscow. ''I'm going to miss the fans. They were great to me.

''It's been a wonderful ride, but everybody in life at some point has to change direction or place or time, and this is absolutely normal for me to change and move on. I'm excited to take on a new challenge.''

The deal with Anaheim has two years guaranteed, and the final three are at Fedorov's option, Mighty Ducks spokes-man Alex Gilchrist said.

The Red Wings had offered Fedorov the same amount of money, but over four years. The looming expiration of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement in September 2004 affected Fedorov.

''I got into free agency at a bad time with CBA expiring,'' Fedorov said. ''It was a very big struggle with Detroit. If we didn't have the CBA expiring, I don't think Detroit would have tried to sign me so quickly.''

The six-time All-Star had 36 goals and 47 assists for a team-leading 83 points last season with the Red Wings. Fedorov won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP in 1994 and twice was named the league's best defensive forward.

''He's one of the best defensive players in hockey,'' Murray said. ''He loves to make plays, but defensively he does the job as well as anyone. He's a strong, hardworking guy. This guy can play for a number of years.''

The 33-year-old Fedorov has 400 goals and 554 assists in his NHL career all with Detroit. He helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

''I would like to thank Sergei for his 13 years with the Detroit Red Wings and wish him well in the future,'' Detroit general manager Ken Holland said in a statement. ''We worked very hard over the past eight months to keep Sergei in Detroit, and we are disappointed he did not choose to remain a Red Wing, but in the end it was simply not meant to be.''

Fedorov admitted that, if his free agency had come up a few years ago, he probably would have re-signed with Detroit. The Ducks were one of the league's doormats during most of their 10-year existence.

However, he said Anaheim became an attractive choice because the Ducks reached the Stanley Cup finals in June, losing to New Jersey in seven games, and he could play under Murray, who coached him when he began his NHL career in 1990.

The Ducks swept the defending champion Red Wings in the first round last season.

''It's not a fluke they went to the finals. They went to Game 7, that tells you they have great players,'' Fedorov said. ''I believe they have very demanding standards.''

The addition of Fedorov will make up for the loss of star left wing Paul Kariya, who left to sign as a free agent with Colorado after he wasn't offered a qualifying contract.

Kariya's departure freed up money for the Ducks to sign free agents, including former Tampa Bay star forward Vinny Prospal, who had 22 goals and 57 assists last season.

''Sergei is a great assist guy, he's a great speed guy. He's one of the most entertaining players in the league,'' said Murray, who believes the Ducks' younger players will develop more quickly playing on a line with Fedorov.

Detroit right wing Darren McCarty said the move is a big loss for the Red Wings.

''He's one of the most talented guys in the league,'' he said. ''You're going to lose that player, that ability to change the game by himself.''

But he said the deal probably was the best thing for Fedorov.

''I think he just felt he needed a new start ... get out in L.A., which is more his speed,'' he said. ''It wasn't about money so much, it had to be about (job) security.''

Fedorov said it was difficult leaving a group of players in Detroit that had become family to him.

''I was trying to sign with Detroit, but every time I came close, we weren't able to reach some kind of agreement,'' he said. ''To reach a deal, both sides got to walk out happy. One of the sides were not satisfied.''

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