A look back at recent Red Wings’ free agent busts

Red Wings' owner Mike Ilitch greets Mike Modano after signing him as a free agent.

Red Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch greets Mike Modano after signing him as a free agent.

Free-agent acquisitions Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss have missed time with groin injuries.

This is what some of us feared with Alfie, being 40-years old. Weiss, however, is another story. He was failing to produce prior to his injury and has the makings of a colossal bust. Then again, he is still relatively young, and will likely turn it around to make that five year, $30-million look reasonable …

Right?

Let’s hope.

They both remind us of a few big-name free agents who didn’t meet our expectations:

MIKE MODANO
It had the makings of a movie script. The Michigan native signs a one-year, $1.25-million deal in August of 2010 to come to his hometown team and win a Stanley Cup.

But fate wasn’t on the side of Modano, who was a shadow of his wonderful years in Dallas when he would wheel behind his net and blaze out of the zone.

In November of 2010, Modano took a skate to the arm and severed tendons in a game against Columbus. He missed three months and produced these stats in 40 games: four goals, 11 assists, minus-4.

He was healthy in the postseason, but was scratched for nine of 11 playoff games.

Some Wings fans never accepted Modano in Detroit after all those years as an arch-rival. Amid the Wings’ dynasty in the late 1990s, Modano ripped Sergei Fedorov’s manhood by saying Anna Kournikova made him tougher. And when Modano retired, he made a mockery of the Wings’ team plane. It’s not a big deal to rip a plane, of course, but the criticism of the organization showed his heart is stamped with a star, not a wheeled wing.

DERIAN HATCHER
In July of 2003, the Wings signed the bruising 6-foot-5, 235-pound Hatcher to a five year, $30-million deal. It was a signing so loved by owner Mike Ilitch, he said this at the press conference to the Detroit News: “We’ve had pretty dramatic signings in our career here, but this one here takes the cake, as far as I’m concerned.”

Three months prior, the Wings suffered a shocking sweep at the hands of Mike Babcock’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks. And the day before Hatcher’s signing, Sergei Fedorov announced he would be ending a 13-year run in Detroit.

All that considered, the Wings were still ecstatic about their Cup chances by adding Hatcher alongside Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, veteran Chris Chelios and 6-foot-5 Jiri Fischer.

“All of a sudden, it’s a lot harder to play against us in our own zone,” Wings coach Dave Lewis told SI.com. “You have to respect us more.”

Except Hatcher didn’t last long. He tore his ACL in an October game against Vancouver when he became tangled with Markus Naslund and Bryan Allen. He came back in March, perhaps too soon, and finished the regular season with 15 games.

As the postseason neared, Hatcher clearly did not have the same power in his right leg and was a liability in a second-round exit to Calgary, a series that ended in a 1-0 Game 6 overtime loss. For reasons some of us will never understand, Lewis played Hatcher 34 minutes when he was clearly hobbled.

The game-winning goal occurred when Hatcher failed to clear a loose puck atop the crease, which allowed Craig Conroy to get a shot on Wings goalie Curtis Joseph. The rebound slipped between Hatcher’s legs, directly to Calgary’s Martin Gelinas, who stuffed it into a wide-open net with 46.9 seconds left to eliminate the Wings.

He never played another game in Detroit. The following year was wiped away by the NHL lockout, and the final seasons of Hatcher’s contract were bought out.

UWE KRUPP
This was one of the most bizarre cases ever seen in the history of Detroit sports. It entailed a stalking in Montana, an alleged lying private investigator hired by the Wings, two suspensions totaling 722 days, a fax to Krupp’s ex-wife in Germany, a player absent from Joe Louis Arena for two seasons, and a $12.3 million contact dispute all while he was trying to get back on the Wings roster.
You would expect this from the Lions, not the Original Six franchise with banners hanging in the rafters.

It started in July of 1998 when Krupp — a previous member of the enemy Colorado Avalanche — signed a 4-year, $16.4 million deal with the Wings. It appeared the Wings finally landed that “big defenseman” the fans desperately coveted for years.
But Krupp had a reoccurring injury strike early in his Wings’ tenure — disc herniation degeneration, which creates foot numbness, imbalance and limits strength of skating. He played his final game of the 1998-99 season in December.

Two weeks later, he was dogsledding, which drew the ire of Wings management.

Krupp, and dog-racing experts, however, will point out that there’s no stress on the back in the event. Disabled war veterans and a 60-year old woman with two artificial knees participate in dog sledding, so why can’t Krupp?

According to the Detroit Free Press, while Krupp was at his Montana home in July of 1999, someone representing the Wings pulled up in a Ford Taurus and asked Krupp to sign a letter, authorizing a lawyer to examine medical records, driving records, sheriff’s records and insurance claims.

“It says they need this information to design a rehab program,” Krupp recalled to Mitch Albom. “This doesn’t sound right to me. First of all, the letter isn’t even on Red Wings stationery. Besides, why does anyone need all that to create a rehab program?

“So I called the players association. And they said, ‘Are you crazy? Don’t sign anything like that.'”

Krupp did not sign – and was suspended a few weeks later for not providing medical records. He was then suspended again for the act of dogsledding, which the Wings believed was a violation of his contract.

The rest of the details are part of a dizzying story involving Wings lawyers and Krupp’s lawyers, and two crazy stories about private investigators allegedly hired by the Wings to discover details on Krupp.

Many believe the Wings tried to find a loophole because Krupp’s contract was never insured, a colossal goof by Wings management considering his history of injuries. Thus, they tried to exploit dogsledding as an excuse to recuperate $12.3 million that they would have to pay out of their own pocket.

Here’s how the wildness finished: Krupp made the Wings roster in training camp for the 2001-’02 season, played two games, missed six months with an injury and returned for six regular season games in April. He was a minus-5 as the Wings fell into a 2-0 hole to Vancouver, sat the rest of the postseason and was not engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Oh, and Krupp received half of an $8.2 million grievance for the years he was wrongfully suspended (1999-2000 and 2000-2001).

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