Marian Hossa turned down long-term money for a chance to win the Stanley Cup and isn't about to second guess his decision just because the economy is falling apart.
The 29-year-old winger left the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent only a few weeks after their six-game Cup final loss to Detroit to jump camps and sign a US$7.45 million one-year contract with the Red Wings on July 2.
He turned down a multi-year offer from the Penguins and is reported to have rejected an $81 million, nine-year offer from the Edmonton Oilers for what he felt was his best chance to win a championship.
But then came the credit crunch, falling stock prices, rising unemployment and the very real chance that NHL clubs will have fewer dollars to throw around for the next batch of unrestricted free agents in July.
"I know the economy is not great now, but no regrets," Hossa said Thursday on a conference call. "I came here to Detroit for one reason and that was to go all the way.
"We'll see at the end of the year if it was the right step, but for now, it's been a great experience - winning and playing for a great team. That's what I was looking for."
The Wings have certainly gotten what they paid for.
After 27 games, the Slovak right-winger leads the team with 29 points, including 15 goals, and is plus-10 on a club that is 19-4-4 and holds a nine-point lead over Chicago in the Central Division.
The feeling at the moment is that the NHL won't suffer greatly this season because more than 70 per cent of season ticket and sponsorship revenue has already been collected, and that the $56.7 million salary cap should stay close to the same for 2009-10, although it could drop the following season.
But some teams are already selling tickets at discounts and the mega-million dollar deals spanning eight or more years may be harder to land.
Then again, if anyone gets a big-dollar contract next July, chances are it will be Hossa, and perhaps Florida defenceman Jay Bouwmeester.
"There are quite a few players that have to sign," said Hossa. "And it all depends on the cap, whether it goes down or stays up.
"There are a few things to figure out."
There is always the chance that Hossa will stay in Detroit, where general manager Ken Holland has a knack for convincing stars to take a little less than market value for the chance to win a Stanley Cup.
He has three key players eligible for free agency on July 1 - Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen - and is expected to be able to sign only two of them.
Hossa is certainly enjoying his stay in the Motor City, even as the economic engines sputter in the auto industry.
"So far it's been great," he said. "I know expectations are high, but that also raises your game.
"I try to raise my game to play with great players. It's fun."
It the fourth stop in Hossa's NHL career, which began in 1998-99 in Ottawa. He was dealt to Atlanta in August, 2005 in the trade that brought Dany Heatley to the Senators.
At the NHL trade deadline last winter, Hossa looked to be headed to Montreal when Pittsburgh grabbed him with an offer of forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a first-round draft pick.
It turned out to be merely a rental, although Hossa shed any notion that he is a post-season underachiever with 12 goals and 14 assists in 20 playoff games for Pittsburgh, including seven points against the Red Wings in the final.
Somewhere in that series, he saw a better chance of winning the Cup in Detroit than in Pittsburgh, despite the Penguins' clutch of young talent like Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury.
"Detroit has been one of the best teams for many years," he said. "Nothing but winning is acceptable.
"It's been a great experience for me. We go into every game expecting to win. It's a great feeling."
Hossa and his regular centre Pavel Datsyuk both skipped practice on Thursday. Hossa said it was not serious and that he went for treatment because he felt "a little tight in the groin."
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