DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Red Wings attempted to address the departure of Pavel Datsyuk by agreeing with Frans Nielsen to a six-year, $31.5 million contract Friday in the opening hours of free agency.
''He's a centerman we needed after losing one in Pavel Datsyuk,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. ''We think he can play 200 feet, in all situations, including penalty killing and on the power play.''
Nielsen averaged 51 points over the last three years with the New York Islanders. The 32-year-old Nielsen, who is from Denmark, has scored 119 goals and added 230 assists over his decade in the NHL.
Thomas Vanek also agreed to a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Red Wings. The Minnesota Wild bought out the final year of Vanek's contract and following a disappointing two-year stint with the team.
''We're hoping that we've got a motivated athlete,'' Holland said.
The 32-year-old Austrian scored a career-low 18 goals last season, but has been a proven scorer in the past with 316 goals since Buffalo drafted him No. 3 overall in 2003 and he made his NHL debut two years later.
Forward Darren Helm and defenseman Alexey Marchenko agreed to deals with Detroit to stay with the team just before they would have been available on the market.
The Red Wings retained Helm with a five-year contract, counting $3.85 million against the salary cap each season. Helm had 13 goals and 26 points last season. He has 72 goals and 90 assists since making his debut during the 2007-08 season.
''As you watch the Stanley Cup playoffs, it re-emphasized the importance of speed, and that's something Darren has,'' Holland said. ''He's just 29 and we think he's going to have speed throughout the term of his deal. And, I'm told he took less money to stay. He's a homegrown player, a draft pick of ours, and we're glad to keep him because he's becoming a bit of a leader.''
The Red Wings are also keeping Marchenko for two more seasons, taking $1.45 million off their cap each year. Marchenko is coming off his first full season in the NHL. The Russian played in 66 games last season, scoring twice and adding nine assists.
Detroit desperately needed to add someone at center after Datsyuk decided he was done playing for the franchise and in the NHL. The Red Wings also added depth at the position later on the first day of free agency, agreeing to a one-year, $800,000 deal with Steve Ott. The 33-year-old Ott, coming off an injury-shortened season in St. Louis, has 106 career goals.
Datsyuk's agent, Dan Milstein, told The Associated Press on Friday afternoon that his client hadn't yet agreed to a deal to play in Russia next season. The Red Wings gained salary-cap relief by trading Datsyuk to the Arizona Coyotes a week ago. He has a year remaining on his contract and will count $7.5 million against Arizona's salary cap. Even though it is a formality, the Coyotes have not signed off on Datsyuk playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.