The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Jonathan Ericsson to a $25.5 million, six-year contract Wednesday to keep him off the market in July.
''He would've been tough to lose in free agency,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. ''This was a big priority because in a two-year period, we lost Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart. We couldn't afford to lose Big E, too.''
Detroit drafted Ericsson with the last pick in the 2002 NHL draft, 291st overall, and he has played in 292 games since making his debut in the league during the 2007-08 season. He averaged 20-plus minutes a game last season for the first time in his career, which previously included sitting and watching defensemen such as Lidstrom, Rafalski and Stuart play a lot more.
''He had a tremendous opportunity last year as one of our top defensemen for the first time and he took full advantage of it,'' Holland said. ''When we played Chicago and Anaheim in the playoffs, he played against their best offensive players. Big E is a big guy who is really mobile and has developed into a player we count on in a lot of situations.''
The 29-year-old Ericsson has 14 goals, 62 points and a plus-14 rating entering Wednesday night's game against the Boston Bruins over at least parts of seven NHL seasons. The Swede has five goals and 16 points in 64 postseason games. He had 13 points - two shy of his career high - in 45 games last season during the lockout-shortened slate. Ericsson is in the third and final season of a three-year contract he signed in the summer of 2011