July 7, 2009Leino earns 2-year pact and full-time offensive role
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
In a mere 13 games with the Red Wings last season, forward Ville Leino managed to squeeze in five goals and four assists, showing just how at ease he is handling the puck.
Now he'll get much more of an opportunity to produce, as the Wings on Monday announced that Leino has been signed to a two-year deal worth $1.6 million -- $800,000 per year against the salary cap.
Leino's offensive skills will help offset the loss of Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson, who bolted last week during the opening days of free agency.
"We like Ville," general manager Ken Holland said. "In the 10-12 games he played with us, he played very, very well. He got in there a bit in the playoffs. He's got real good hockey sense, he hangs onto the puck in the offensive zone, has good instincts."
Leino, 25, scored in his first NHL game, debuting with the Wings on Jan. 31 at Washington. It was the start of a run that saw him pile up nine points and a plus-five rating while with the Wings during the regular season.
He made seven appearances in the playoffs, producing two assists while tucked away on the fourth line. Leino had 15 goals and 46 points in 57 games with Grand Rapids, then led the Griffins in scoring during their playoff run with three goals and 13 points in 10 games.
The Wings brought Leino into their fold in May 2008, when they signed him as an unrestricted free agent (he was never drafted by an NHL team). He lit up the Finnish league with 78 points in 55 games in 2007-08, winning the Lasse Oksanen trophy as the league's best player that season.
Leino had an impressive camp last fall but went to Grand Rapids because the Wings didn't have room on their roster for him.
He'll be a full-time player with the Wings from now on, likely a third-line winger who'll also take some shifts on a top offensive line.http://freep.com/article/20090707/SPORT ... sive+role+