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December 18, 2003 - Despite agent's presence, Lidstrom, Draper not close to signing new deals
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Despite agent's presence, Lidstrom, Draper not close to signing new deals

Thursday, December 18, 2003

By Ansar Khan

DETROIT -- When agent Don Meehan was spotted outside the office of Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland Wednesday morning it fueled speculation that Nicklas Lidstrom or Kris Draper could be close to signing a new contract.

Not so, said Meehan. He insisted he came in from Toronto just to see a few of his other clients on the San Jose Sharks, though he still found time to have lunch with Holland.

Just how close the Wings are to signing Lidstrom or Draper is unclear, but getting the pair locked up to long-term deals is among Holland's top priorities this season. Both are among several Wings in the final year of their contracts.

Holland began talks with Meehan on a new deal for Lidstrom, who earns $10 million this season, months ago.

Draper, who makes $1.35 million this season, is playing the best hockey of his career. He'll likely get a deal similar to his wingers on the Grind Line. Kirk Maltby signed for four years at $7.6 million last season and Darren McCarty inked a four-year, $8.7 million pact last summer.

The Wings would also like to get Tomas Holmstrom ($1.45 million) signed before the end of the season. Other players who are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer include Mathieu Schneider, Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek and Steve Yzerman.

Yzerman said there's a chance he could return to the lineup Friday or Saturday after missing six games with a slightly torn groin muscle.

'It still feels pretty good so I'm not too concerned. I haven't had any setbacks,' Yzerman said. 'Both Ray (Whitney) and Dom (Hasek) have come back and had to go back out. So I'm taking a little more cautious approach to not reaggravate it.'

The team has gone 5-0-0-1 in his absence, so there's no rush to get back.

'There's less urgency,' Yzerman said. 'If you're struggling, you have to try to get as many guys back as quick as you can.'

Chris Chelios is mourning the death of fellow Blackhawk alum Keith Magnuson and plans to attend his funeral Saturday in Chicago. Magnuson died Monday in a three-car accident in which Rob Ramage, another former NHL player, broke his leg and faces charges of impaired driving. 'I've done a lot of charity work with (Magnuson) over the years through Coca-Cola and our alumni in Chicago and grew up watching him,' Chelios said. 'I feel terrible for his family. I feel bad for Rob Ramage and his family as well.' . . . Jiri Hudler will fly to Helsinki, Finland, today to play in the World Junior Championships for the third time. This time the 19-year-old center will serve as captain of the Czech Republic. 'It's a great experience because now he's going back as the go-to guy in all situations and there will be a lot of pressure on him,' Wings associate coach Barry Smith said. 'He's looking forward to it. Here he's just lucky to get on the ice and get a shift.' . . . Mathieu Dandenault returned after missing one game because of the flu. He remained at forward. Kevin Miller was Detroit's lone healthy scratch.