Detroit — When Dominik Kubalik was a youngster in Czechia he’d go over his grandfather’s house and they’d watch Red Wings VHS tapes of the 2002 Stanley Cup-winning season.
Goaltender Dominik Hasek was a national Czech hero and was a key member of the Wings’ Hall of Fame-laden team.
Kubalik thought about those days after signing a two-year contract Wednesday with the Wings worth $5 million ($2.5 million per cap hit), and the memories.
“It’s kind of funny, it gives me goosebumps now when I go over there and he was talking about it (Wednesday),” Kubalik said Thursday during a Zoom media session. “It’s pretty cool to be part of it. It’s an organization with huge history.”
The Wings see Kubalik as someone with big upside on a reasonable contract.
Kubalik, 26, has dropped from 30 to 17 to 15 goals in his three NHL seasons in Chicago, and the Blackhawks decided to not extend a qualifying offer to him this week, making Kubalik an unrestricted free agent.
Joining the Wings, Kubalik said, is a fresh start.
“Every season it’s a new start; you can get better, you learn some things, there’s always something you can do better,” Kubalik said. “Even from my first season, if I wanted to stay and produce the same way, I needed to do some things better, and I was trying to make those steps, especially defensively.
“Right now I can see a clean table, a fresh start and fresh mind, and for it’s going to be helpful. When I found out an offer wasn’t going to be there (from Chicago) my hope was someone still believed in me and gave me a chance, which happened.”
Kubalik feels the Wings, especially with the moves in free agency, want to make a big step forward in the standings.
“I remember from last year they really did, and it was hard to play against (them),” Kubalik said. “I’m excited to fit in and help the team do that step. That’s the first thing in my head right now.
“They’re a fast team and they skated a lot, which is my game, too. I felt they were faster than us last year and in today’s hockey it’s all about quickness and whoever is faster has the better opportunity (to win).”
Kubalik played on a line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad his rookie season, when he scored 30 goals. But Saad left after that first season, and Toews didn’t play at all in Kubalik’s second season because of health issues.
Last season was an uphill climb for the Blackhawks from the start, and Kubalik was part of the struggle.
“From the beginning we had the losing streak and it’s usually hard to get back and get it going,” Kubalik said. “This is fresh start, I’m excited about the opportunity, and hopefully it’ll be the same start as in Chicago.”
Kubalik spent 40 minutes Thursday morning talking with Filip Hronek, and Kubalik knows Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina, also fellow Czechs, from the national team.
“It’s always helpful when you don’t know things, you can ask somebody,” Kubalik said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Maatta thrilled to join Wings
When defenseman Olli Maatta views the Wings currently, he sees similarities to the Los Angeles Kings, a rebuilding team who took a big step forward this past season.
Maatta left the Kings to join the Wings on Wednesday, signing a one-year contract worth $2.25 million.
“You see some of the players they already had before free agency started, and adding some big pieces, it’s a great p lace and exciting times,” Maatta said. “You can definitely see it, they’re up and coming and they want to be contenders and I want to be part of it.”
Maatta, who’ll be 28 in August, has been known as a defensive defenseman throughout his nine-year career. But Maatta feels he can contribute in other ways, as well.
“I have more offense in my game, more than in the last couple of years, and it’s definitely something I’ve been working on,” said Maatta, whose extensive playoff experience with Pittsburgh should be a benefit to a young team. “I hope so, but when you come to a new team you want to be yourself and just try to fit in and find your spot and just fit in well.”
Los Angeles teammates Andreas Athanasiou and Troy Stecher, both former Wings, gave Maatta glowing reports on the Wings organization.
“Nothing but good things to say, organization- and team-wise,” Maatta said. “My agent said there were teams that were available, but to be honest, there was nothing bad about Detroit and it was all great things, and how exciting the team is, and they definitely want to be a contender.
“It felt right.”
Signing with the Wings also gives Maatta an opportunity to meet Nicklas Lidstrom, a player Maatta admired growing up.
“He was such a good player, everything he did, he did it right,” Maatta said. “The best defenseman (ever), or at least right up there, and he didn’t do anything flashy but every little thing he did, all the details in his game, he was just a great player.
“He’s a great player for everybody to watch and learn and how to play the game the right way.”
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Pysyk signs with Wings
The Wings signed defenseman Mark Pysyk on Thursday to a one-year contract worth $850,000.
Pysyk, 30, is a veteran of 10 NHL seasons and has suited up in 521 games, totaling 104 points (28 goals, 76 assists ) and 162 penalty minutes between the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars.
Pysyk (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) returned to Buffalo last season after spending his first five NHL seasons there, and played in 68 games with 12 points (three goals, nine assists).
Pysyk was originally drafted by Buffalo, a 2010 first-round pick (23rd overall).