Originally written on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 11/6/11

Last Monday, the Detroit Red Wings signed Niklas Kronwall to a seven-year contract extension. NHLHS Correspondent Christina Roberts looks at the contract, how it compares with other defensemen, and what it means for the Red Wings.

Let’s leave the “What’s wrong with the Detroit Red Wings?” question at the door right now before we even start. That’s another article completely.

Many Red Wings fans were given good news on Halloween when the turned on their computers and went online and/or opened up the sports section of a newspaper and saw that Ken Holland worked his magic again:

Niklas Kronwall remains a Red Wings defenseman for seven more years.

And why wouldn’t he? He was given the title of “Alternate Captain” this season, swapping out with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Red Wings need that physical kind of force on their ranks, and keeping Kronwall around is a smart move. Plus, with Nicklas Lidstrom on his way out at some point in the future, the team needs some defensemen on which they can rely and not have to worry about re-signing every other year.

Kronwall signed for seven years, $33.25 million; at thirty years of age, this lengthy contract pretty much guarantees he’ll be wearing a Winged Wheel for his entire career, unless otherwise traded. His contract gets a little tricky. The salary cap hit will be $4.75 million, but the breakdown is more intricate than that (naturally).

2012-13 sees him making $4.25 million. The following three seasons, he ears $6 million, then $5.5 million in 2016-17, and the last two years of his contract will be $3.5 million and $1.75million.

Kronwall will earn $4.25 million in 2012-13 and $6 million in each of the next three seasons. He’ll make $5.5 million in 2016-17 and $3.5 million and $1.75 million, respectively, the final two years of the deal.

With a cap hit of $4.25 million, it puts him in the same ranks as Chris Pronger, Kevin Bieksa, Mike Komisarek, Dan Hamhuis, Jack Johnson, and Tomas Kaberle, to name only a handful.

So how does Niklas Kronwall compare statistically with these other defensemen?

Firstly, he’s always been fairly prone to lengthy injuries (one to two months of the season); the 2008-2009 season only saw him missing two games and getting 51 points and 50 PIMs. 2010-11, he only missed five games and hit 47 points and 36 PIMs. Twelve games into the season, he has two goals and two assists, though let’s not forget the Red Wings went through a six-game slump of only scoring six goals total.

Now let’s compare these stats to some of the previously mentioned defensemen. Kronwall’s stats are fairly similar to Pronger’s, if you can believe it. However, Pronger has come close in several recent seasons to hitting sixty points whereas Kronwall still struggles to hit fifty. Last season, Pronger only played fifty games, but still scraped up 25 points, almost identical to Kronwall’s 48 game, 22-point season.

Against a player like Bieksa, Kronwall has more offensive output (and a lot fewer penalties), with Bieksa’s highest offensive season coming in 2008-9 with 43 points. The same goes with comparing him to Komisarek and Hamhuis.

Kronwall is also pretty identical to Jack Johnson, both in offensive output and penalties. They both get around 35 to 45 points per season and hit somewhere around 40 PIMS.

His comparison to Kaberle is very similar to that of Pronger. Kaberle hits anywhere between forty and sixty points per season while keeping his penalties to a minumum. One thing is for sure, Kaberle really hasn’t missed a majority of a season like Kronwall has in the past. But if the Swede can stay healthy and aggressive, anything is possible.

Now after comparing all of these stats, would you find it strange to compare Kronwall’s output to Pronger’s output? People usually rank Pronger up there with Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, and Shea Weber, but Kronwall gets lost in the mix, and is usually only known for his bone-crunching hits. Well, it all started from the scouting level…

As Hakan Andersson, the director of European scouting for the Red Wings, once said, “I know one scout who tried to bring up Niklas Kronwall’s name with his team. They just laughed at him. They never even had a serious dialogue. They just stopped him. They said ‘a 5-11 Swedish defenceman?’ [The Red Wings] organization is more open-minded than that.”

But the Red Wings like their players to be under the radar and overlooked.

Christina Roberts
NHLHS Detroit Red Wings Correspondent
Twitter: @franzenmuth
Email: christina.roberts@nhlhotstove.com

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