EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – From the five-hour limo ride that got him to the arena in time to make his NHL debut, to being offered a three-year contract extension on Monday, the first five weeks of his Red Wings’ career still has Brian Lashoff’s head spinning.
“From the first game on … it’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Lashoff said. “But it’s been fun and I’ve been enjoying every day and taking it day by day. The extension is something that was important to me and it’s definitely a good confidence-booster going forward.”
With a litany of injuries to defensemen this season, the Red Wings have liked the boost that they have received from Lashoff’s consistency along the blue line. Since being call up the second game of the year, Lashoff has a goal and two assists in 15 games. He’s been a tremendous help on the penalty kill, eating up nearly three-minutes per game when the Wings are down a man, and he’s regularly sharing time on the team’s top D-pairing with Niklas Kronwall.
“He’s very intelligent in the game,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, of Lashoff. “He moves the puck well. He shoots the puck well, and he has big size. He’s been a good fit for our team.”
According to some published reports, the Red Wings signed Lashoff to a three-year extension worth $2.175 million. It’s a one-way deal, which means it’s an NHL-salary only for all three years, with a salary-cap hit of $725,000.
It was expected that Lashoff, an undrafted rookie, would spend the entire season with the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids where he had two goals for six points with a plus-4 rating in 36 games. However, early-season injuries to Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson forced the Wings to recall Lashoff, who made his NHL debut in Columbus on Jan. 21. Since the team couldn’t arrange for a flight at such late notice, they sent a limousine to make the 350-mile drive.
That night, he even scored his first goal in his NHL debut as the Red Wings went on to beat the Blue Jackets, 4-3, in a shoot-out.
“From Day 1 I’ve been put in some key situations,” Lashoff said. “That’s a huge confidence-booster for me and playing against some pretty good players has helped my development as well. I think the confidence that they’ve shown in me, going forward in the games has certainly been translated and I feel confident on the ice. And the more ice-time that I get I feel better and better.”
Subsequent injuries to defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Brendan Smith have kept Lashoff with the NHL club. And though he’s not the biggest defensemen on the Wings’ roster, at 6-foot-3 and 212-pounds, the 22-year-old Lashoff has been more than impressive.
“He’s a guy who I guess we identified a while back,” Babcock said. “I never thought he would be more than a seventh or eighth D-man in the NHL. And then as we watched him more in Grand Rapids – and talked to (Griffins coach Jeff Blashill) a lots – we decided that he would be the eighth guy to come into training camp. We needed eight D, and he got started with us, got confidence. He’s been back up and he’s been excellent.”
Lashoff’s older brother, former AHL journeyman Matt Lashoff, played bits of five NHL seasons with Boston, Tampa Bay and Toronto. He was a first-round draft of the Bruins in 2005.
So sitting in an NHL dressing room as the owner of a new three-year contract Tuesday afternoon wasn’t something that Brian Lashoff imagined for himself six months ago.
“I think it’s definitely a surprise,” he said. “I knew if I got the opportunity that I was going to take advantage of it. That far back I don’t think I would have expected something like this, but it’s definitely nice to have.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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