Babcock believes Modano has a lot left
"I'm no more convinced today than I was then, but I think it's going to happen and we'd be excited for him to come," Babcock told NHL.com on Tuesday. "We think he'd be a good fit for us and excited to play for us and we think he'll have a real good year. If he comes to us I'm a big believer he'll end up playing again next year, too. I think he's got that kind of legs left in him. And remember, he's not coming here to be the guy; he's coming here to be one of the guys."
Modano, who's golfing in Scotland, confirmed via text to the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that he has decided to play with the Wings.
Babcock, who has been stumping to get Modano on the roster for a while now, sees his options for line combinations and power-play units growing if the 40-year-old makes it official on Thursday, as the Free Press report indicated. He also sees the Red Wings getting back to being the puck possession team that won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and played to Game 7 of the finals in 2009.
"We're trying to get back to being the Red Wings, not like last year when we were taped together all year, had no depth and we rode people too hard so when we got to the playoffs we were exhausted," Babcock said. "We think Nick (Lidstrom) has some left in him, but not if we're defending all the time. We need to get the puck and go. Our goal is to be loaded up."
Modano, who grew up in the Detroit area and whose parents still live there, fits into that philosophy because he would give the Wings another scoring option. He has 1,359 points in 1,459 NHL regular-season games.
"What he is is just another guy that can score, another guy you have to worry about a little bit," Babcock said.
Before the summer began, Babcock penciled in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to start the 2010-11 season together on the top line with Tomas Holmstrom serving as the other wing. Babcock is still planning on that.
If Datsyuk and Zetterberg, who played on different lines for long stretches last season, are playing together that means Valtteri Filppula assumes the role as the Wings' No. 2 center. Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi would be his wings, Babcock envisions.
With the top six already ironed out, Modano's value becomes greater because Babcock sees the all-time leading American-born scorer in NHL history fitting in as the Wings' third-line center between Dan Cleary and the returning Jiri Hudler, who spent last season playing in Russia.
If Modano is there, that means Justin Abdelkader, who would have been the third-line center, can drop into the fourth-line rotation with Darren Helm, Kris Draper, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and maybe Mattias Ritola.
"It puts Abby and Helmer in a spot where they should be for another year if they're going to be on a winning team," Babcock said.
Modano may be 40, but he scored 30 points in 59 games last season on a non-playoff team. Babcock confirmed that Modano will be given the chance to play not only on the third line, but also on the point of the Wings' second power-play unit opposite Niklas Kronwall.
It's not farfetched to think that if Modano stays healthy, he could produce upwards of 50 points.
"That's kind of what I'm thinking," Babcock said. "Because of his ability to shoot the puck, if he gets the puck to Hudler and he gets open, he can score."
Hudler, who had 57 points in 2008-09, will be expected to produce north of 60 and Cleary likely around 50. If they all stay healthy, the Wings could have one of the best third lines in the NHL.
"Hudler is a better player than people think," Babcock said. "I missed him way more last season than I thought I was going to miss him. To me, the kid is magic. We're thrilled to have him back. I like our team here. I even said that to my wife."