Patrick Eaves Represents Detroit Red Wings' Latest Restoration Project

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IDecember 16, 2009

CALGARY, CANADA - OCTOBER 31: Patrick Eaves #17 of the Detroit Red Wings smiles after a play during a break in game action against the Calgary Flames  on October 31, 2009 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Red Wings defeated the Flames 3-1. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

Facing a business climate akin to a nuclear winter, an unemployment rate three times the national average, and home values slightly below the cost of the materials used to build them, Detroit isn't a place you're likely to consider restarting your career.

Unless you're a hockey player.

Though one of the best organizations in the league at drafting talent and adding through free-agency, the Detroit Red Wings have also had tremendous success at plucking players from the NHL scrap heap and remaking them into solid contributors.

Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Larry Murphy, Steve Duchesne, and more recently Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson were all players that came to Detroit amidst floundering careers.

With the exception of Larry Murphy, none of these players had even come close to a championship with any of their former teams upon their arrival in Detroit.

They all now have their names on the Stanley Cup.

25-year-old forward Patrick Eaves is emerging this season as yet another successful redevelopment project.

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Eaves was a highly touted prospect coming out of Boston College in 2005.

A 2003 first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators, Eaves joined the NHL club as a rookie in the 2005-'06 season, scoring 20 goals and 29 points that year.

It appeared as if Eaves was well on his way to becoming a top-notch offensive player during his sophomore season, improving his point total to 32 in 2006-'07.

However, late that season, Eaves suffered a concussion that kept him out of most of the 2007 playoffs.

The following year, he was sidelined for most of the season with a separated shoulder. Unable to play, his production and value to the Ottawa Senators plummeted.

In February 2008, Ottawa traded him, along with Joe Corvo, to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Corey Stillman and Mike Commodore.

Eaves' time in Carolina was almost immediately cut short upon his arrival as he re-injured his shoulder less than two weeks after the trade.

Despite playing only 11 games for the Hurricanes that year, he was re-signed to a three-year contract in the offseason.

Still recovering from his shoulder injury (and subsequent surgery), and sidelined here and there with minor injuries, Eaves' first full season in Carolina didn't go particularly well as he was limited to 14 points in 74 games played.

This past summer, the Hurricanes decided to trade Eaves to Boston in exchange for defenseman Aaron Ward.

The move appeared to be nothing more than a salary dump by Boston as they immediately placed Eaves on waivers upon acquiring him.

Enter the Detroit Red Wings.

Facing very limited cap space, the Red Wings were looking for low-risk free-agent acquisitions this past August and saw one in Eaves.

Signed to a one-year, $500,000 contract, head coach Mike Babcock didn't even really know what to do with Eaves at the season's start.

Inserted into the lineup sparingly over Detroit's first dozen games, Eaves eventually found his way onto the roster on a regular basis.

As he was going with a largely unknown quantity in Eaves, any ice time given to him by Mike Babcock was a bit of a gamble on his part.

As it has turned out, that gamble has paid off pretty well.

Eaves has found his groove in Detroit.

Playing with line-mates Kris Draper and Darren Helm, the trio has been Detroit's most consistently effective line over the past dozen games.

Eaves is using his speed and tenacity to create scoring chances and kill penalties, making him a valuable, and reliable two-way forward—much like former NHL castoff-turned-Red Wing-regular, Dan Cleary.

At his current pace (and barring injury which, for the Red Wings, isn't something to be counted on), Eaves should match his point totals of his rookie season and continue to be a valuable penalty-killer.

As such, it would be surprising if Detroit didn't offer him an extension towards the end or shortly after this season.

If so, Eaves will become the latest in a long line of players who've resurrected their careers in Detroit.

Though whether or not he follows their path to Stanley Cup glory is largely unknown, for the time being, Eaves is making the most out of his time in Detroit, and the Red Wings are benefiting from yet another successful restoration project.