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Hellberg’s Red Wings Arrival Was Weeks In The Works

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Magnus Hellberg, Detroit Red Wings
Although the signing of Swedish goalie Magnus Hellberg wasn't announced until this week, the teams sides were talking since the Olympics.

The announcement this week that the Detroit Red Wings were signing Swedish goalkeeper Magnus Hellberg was a bit of a shock to the team’s followers. For those on the inside, Hellberg’s impending arrival on the scene was being expected for weeks.

“There was a rumor going around that he was going to join us and there was a little bit of visa troubles the last few weeks or so,” Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic explained.

Those immigration issues have since subsided. Hellberg joined the Wings on the ice for practice Friday at Madison Square Garden. Oddly enough, it was the same location of Hellberg’s most recent NHL game. The 31-year-old netminder played at MSG for the New York Rangers against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 17, 2017.

“Of course, it’s special,” Hellberg said. “I like New York as a city, so I have a lot of good memories from here. I’m excited to be here.”

Red Wings Uncertain When Hellberg Will Play

The Red Wings are facing the Rangers Saturday afternoon at MSG (12:30 p.m. ET start). Hellberg won’t be playing. He won’t even be suiting up. In fact, when he might play at all for the Wings remains as puzzling as his sudden arrival on the team’s roster. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill’s frank admission was that he has no clear-cut plan in mind as to when Hellberg might see action over Detroit’s remaining nine regular-season games.

“He was able to get in, he got to a practice today, he’s not going to play tomorrow and that’s pretty much all I know,” Blashill said.

It’s been over two months since Hellberg saw any game action. He got the start for Sweden against Finland in the Group Stage at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb. 13. taking a 4-3 loss. Hellberg stopped 23 of 27 shots in that game for an .852 save percentage.

“Then I got back to Sweden and have been in Sweden since the beginning of March, starting practising and stuff like that,” Hellberg said.

Red Wings Approached Hellberg After Olympics

Talks with the Wings began not long after the Beijing Games.

“If you look back, there was a time we weren’t sure where (Thomas) Greiss was at,” Blashill said. “Pick (Calvin Pickard) got hurt, Greiss was hurt, so then you’re looking at your group and not sure if you’re going to have enough goalies to finish, No. 1. And ultimately, management made the decision to bring Magnus in and potentially give us a chance to look at him.”

Following Hellberg’s first Detroit practice, Blashill’s scouting report on the 6-foot-6, 209-pound Swede wasn’t exactly illuminating.

“He’s a big man, for sure, he seemed to fill the net well,” Blashill said. “It’s hard to get a great feel for somebody in the course of 25 minutes but he’s a very nice person, seems to have confidence and is a big man.”

Hellberg was dropping hints that the two sides were already negotiating the possibility of a pact for next season.

“We’re discussing,” Hellberg said. “I’ll focus on being here now and then when this stint is over, we’ll see what happens.”

Hellberg’s Fascinating Goalie Connections

Hellberg lists Dominik Hasek as his goaltending idol, so that he’s getting the chance to play for Hasek’s last NHL team is exciting to him.

“When the opportunity came up to finish the season here, it was a no-brainer for me,” Hellberg said. “I felt really excited and inspired to come here and show who I am so I’m happy to be here.”

Speaking of scouting reports, Hellberg can deliver a pretty fair one on Rangers goaltending sensation Igor Shersterkin. The two were a netminding tandem with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL in 2018-19.

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“I saw early that he has a lot of talent and skill,” Hellberg said. “I wasn’t worried that he wasn’t going to have success in the NHL. With him having this much success, I’m really happy for him. I’m not surprised. He’s a great goalie and a great friend.

“It inspires me, too, that a lot of goalies from the KHL can have success in this league. It gives me an extra spark.”

This season with HC Sochi of the KHL, Hellberg was sharing the net with Maxim Tretiak. Much to Hellberg’s delight, Maxim’s grandfather, Russian goaltending icon Vladislav Tretiak, would stop by to check in on his grandson’s progress.

“Obviously, he’s a legend in the goalie world,” Hellberg said. “It was nice to meet him.”

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