Ilari Filppula leaves Red Wings organization for Finland

By Mike Suggs

Valterri Filppula’s older brother, Ilari, has decided to leave the Red Wings organization after spending one year with their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Ilari Filppula was signed last summer to a one year two-way deal, and it was thought that he would either make the team out of training camp, or be the first call up should the Wings have injury problems again.

He did not make the team out of training camp, nor was he the first call up when the Wings did suffer injuries yet again, so his decision is understandable.

Ilari is 29 years old, so he probably doesn’t want to play out the rest of his prime in the minor leagues, he wants a shot at the pros.  With the glutton of forward depth Detroit has, there simply was no room for him.

Younger prospects like Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak were the top choices for call ups because of their speed and tenacity, which is something the Wings did not get from the entire team on a consistent basis this season.

Filppula would have offered more skill, and he was definitely in the mix with the younger guys, but ultimately Mike Babcock and Ken Holland went with a bit of a youth movement.

Filppula led the Griffins in scoring this year with 20 goals and 44 assists, for 64 points.  He also played for the Western Conference in the AHL All-Star Game, taking the place of injured teammate and top Red Wing prospect, defenseman Brendan Smith.

In the end, the Red Wings’ brass new Ilari was kind of a one year shot, but it was worth it.  He helped stabilize the Griffins offense, and was probably able to teach some of the young guns a thing or two.

The Wings would have liked to resign him so he could continue to do those things, but he wants a bigger role, and that’s understandable.  Tatar and Mursak will only be used more and more, and they will both have a decent shot at cracking the lineup out of training camp.

Filppula has now signed a 4 year contract with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League, where he will be playing with another top Wings prospect, the young sniper, Teemu Pulkkinen.  All the best wishes to Ilari Filppula, and good luck next season.

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