The Detroit Red Wings matched Carolina's offer to Sergei Fedorov on Thursday, less than an hour after an arbitrator sided with the Hurricanes in their dispute with the NHL on the validity of the $38-million, six-year deal.
Fedorov, who helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup last year but hasn't played a game for them all season, said in a statement that he will take the offer and play for Detroit.
"While I am returning to the Red Wings with a desire to win another Stanley Cup, I want to add that I have the utmost appreciation and respect for the Carolina Hurricanes," Fedorov said. "Their desire to bring me to their team will never be forgotten. I wish them every success in the future."
Arbitrator John Sands ruled earlier Thursday that Carolina's offer sheet did not violate the league's collective bargaining agreement. The NHL had challenged the deal because it offered Fedorov a $12-million bonus if his team reaches the conference finals this year.
In addition to a $2-million salary, the deal also would give Fedorov a $14-million signing bonus.
Sands' ruling meant that Detroit could match the offer, work out a trade or take five first-round draft picks. The Red Wings matched it less than an hour after the decision, meaning that if Fedorov agrees to play for them he could pocket $28 million in bonuses for half a season of play.
The Tampa Bay Lightning signed right wing Stephane Richer to a three-year contract for an estimated $6 million.
Richer could have become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
"This shows there is a commitment here to build this team," Lightning General Manager Phil Esposito said. "This is a big one for us."
Tampa Bay, which has the NHL's worst record at 11-38-9, acquired Richer from Montreal on Jan. 15 in a six-player deal.