Oh, but the Red Wings were just getting started. Devellano signed those five late-blooming college players who had the good fortune of being bypassed in the draft—enabling them to enter the league as free agents. They are:
•Ray Staszak, a hard-hitting All-America right wing out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who became the richest rookie in NHL history when the Red Wings outbid 17 other NHL teams and signed him to an estimated $1.4 million, four-year contract.
•Adam Oates, a center and the hero of RPI's 1985 NCAA championship team. Possessing little speed—this is no haulin' Oates—he is nonetheless a fine playmaker and face-off man. Detroit outbid 14 other teams for Oates. settling on a four-year deal worth $1 million.
•Dale Krentz and Chris Cichocki, forwards from Michigan State and Michigan Tech, respectively, and Tim Friday, an RPI defenseman. signed multiyear deals for an estimated $100,000 a year.
And Detroit wasn't finished. The real coup took place when the Red Wings' largess extended behind the Iron Curtain, as they signed Klima, a left wing on the Czechoslovak national team, to a contract reportedly as high as $2.5 million over 10 years.
It took a little doing. Shortly after Detroit drafted Klima in June of 1983, Alex Davidson, a Red Wing scout, met with Klima in Nykoping, Sweden. Klima said he would be interested in defecting after he had completed his military service—otherwise he could be shot as a traitor. The following September, working through a former Czechoslovak citizen, the parties got together again—this time at a series of meetings during the Canada Cup. At one of the meetings, in Vancouver, Klima was signed to a contract, according to Detroit assistant general manager (then coach) Nick Polano.
Polano met Klima again this past April at the world championships in Prague and put the following question to him: Would he defect in time for this season? Klima said yes, and they set a rough target date of sometime during the summer, depending on where the Czechoslovak national team would be playing.
On Wednesday, Aug. 14, Polano got the phone call he had been waiting for. "He's in Rosenheim, West Germany, with the Czech team," the Red Wings' European scout said. "Come now."
Polano and Red Wing executive vice-president Jim Lites were on a plane Thursday evening. The scout had arranged for them to meet Klima Friday night in the woods outside Nussdorf, and at that meeting the defection was set for the coming Sunday.
Sunday night, Polano, Lites and the go-between were waiting in a rented Mercedes 500 in a parking lot near Klima's hotel. When Klima showed up, he had nothing with him—no clothes, no passport, zip. He said he was ready to defect but that he wanted to renegotiate a minor point in his contract. After agreement was reached, Klima had to go pack some things. He returned to his hotel and three minutes later returned, a bag of mementos in his arms. The first thing he asked when he was safely in the car was, "How fast will it go?"