The 27-year-old White will get a chance to fill the void on the Red Wings' power play created by the retirement of defenseman Brian Rafalski.
"Ian is a skilled defenseman, who makes tape-to-tape passes and competes hard with a good hockey sense," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Saturday, the second day of NHL free agency. "He can play on point on power play and gives us a right-handed shot."
White has 36 goals and 143 points in 401 NHL games with San Jose, Carolina, Calgary and Toronto. The native of Manitoba had nine points in 17 postseason games with the Sharks last season in his first playoff appearance.
Detroit has retained defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson along with forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller this offseason.
The Red Wings signed defenseman Mike Commodore on Friday.
"Now that we have White, we feel really good about our depth on defense," Holland said.
Detroit might not make another major move this offseason, but Holland does have to sign a backup goaltender - perhaps Chris Osgood - and decide whether to bring back forward Kris Draper.