White, 27, will get a chance to fill the void on the Red Wings' power play created by the retirement of defenceman Brian Rafalski.
"Ian is a skilled defenceman, 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. He had nine points in 17 post-season games with the Sharks last season in his first playoff appearance.
The Red Wings signed defenceman Mike Commodore on Friday.
"Now that we have White, we feel really good about our depth on defence," Holland said.