Photo by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey

Yzerman brings practicality, small moves to first July 1 as Wings GM


By @MichaelCaples –

The Red Wings added one name to the three position groups during the ‘free agent frenzy’ that comes with July 1.

None of the players took up much time on the NHL Network live show, however. That’s how Steve Yzerman wanted it, as he settles into his new role as general manager of the Red Wings.

All three players – forward Valtteri Filppula, defenseman Patrick Nemeth and goaltender Calvin Pickard – were signed to two-year contracts, and none for more than $3 million per season.

“We were looking at doing shorter-term deals with everyone who we spoke with,” Yzerman said on a media teleconference call Monday afternoon. “Obviously being new to the organization, I wanted to proceed somewhat slowly and get to know what we have within the organization. I think I have a good handle of what we have on the NHL team, but the prospects we have coming, the players we have in Grand Rapids, I wanted to balance the flexibility of giving opportunities to our players, for our young players, while also trying to help the Detroit Red Wings immediately as much as possible.

“I thought the shorter-term deals made the most sense for us at this stage, hence we signed three players on two-year contracts…they are all designed to help us immediately but our hands aren’t necessarily tied to long-term contracts.”

Free Agency Coverage:

As Yzerman discussed all three players, the conversation was frequently about how they would benefit other players on the Detroit roster. Filppula is there to allow Andreas Athanasiou to move back to wing. Nemeth is there to provide defensive support for puck-movers Mike Green or Filip Hronek. Calvin Pickard is there (in Grand Rapids) to mentor Filip Larsson while being ready in case of an injury.

When asked if he was done signing players, he said he may want to bring in one more winger or defenseman.

“No, I think I would mull over a couple of other things. We have a spot potentially on our roster on right wing. I don’t want to fill it just to fill it, because it gives us some options for some of our younger players, to see if they’re ready, and it leaves opportunity for something to maybe come along between now and the start of the regular season, so I’m not really in a hurry, but if I could add another winger, I would consider that, and potentially look at another defenseman, but we weigh adding another one versus just leaving a spot for one of our younger guys on the roster, to decide that at or after training camp. If the right player and the right contract come along, we would consider signing another one.”

Still, Yzerman’s focus appears to be on the players inside his organization, reiterating that any additions would still be in support of the top prospects in one way or another.

“Even if we were to sign another player, we’re still in a position where those younger guys are competing for it, and if they’re ready to play, they’re going to push somebody out, and we’ll deal with it at that time. I think whether we sign another forward or another defenseman, it does not box out one of our young players, what it does is it gives us a little protection if they’re not ready to go in the fall.”

Yzerman said that he is “anticipating everyone being ready to go in September” but did mention Niklas Kronwall’s “uncertainty” when discussing the signing of Nemeth.

Here were his comments on each of the three new Red Wings:

On Filppula: “We had a hole in the middle, we felt, on our roster with Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening down the middle, potentially De la Rose could play there, [Justin Abdelkader] could even play there, Darren Helm could play there, we have options but we’re looking for someone, play-making, can play on the power play, so we wanted to add a centerman and that allows the coach to put Andreas Athanasiou back to the wing. He played at the end of the season at center and he looked good there, but his natural position is on the wing, and that allows us to put him back on the wing. Fil is a very good two-way centerman, he can win face-offs, he can play in all situations, so we really felt we were going to plug a hole by bringing him in.”

On Nemeth: “He’s a big, strong, solid defensive defenseman. He kills penalties well, defends well, he’s a heavy body, and we felt playing with Mike Green or Filip Hronek, he’s going to be a very good partner for that type of player – a puck mover, offensive right-handed shot guy. We felt with the uncertainty of Nik Kronwall, and Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson missed time with injuries and going into the last year of their contracts, it was important to bring in a defenseman who can play now on the left side and help us in the future, as well.”

On Pickard: “It is two years, one-way contract. For two reasons – one, with the two goalies we have, if we were to have an injury, we feel the third goaltender position is really important. If we have injuries to our goaltenders, Filip Larsson is projected to be in Grand Rapids with Calvin to start the season, and we wanted to put a goaltender with some experience to partner with him. A guy who is a good leader for a young goaltender, someone with a high work ethic and good character, and we believe he fits that bill. In doing it over two years, it gives us a little bit of security, hopefully knowing we have him over the two years. He’s got NHL experience, and to come up and play games should we need him to, he’s proven he can do that, excellent in the American Hockey League, but maybe the biggest reason is we really like the character and the attitude he has, we think it will be a benefit to the young goalies and the young players in the system.”

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