It was announced early Friday morning that there would be a press conference Friday afternoon with Steve Yzerman and Ken Holland. At this press conference, Yzerman was announced as the General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings while Ken Holland moves to a Senior Vice President role. Yzerman will also assume the role of Executive Vice President.
This is something that has been rumoured since before Yzerman even left his role in Tampa Bay and always seemed inevitable.
It may not be a position that lasts long for Holland, as Darren Dreger reports that he has already been contacted by both Edmonton and Seattle to be tapped as their next general manager. What Holland decides to do is another topic for another day.
Let’s start with what Yzerman inherits.
Despite a poor job done with several contracts by Holland, particularly on the blue line, the overall state of the franchise isn’t poor. All those terrible contracts handed to defencemen run out, at the latest, at the end of next season. That’s all aside from Danny DeKeyser, whose contract debate we’ll also leave for another time.
Up front, Justin Abdelkader’s contract runs another four years but at $4.25-million it’s not exactly debilitating. Dylan Larkin is locked up for four more years at a very team-friendly cap hit so that’s not a concern. Both Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha will need new contracts soon as they’re RFAs after 2019-20, but there is so much money coming off the books next year that it’s not a concern, either.
Depending on your definition of prospects, we have Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek, and Dennis Cholowski all looking ready to make an impact as soon as 2019-20 (and the latter two had an impact in 2018-19). The excitement surrounds Zadina, and for good reason, but if Hronek and Cholowski can both pan out to be top-4 defencemen, that’s a huge boost to a thin blue line. There are also names like Lindstrom and Veleno to consider.
Detroit doesn’t have extra first-round picks (yet), but they do have eight picks in the second or third round in the next two drafts. That’s a lot of lottery tickets for a guy who seems to be good at finding undervalued players.
As far as inheriting a rebuilding team goes, this isn’t a bad situation.
What does Yzerman bring?
If his track record in Tampa Bay is any indicator, Detroit will be building through the draft (the same could be said for every team, obviously) and Red Wings fans (and fantasy hockey owners) can expect a lot of smaller, skilled, undervalued players being brought into the organization. The Lightning are loaded with impact guys drafted outside the first round or signed as free agents, like Anthony Cirelli, Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, and a whole bunch more. There’s no reason to think anything will be different with the Wings.
In the near-term, a whole lot won’t change with the organization. Sure, the draft will look different than it probably would have under Holland, but this team needs a few contracts to run out. It will be 2-3 years before we’ll finally see Yzerman’s vision really hit the ice.
My assumption is he’ll try to bring the same team-first philosophy he had in Tampa Bay, which means team-friendly deals in the name of keeping a talented core together. There isn’t much that’ll put that to the test immediately, but as I mentioned, both Athanasiou and Mantha are RFAs after this season. Whether Yzerman’s philosophy in Tampa Bay translates to Detroit will be put to the test early. I suppose, if he’s successful in doing so, cap league owners are in for a treat. As the team rounds into shape a couple years down the road, they should be higher scoring than in recent years, which will only help the upside in fantasy production for the existing stars like Larkin, Mantha, and Athanasiou. I know that's always the hope for every new GM, but there's no real reason to doubt Yzerman's ability.
Yzerman has shown himself to be not only a competent general manager, but one of the best in the league. He seems smart enough to look for competitive edges where others may not and that’s something that can mean the world of difference in long-term success. Detroit fans have every reason to be excited today.