Detroit Red Wings Offseason GM Report Card: Steve Yzermanby Dom Lunardo November 20, 2020 0 comments
After qualifying for the National Hockey League playoffs for 25-consecutive seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times. The days of Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Henrik Zetterberg, among others, are long gone and have been replaced with new (and rather) unproven players as Hockeytown navigates through a rebuild.
At the head of this rebuild, entering his second season as general manager is a familiar face. His name is, former Stanley Cup champion and Red Wings captain, Steve Yzerman. Although his tenure in the GM chair has been rather short-lived, Yzerman has made some impressive moves that should place the franchise in good stead in the coming years. Let’s take a closer look at Yzerman’s body of work this fall, and offer one of hockey’s most astute GM’s a comprehensive off-season report card grade.
2020 NHL Entry Draft- Grade: A-
After finishing dead-last in the NHL standings last season with a listless 17-49-5 record in 71 games, the Wings were awarded the fourth-overall selection at the highly-anticipated and star-studded 2020 NHL Entry Draft. After Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, and Tim Stutzle went 1-2-3 respectively, Yzerman and the Wings were on the clock at 4. As announced by long-time Red Wing Kris Draper, Detroit selected Swedish forward Lucas Raymond from Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
With Raymond, the Wings secured a bonafide, top-tier winger and arguably one of the most talented players of his draft class. As a player, the super-Swede is a dynamic forward with an extensive skill set. He sees the ice extremely well, is a good skater, and has the ability to generate offense with the best of them. The Red Wings needed to make a splash at the Draft and did just that and then some with this particular selection. I personally love this pick for the Wings, and really feel that Yzerman hit the nail on the head with Raymond.
Among others, the Red Wings also selected three times in the second round (picks 32, 51, 55) and twice in round three (picks 63 and 70). For a rebuilding team like Detroit, and a GM with a proven track record for seeking out elite-level talent, the message is crystal clear in Hockeytown-Yzerman is going to build his team through the draft, and will do so his way.
NHL Free-Agency- Grade: B+
Yzerman was a very busy man and was “wheeling and dealing” during the NHL’s free-agency period. His first order of business was shoring up the goaltending position and did just that with the acquisition of German-born veteran netminder and long-time New York Islander, Thomas Greiss. In Greiss, the Wings have a capable and experienced goaltender who can help carry the load over the course of 50+ games alongside Jonathan Bernier in the Detroit crease.
Next, Yzerman inked veteran forward Bobby Ryan to a (low-risk) one year, $1 million contract, in addition to the likes of Vladislav Namestnikov and Jon Merrill. Perhaps Yzerman’s best move, however, was the free-agent signing of talented defenseman Troy Stecher. At just 26 years of age, “Stech” gets the chance at a fresh start with Detroit, and should be given every opportunity to really blossom into an everyday top-4 defenseman. Once again, we see a plethora of astute, and low-risk moves from Yzerman as he attempts to mold the Red Wings (slowly but surely) into a contender.
Finally, the Red Wings took care of a major internal piece locking up skilled winger Anthony Mantha to a four-year, $22.8 million contract extension, keeping him in the Motor City for the foreseeable future. In Mantha, the Wings have one of the league’s premier power-forwards with 30-goal potential written all over him. An impressive piece of business for the Wings who” locked-up” another talented young piece after the likes of Dylan Larkin. Patience, Wings fans.
On the Trade Front- Grade: B
The Detroit defense corps needed a bit of an overhaul at the end of 2019-20. Enter veteran defenseman, Marc Staal to the fray. In Staal, the Red Wings landed an experienced, veteran presence on the blue-line who can serve as both a mentor to Detroit’s youngsters, and improve their play in the defensive third of the rink.
Also included in the trade, and what really stands out to me, was Yzerman acquiring a second-round draft pick from the New York Rangers at next year’s 2021 Draft. For a team like Detroit, Yzerman played a bit of “hardball” with the Blueshirts and landed an impressive asset in the form of an additional draft pick in addition to Staal.
Prospect/Scouting Development- Grade: B+
Heading into next season, the Wings have a pretty impressive prospect pool which includes the likes of Joe Veleno, Lucas Raymond, Filip Zadina, and Jared McIsaac among others. At the head of that pool is German sensation Moritz Seider who should slot in nicely on the Red Wings blue-line alongside Stecher, Staal, and DeKeyser as one of this season’s most anticipated rookies. I’m a big fan of Detroit’s prospects and believe that the tide is certainly beginning to turn in the Motor City after a few rough seasons. This team is certainly on the rise and is only going to stockpile more talent with their plethora of draft picks over the course of the next few years.
Yzerman’s Final Grade: B+
It’s certainly looking as though the Red Wings will need another year or two before they can firmly establish themselves and ultimately return to hockey prominence. However, the future is bright, and it appears as though they have the right man for the job pulling the strings in Yzerman. This offseason saw the Red Wings make some significant strides at the NHL Draft Floor and internally with the signing of a few key restricted free agents (RFAs). Stevie-Y was also very active on the trade front, and in free agency, as he attempts to retool and restock his roster with hopes of building a winner. How will it all unfold? We’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t we? In the meantime, sit tight, Wings fans!
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images