Red Wings’ plan centered around building ‘a nucleus’ through draft

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
 
| The Detroit News

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Detroit — Steve Yzerman is in the midst of one of his busiest times ever as a general manager.

The NHL Entry Draft is next Tuesday, finally, after being delayed for about almost four months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unrestricted free agency begins Oct. 9, and there is a dizzying amount of trade talk going on because of so many teams being close to the salary cap.

But through it all, Yzerman’s plan for the Red Wings isn’t changing. Accumulating and using all their draft picks wisely — the Wings are picking fourth in the first round and have 10 picks overall, including three in the second round — still is the main plan.

“Our plan right now is to draft and try accumulate, or add, additional picks along the way. Draft, be patient, and hopefully we draft well,” Yzerman said during a Zoom interview Thursday with media. “(And) build a nucleus of a team. To try and build it through free agency is impossible. It just doesn’t work, and to do it through trades is entirely difficult because they (other teams) want your good assets and our assets are young players and our draft picks, right now, and that’s what we’re trying to build around.”

With the Wings in the midst of a rebuild, they aren’t targeting a specific position group. At this point, they simply want to add the best prospect available.

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“The kids (being drafted) are 17, 18, 19 years of age, and the vast majority of them are three, four, or five years away from playing in the NHL,” Yzerman said. “Your needs as an organization will (change) over time, so we try to draft the best prospect available with that current pick.”

Some other highlights of Yzerman’s interview:

►The Wings will not bring back veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard, who is an unrestricted free agent.

The Wings will let Howard, 36, enter the free agent market after a 2-23-2 season, with a 4.20 goals-against average and .882 save percentage.

Howard’s 246 career victories rank third among all Wings’ goalies, and Howard’s 543 games played is seventh among American goalies all-time.

Howard is a 2014 U.S. Olympian, three-time NHL All-Star and Calder Trophy runner-up in 2010.

There will be a deep pool of goaltenders available in free agency and on the trade market, with Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Corey Crawford (Chicago) and Braden Holtby (Washington) just a few of the veteran UFAs available.

►Yzerman was pleased to see the former team he managed, the Tampa Bay Lightning, win the Stanley Cup on Monday, though he didn’t view it as self-satisfaction.

“Self-satisfaction is not the right word. I enjoyed watching the playoffs, enjoyed watching Tampa, they’re a good, entertaining team,” Yzerman said. “A lot of the players and staff, the owner, they’re friends and I had a great working relationship with them. I was very happy to see them win.

“They’ve been close a number of years now. I was real pleased for Tampa and the entire organization.”

►Yzerman said talks are ongoing with restricted free agent forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Yzerman is hopeful of signing both soon.

Yzerman said decisions will have to be made in the next week whether to bring back restricted free agents such as forward defenseman Madison Bowey and forwards Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini and Dmytro Timashov.

Yzerman said the Wings will be active in free agency but will be “conservative,” not likely getting into too many long-term contract commitments.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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