| The Detroit News
Detroit — Two pieces of important business for general manager Steve Yzerman to tackle are new contracts for two of his most important players.
Restricted free-agent forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha are both without contracts, but Yzerman sounds optimistic something will get done.
In the grand scheme of things, there’s plenty of time before next season begins — whenever that’ll be — and the Wings aren’t hamstrung by salary cap issues.
Bertuzzi, in fact, filed for salary arbitration, with hearings beginning Oct. 20, guaranteeing the Wings will have a contract with Bertuzzi at some point — through arbitration or not.
Yzerman expects to talk with Mantha’s representatives this week.
“I’ll have some discussions and expecting to talk to Anthony’s agent in the coming days,” Yzerman said. “We’ll talk so more and I’m confident we’ll get a deal done. I can’t tell you exactly when or for how long, but it’s both of our intentions to get a deal done.
“And likewise with Tyler Bertuzzi. He field for arbitration, so ultimately we know we’ll get a deal done. It might be for one year or it might be longer, We’ll continue to talk.”
Bertuzzi, 25, led the Wings with 21 goals last season, the second straight season he’s scored 21.
He just completed a two-year contract worth $2.8 million ($1.4 per season).
Given neither team or player wants to go to arbitration and talk negatively about either side, in vast majority of cases, the two sides work out a contract agreement.
Mantha, 26, is coming off a two-year contract paying him $3.3 million per year.
Mantha is coming off two injury-plagued seasons that make a negotiation tricky. He only played 43 games this past season, scoring 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists).
Allure of home
Free-agent defenseman Jon Merrill (Grand Blanc/Michigan) and forward Vladislav Namestnikov (who grew up and lives in the area) both talked about the desire to return home and play for the Red Wings, when they signed with the Wings last weekend.
Yzerman believes players are still excited about playing in Detroit, with its historic ties to the game.
“One thing about Detroit being a good hockey city, is a lot of kids play here and turn professional,” Yzerman said. “Much like kids in Toronto or Montreal grow up dreaming about playing for the Leafs or Canadiens, in Detroit you have a lot of kids dreaming about playing for the Red Wings.”
All things being equal in a negotiation, said Yzerman, a player who has ties to an area, or where the player grew up, might be an edge to signing there.
Yzerman, in his Zoom call Monday media, sounded as if he was largely done in terms of acquiring personnel.
But not entirely.
“If we want to do something, I look maybe now at what some of the teams that are kind of cap crunched to see if they’re looking to do anything,” Yzerman said. “Maybe just explore possible trades, things like that, and if nothing comes to fruition here, possibly circle back and maybe add one more player in free agency if they are still out there.
“But I don’t think we’ll be terribly active.”
Opportunity to shine
Players like forward Bobby Ryan, another Red Wings acquisition, talked about the chance to come into the Red Wings lineup, play and contribute.
Yzerman agreed that is the Wings’ selling point.
“One of the big selling features is getting an opportunity to play no question,” Yzerman said. “Talk to (goaltender acquisition) Thomas Greiss, you’re going to play a lot. Bobby Ryan? We need right-shot forwards to play on the power play, it’s a great opportunity.
“Vlady (Vladislav Namestnikov) plays three positions, you’re getting an opportunity to play, to take that advantage of that opportunity, even on a short-term contract, and set yourself up for the next one (contract).
“But I also believe, the other lure is not just opportunity, but I believe the players are intrigued to play for an Original Six franchise and play for the Red Wings. That’s what I believe.”
Chance to play
The signings of five unrestricted free agents — and acquiring defenseman Marc Staal in a trade — filled a lot of the Wings’ holes and took up some vacant lineup spots.
Yzerman signed the veterans to enable young prospects to continue to develop in Europe this uncertain season, as well as playing in junior or college hockey.
But if a young player shows he is ready to play in training camp, Yzerman will keep him on the NHL roster.
“If they’re good enough to play, we’ll find a spot for them and figure it out,” Yzerman said “If any of these kids show up in training camp and few of them won’t be here at the start of training camp if we start in January, they’ll begin playing Europe, but if anyone is ready to go and help the team and play a lot, we’ll keep them and figure it out.
“Right now we filled our holes but it’s not like we’re set in stone if we have to change it.”