Alex Nedeljkovic, his wife and their dog all thrilled with trade to Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

The trade could not be more ideal for Alex Nedeljkovic.

He has an opportunity to establish himself as a No. 1 goaltender on an Original Six team run by a legend. He doesn’t have to move away from his wife for the season. And the neediest creature in the family doesn’t have to interrupt Zoom calls for playtime.

Nedeljkovic was still giddy Friday, not even 24 hours after the trade that sent him from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Detroit Red Wings for Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick in the 2021 draft.

It was a huge vote of confidence from Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, who sees Nedeljkovic, 25, as a potential building block for the rebuild.

“It’s great to hear that,” Nedeljkovic said. “Steve is one of the greatest players to play the game and the last few years, since he’s been in charge, things have kind of been going in the right direction with this team. I am just very excited to get an opportunity to play and hopefully play a lot and try to turn this organization around and get back to the winning ways of not too long ago.”

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Nedeljkovic (6 feet, 189 pounds) signed a two-year contract with a $3 million annual average value, the same contract that Bernier was coming off. Bernier, 32, had proven he could be a good goalie on a bad team, whereas Nedeljkovic’s performance — 1.90 goals-against average, .932 save percentage in 23 games — came on a very good team. But to be able to get an athletic, young goalie who was a Calder Trophy finalist for a draft pick acquired in a prior trade — that was too good to pass up.

“We have high hopes for Alex based on his performance this year,” Yzerman said. “He’s a younger guy who we feel has a lot of upside. We’re pretty excited about it. Everyone in our organization is familiar with him from his local ties playing junior, so we know his character, his work ethic, his competitiveness. Watching him play this year, we thought this was a good opportunity to get somewhat of a younger goalie with some upside and who can help us win more games.”

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Nedeljkovic, from Parma, Ohio, has lived in the metro Detroit area for about 10 years. He played junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers and Flint Firebirds. He was teammates with Wings captain Dylan Larkin on national U18 team in 2013-14; the two are longtime friends and train together in the offseason. Nedeljkovic’s wife, Emma, is enrolled in the nursing school at Michigan State, and her family lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Nedeljkovic was golfing Thursday afternoon when his agent called with the news.

“The trade itself was really kind of like, out of nowhere,” Nedeljkovic said. “But when we heard Detroit was interested and wanted to make a trade, we were very excited and happy that things worked out. It’s an opportunity to — not kickstart my career, but to really get it going in the right direction and really try to cement that I can play in this league and I can be an NHL goalie.

“I couldn’t have been more excited to get back here and to be able to call it home all year around.”

His interview was interrupted when his black lab, Zeke, snuck up with a squeaker toy and demanded attention.

“He was very happy with the trade,” Nedeljkovic said, smiling. “He’s pretty needy, so me being home for the whole year now is going to be pretty exciting for him.”

Pretty exciting, too, for Nedeljkovic to have the opportunity with the Wings, to be a catapult in the upswing.

“I just hope I can be another piece in the process and get back to the winning ways,” Nedeljkovic said, “and bring some more Stanley Cups to Detroit.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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