Dearborn Heights’ Jordan Oesterle ‘lucky’ to come home, join Red Wings

Detroit News

Detroit — Jordan Oesterle was the typical Red Wings fan growing up.

Oesterle went to games at Joe Louis Arena — his parents were season ticket-holders — he was a huge fan of Nicklas Lidstrom, being a defenseman himself, and he followed the team through all the good times and bitter disappointments.

“Those guys were unbelievable,” Oesterle said. “To grow up and be able to watch and go those games and see those guys play, there were a lot of players you could watch and emulate your game after.”

Now, the circle has become complete.

Oesterle, a Dearborn Heights native who attended Dearborn Divine Child and Western Michigan, is back home. When unrestricted free agency began on July 28 and there was an opportunity to join the Wings, Oesterle was quick to say yes to a two-year contract worth $2.7 million ($1.35 million per season cap hit).

“It’s obviously something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid,” Oesterle, 29, said during a Zoom call after his signing. “I can’t be more excited to play for this organization.

“I didn’t know the chances. Going to free agency, the way their roster was this year, I knew they were looking for a left-shot defenseman, so I didn’t know if I was going to be the guy or have a chance (to join the Wings). Once I heard they were in the mix, I was narrow-minded to wanting this to be the destination. I was lucky enough for it to come to fruition.”

There remains one sticking point from Oesterle’s way of thinking, with his dad and those season tickets.

“He decided to take my brother, who never played hockey, to the game where Pittsburgh won it in Detroit (in 2009),” Oesterle said. “I still don’t let him live that down to this day.

“(But) I have a lot of fond memories going to those games and seeing those colors. Obviously, I was a big Nick Lidstrom fan, Steve Yzerman, Darren McCarty. As I got older and started to become a defenseman, I really tried to watch Lidstrom and became a big fan of his.”

Oesterle didn’t tell his parents, who still live in Dearborn Heights, about his signing with the Wings until it became completed and official.

“This was kind of the back-burner, I didn’t really let them know to get their hopes up,” Oesterle said. “My mom and dad’s whole sides (of the family) are all in the Metro Detroit area. They were very pleased and excited to have my wife and I come back home.”

In signing Oesterle, the Wings added a versatile defenseman who can play either side of the ice, can play either power play or penalty kill, and has seven seasons and 252 NHL games (with Edmonton, Chicago and Arizona) of experience. Over Oesterle’s last three seasons in Arizona, he showed an ability to play in any situation, which will only make him more valuable for the Wings.

“He was used in Arizona kind of in all situations, really — power play, penalty killing, on even strength,” Yzerman, the Wings’ general manager, said. “He’s a good skater, and we think that’s important, particularly when you get into four-on-four and then three-on-three overtimes. But we like his versatility and he’s even played a little bit on the right-hand side.

“He’s a real versatile, useful player. His skating is good. He complements our left side well and can fill in anywhere there.”

The addition of Oesterle creates more competition for playing time and provides coach Jeff Blashill and his staff with the good problem of deciding who plays among so many NHL-caliber defensemen.

Oesterle primarily played left side in Arizona. With the Wings, Oesterle joins Marc Staal, Danny DeKeyser and Nick Leddy on the left. Filip Hronek, Moritz Seider, Troy Stecher and Gustav Lindstrom are on the right side.

But, again, Oesterle’s ability to play either side and play on both special teams likely will keep him in the lineup.

“I feel like there’s a lot of minutes for me to be able to grab,” Oesterle said. “They have a lot of very skilled, young defensemen and then some older guys are kind of teaching them the ways. I’m kind of in that middle gap. It’s great for me to join and hopefully grab a role and grow with it.”

Oesterle played in 43 games with the Coyotes last season, with one goal and 10 assists. Over the years, he has transitioned from more of an offensive defenseman to one who is now sound on both ends of the rink.

“There’s been years I’ve put up some good points and years where the puck didn’t go my way,” Oesterle said. “I’ve grown a lot defensively over the three years in Arizona, in the defensive zone, and getting up and being that fourth man up the ice in creating that extra attack.”

Oesterle has links to the current Wings roster, particularly because of his days at Western Michigan.

Oesterle played with DeKeyser — who attended Oesterle’s wedding on July 16 in Michigan — and Blashill recruited Oesterle to WMU before Blashill left to become an assistant coach with the Wings.

“When he (Blashill) left that summer, going into my freshman year, it was kind of a whirlwind,” Oesterle said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to stay, but then I was lucky enough to play for him at the (men’s) world championships in 2018, so we kind of rekindled (our relationship). He’s obviously a great coach and someone I’m excited to play under.”

Oesterle graduated from Divine Child in 2010, one year before current Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season.

“It’s been cool to see what he’s been doing and has been able to do this year, and fun to watch,” Oesterle said.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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