Nothing left in the way for Steve Yzerman to hire Detroit Red Wings’ new coach

Detroit Free Press

He’s as familiar as anybody with how the Tampa Lightning are run, serving as  general manager there from 2010 until 2018, the season before he was named GM in Detroit. Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde should appeal to Yzerman: Lalonde has worked under head coach Jon Cooper since Yzerman’s last year with the team. Jeff Halpern likewise has been an assistant with the Lightning since 2018-19, though his overall coaching resume isn’t as extensive as Lalonde’s

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Lalonde, 49, was an assistant at Ferris State early in his coaching career, and has been a head coach in the USHL and ECHL. He coached in the latter with the Toledo Walleye from 2014-16, before Yzerman’s return to Detroit but during Toledo’s affiliation with the Wings.

During his first season, Lalonde led the Walleye to a 50-15-5-2 record, claiming the Brabham Cup as the ECHL’s regular-season champion. Before being hired in Tampa in 2018, Lalonde was head coach for two seasons in the AHL with the Iowa Wild.  During his tenure (69-58-17-8), the Wild posted team records for wins, home wins, road wins, fewest losses and total points in a season.

Halpern, 46, played 976 games in the NHL before moving into coaching in 2015-16. He started with the Syracuse Crunch as a development coach, was promoted to assistant coach in 2016, and joined the Lightning two years later.

Both could appeal to Yzerman, who vacated the Wings position April 30 when he informed Jeff Blashill his contract would not be renewed. Yzerman is looking for a coach who will improve the team defensively and has a stern voice in the locker room.

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There has been no shortage of candidates, but several with significant NHL head coaching experience already have been snapped up by other teams: The Vegas Golden Knights hired Bruce Cassidy, the Dallas Stars hired Peter DeBoer and the Florida Panthers hired Paul Maurice.

Barry Trotz is still available, but he may command more years and salary than appeals to Yzerman at this stage. The Wings are poised to take the next step in the rebuild and at least be a .500 team. A coach looking for opportunity could be an ideal fit: Someone who will take a two- or three-year deal at less than the $4 million-plus annually commanded by veteran NHL head coaches.

Yzerman isn’t under any particular time pressure: The draft is July 7-8, and coaches don’t have any input on those decisions. But with free agency around the corner (July 13), it might be helpful to be able to tell potential free agents who they would be playing for if they sign with the Wings.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. 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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