Detroit Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman had busy couple days at NHL draft, wanted to accomplish more

Detroit Free Press

MONTREAL — Steve Yzerman had a couple things he would have liked to get done, but he was satisfied with how he filled one huge need for the Detroit Red Wings: Using a third-round pick to acquire goaltender Ville Husso.

“There’s a not a lot of goalies out there, and we need depth at that position,” Yzerman said Friday. “We thought it a worthwhile decision to make. We elected to use a draft pick to try and improve. We certainly liked the season that Ville had.”

Husso appeared in 40 games with the St. Louis Blues last season, posting a 25-7-6 record with a 2.56 goals-against average, a 0.916 save percentage and two shutouts.

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Immediately after trading for Husso, 27, the Wings signed him for three years, $14.25 million. Alex Nedeljkovic, 26, who was acquired last summer, is under contract through 2022-23 for $3 million. Essentially Yzerman created a situation where the Wings have two goaltenders of similar age with a combined salary cap hit below $8 million.

“It doesn’t prevent us signing at some point extending Ned’s contract at all,” Yzerman said. “We’re in a position to do that. We’ve got two guys we feel can play in the league and based on albeit somewhat of a limited action in the NHL, both guys have shown they can win games.”

Husso (6 feet 3, 209 pounds) originally was selected by the Blues in the fourth round (No. 94) in the 2014 draft. He made his debut in 2020-21, and only has played 57 career games (2.74 goals-against average, .912 save percentage). That’s not much of a resumé, but during the draft the Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild all addressed goaltending needs and the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals are are among teams still in the hunt.

Yzerman saw an opportunity and grabbed it. The Blues got the Wings’ third-round pick this year, and the Wings got peace of mind.

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“We feel comfortable that this makes us a better team, and we had the cap space and the contract isn’t seven years or anything like that,” Yzerman said. “It’s a very reasonable term for us, and we think they’ll play well. There’s not a lot of goalies out there, and we felt like we better get one.”

Thomas Greiss struggled the second half, forcing a heavy workload on Nedeljkovic. He buckled a bit as 59 games piled up, and in Husso, the Wings see a better opportunity to have a fairly even tandem.

“There’s so much responsibility on the goaltender,” Yzerman said. “It’s a hard position to play. There’s a lot of pressure on them. We think we have two young goalies that can go in there and play. How the games get divided up, performance will dictate that. But they’ll both play.”

It was a busy couple days for the Wings: In addition to the draft and the trade, they hired Bob Boughner as an associate coach and Alex Westlund as the new goaltending coach.

Still, Yzerman wanted more.

“Without elaborating, there was one or two more things I was hoping to accomplish where we weren’t able to do,” he said.

New head coach Derek Lalonde was thrilled about the addition of Boughner, a former NHL defenseman (he was drafted by the Wings in 1989) who also has NHL head coaching experience.

“We feel very fortunate,” Lalonde said. “Steve and my priority was an experienced D guy. I preferred somebody that played, I think it’s very valuable that he played in the league, and he’s coached a lot in the league. He’s coached a Norris Trophy winner, coached Stanley Cup winners. He’s a huge piece. I’m ecstatic. What makes me more excited is, he probably had other options. He liked where our young D corps is and being part of developing them. It’s a pretty exciting hire for us.”

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Lalonde did his homework on Boughner before making the hire, but really, a phone all with Peter DeBoer, a friend and experienced NHL head coach, sealed the decision.

“I talked to Pete DeBoer about him, and I felt like Pete wanted to put his hand through the phone to slap me me to hire him ASAP, that’s how strongly he felt about him as a coach and how strongly he felt he’d be a really good fit for us,” Lalonde said.

All in all, it was a productive few days. The Wings still have needs — and Lalonde said they might hire another assistant coach — that will most likely be addressed when free agency begins Wednesday July 13, but the group that will take to the ice and the bench come fall is taking shape.

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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