Andrew Copp leads Red Wings’ newcomers, who say Detroit ‘ready to take the next step’

Detroit News

Detroit — General manager Steve Yzerman wanted to fill holes in the Red Wings’ lineup and hopefully become a better hockey team.

Considering Yzerman’s haul the first day of unrestricted free agency Wednesday, he appears to have done that.

The Wings added forwards Andrew Copp, David Perron and Dominik Kubalik, along with defensemen Ben Chiarot and reportedly Olli Maatta, whose signing has yet to be officially announced by the team.

Yzerman also acquired goaltender Villie Husso in a trade last week.

Wednesday’s haul excited the newcomers, who feel it’s a sign the Red Wings are done with rebuilding and looking to contend for the playoffs.

“The Red Wings are a team, with some of the signings that happened today, they’re ready to take the next step in their evolution, and I wanted to be part of that,” Perron said.

Copp’s signing began the day.

The Ann Arbor native, who attended Skyline and University of Michigan, signed a five-year contract worth a reported $28.125 million Wednesday with the Red Wings, shortly after the start of unrestricted free agency.

Copp said he saw similarities between teams he’s been on such as Winnipeg and the New York Rangers, young teams that took dramatic steps upward, and the current Wings roster.

“Definitely,” Copp said. “The year we went to the conference final in Winnipeg, we missed the playoffs by six games the year before, and all of a sudden, the next year, we’re kind of a powerhouse and had the second-best record in the league. That change can happen quickly.

“This year, with the Rangers, they went from a team projected not to be in the playoffs to being in the conference finals. You never know when that jump will be. But I have a lot of faith in the young talent that’s come through the last couple of years, and guys that have been here like Larks (Dylan Larkin) and (Tyler) Bertuzzi.

“We have a good group ready to take the next step.”

Copp, 28, spent six full seasons in Winnipeg before being dealt at the trade deadline last season to the New York Rangers. Copp put together a career-best season, with 21 goals and 32 assists between the two teams for 53 points (in 72 games).

Copp was especially effective with the Rangers, totaling 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 16 games, then adding six goals and eight assists (14 points) in 20 playoff games.

Before last season, Copp’s career highs were in the 2020-21 season in Winnipeg, when he had 15 goals and 24 assists.

“I’ve just continued to improve my game, I’ve gotten better over the years,” Copp said of his offensive surge. “It’s always kind of been there, just not something I’ve been asked to do too much. Whether it was playing in a checking role, or concentrating on the defensive side or penalty kill, I’ve definitely worked on my game a lot and with some production comes confidence and it kind of snow balls.”

Copp played his youth hockey at Detroit Compuware, then for the Plymouth Township-based United States National Team Development Program.

Copp was an excellent high school quarterback at Skyline where he set a then state record in 2011 for passing yards in a game (557) in a 52-49 loss to Ann Arbor Pioneer.

He was joined by a number of new additions as the day progressed.

Yzerman signed Perron (two years, $9.5 million; $4.75 million cap hit), Dominik Kubalik (two years, $4.5 million; $2.25 cap hit) reportedly adding veteran defensemen Maatta (one year, $2.25 million) and Chiarot (four years, $19 million; $4.75 million cap hit).

Perron, 34, has been a veteran presence in St. Louis, last season scoring 27 goals (with 30 assists and 57 points), 11 of which came on the power play, where the Wings desperately need help.

Perron (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) was a 2007 first-round pick by St. Louis and is 27 games away from 1,000 games played in his career (973) and adds a right-handed shot the Wings have been searching for, along with some grit.

“The moment you get a call from Steve Yzerman, it gets your attention,” Perron said. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity. I had a couple different options, but I ended up picking Detroit and I’m pretty excited.”

Kubalik, 27, was not tendered a qualifying contract by Chicago and became an unrestricted free agent early this week. Kubalik scored 15 goals and had 17 assists for 32 points in 78 games last season.

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Kubalik (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) scored a career-high 30 goals in his rookie season three years ago, and provides the consistent goal-scoring ability that’s been lacking.

Another left-handed shot on defense was an area the Wings wanted to address, and the 31-year-old Chiarot, who spent last season with Montreal and Florida, will address that along with size and physicality.

Chiarot played 74 games between the two teams, with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points. The former 2009 fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, Chiarot brings size at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds.

“As a player you always want your team to be adding pieces and trying to get better and Steve definitely tried to do that today,” Chiarot said. “Andrew Copp is a guy I played with in Winnipeg, a great forward and person, and Kubalik, there’s a lot of good players added to the team today. It’s an exciting day for myself and all the guys on the team when you have your team take steps forward like today.”

Maatta, 27, spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings, with one goal and seven assists for eight points in 66 games, with a plus-17 rating.

Maatta was a 2012 first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 22nd pick overall. Maatta has played in 534 NHL games, with Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the last two seasons with the Kings.

Maatta, a left-handed shot, fills a hole in that part of the lineup.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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