Steve Yzerman confident Red Wings addressed needs, holes in lineup

Detroit News

Detroit — There were roster spots open, needs to be addressed, and the Red Wings had money to spend under the salary cap.

It all created a perfect storm for general manager Steve Yzerman, who substantially added to the roster and seemingly strengthened the lineup.

After the season ended, Yzerman expressed a desire to add a center, a right-shot forward, rebuild the left-side defense, and add another goaltender, while also keeping an eye on improving the power play and penalty kill.

The goaltender (Ville Husso) Yzerman acquired in a trade a week ago. The rest of the areas Yzerman addressed in a busy free-agency period.

“With some of our contracts expiring and holes in our roster, we were in a position to bring in some faces and players we think address some of those needs,” Yzerman said.

The Wings added center Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor Skyline/Michigan), wingers David Perron and Dominik Kubalik, and defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta in a flurry that gives new coach Derek Lalonde plenty of options.

“On July 14th, we’ve improved the team but we have to go out on the ice in September and play in October,” Yzerman said. “We’ve addressed some needs and I’m hoping we’re a better team; we’re progressing slowly in this rebuilding of the Red Wings.

“Are we good enough to make the playoffs next year? I don’t know. I’m hopeful we score more goals, and give up fewer goals and hoping our power play and penalty kill and goals-against will be a little better and that pushes us higher up the standings.”

With the impact of Calder Trophy-winning defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Lucas Raymond, two promising young rookies, along with an established maturing nucleus headed by captain Dylan Larkin, and a promising stable of prospects, suddenly free agents were more amenable to listening to Yzerman and choosing to play for the Wings.

“It’s encouraging,” Yzerman said. “We’re able to sign players that are excited to come here. There’s genuine interest in coming here. They were willing to work with us on the contracts to come in. We have a lot of work to do, we have a lot of improving to do, but the new players coming in and with our small nucleus of remaining players, we’re trending in the right direction.”

All the additions Wednesday, though, will likely make it harder for young prospects such as defenseman Simon Edvinsson and forward Jonatan Berggren to make the opening-night NHL roster.

There simply aren’t a lot of apparent open spots available.

“We could have gone and just leave roster spots open and let our younger players, or players under contract, just come in and put them on the team, but I chose not to do that,” Yzerman said. “If we come in and have too many good players, wouldn’t that be a good problem to have? We’d figure it out at that point.”

Yzerman added that if Edvinsson or Berggren show they are ready during the exhibition season to play regularly in the NHL, spots will be created.

Yzerman touched on a variety of topics during Thursday’s Zoom session with the media, including:

► Signing Kubalik, who became an unrestricted free agent when Chicago surprisingly decided to not give a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent, making Kubalik unrestricted Wednesday: “He’s big, can skate, has a great shot and the contract we think is very reasonable. It’s a guy who has a lot of upside, and another player that gives more scoring depth. We reached out to him through Jiri Fischer and he expressed an interest in coming here. We’ve very pleased.”

► Yzerman expects the Wings to be tougher to play against: “Harder to play against isn’t necessarily running guys through the glass. It’s being more dogged on the puck, being more responsible with the puck, tighter and diligent defensively, competing harder. We want to be harder to play against because we’re better defensively and we’re more competitive and we have more depth up front. We can match up better.”

► Yzerman was pleased to sign Copp, who appears to fill a big need at second-line center, but can play all three forward spots and both special teams: “At 28 years of age, he’s a very good athlete, very versatile, a good face-off man and at I’m comfortable giving (that kind of player) a five-year contract. That’s not a concern for me.”

► Signing Perron also helps the Wings in a variety of ways: “He’s a pretty competitive guy. We like he’s a (right-handed) shot, a natural winger with a right shot, very good on the power play and he’s been through a lot of playoff runs. He’s very experienced and excelled in the playoffs, played on St. Louis’ Stanley Cup team (in 2019). He really fills a need for us, I like the veteran leadership he can provide.”

► Yzerman said forward Robby Fabbri (knee) and defenseman Jake Walman (shoulder) will not be ready to begin the regular season. Fabbri had surgery late during the regular season, after tearing an ACL, and Walman had his surgery after the season.

► Rebuilding the left-side defense with Chiarot and Maatta: “Defense-first defensemen, bigger bodies, they get in the way and are kind of hard to play against. I would expect those two guys will play with Moritz and Filip (Hronek), they’re good complements for them. They’re big guys, good length, block shots and are a little harder to play against.”

► Yzerman sounded as if he’s pretty much done adding players: “I don’t know that I would look to do anything more in free agency. I don’t have a blockbuster in the works for you all. We’ll explore some teams that have to make moves in light of what happened (in free agency), certainly it’s important to keep looking around and communicating with teams to see if there’s a potential fit, but I don’t expect to announce any signings. I’d be content to go to training camp with the group we have.”

► On Edvinsson, who has arrived in Detroit to train, and participated in development camp this week: “Meeting him in person for the first time since we drafted him, he’s thicker in a good way. He’s very strong, his skating is excellent, and we’ll give him an opportunity. If he’s ready to play and play a regular role, that would be great for us. We’ll let the whole thing play itself out.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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