Why Detroit Red Wings appealed to free agents: ‘Steve Yzerman builds good teams’

Detroit Free Press

Ben Chiarot, one of five players the Detroit Red Wings added on opening day of free agency, summed up the appeal: “Steve Yzerman builds good teams. I think everyone knows that.”

Yzerman sent a message Wednesday when he signed Chiarot, Andrew Copp, David Perron, Dominik Kubalik and Olli Määttä: Expectations on the Wings have grown exponentially. Since the Wings played their last game on April 29, Yzerman has replaced Jeff Blashill with new head coach Derek Lalonde, acquired goaltender Ville Husso, and now added five players who want to be a part of the Wings’ resurgence.

“First of all, the moment you get a call from Steve Yzerman, it catches your attention right away,” Perron said. “I had several options I was bouncing around in my head, but the Red Wings are a team with some of the signings that happened, I think they are ready to take the next step in their evolution as a team and I want to be a part of that.”

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Yzerman did not talk to media on Wednesday, indicating he may have more moves planned. As it stood Wednesday night, Yzerman had used his cachet and his salary cap space to significantly improve the Wings on offense and defense: Copp, 28, got five years, $28.125 million; Chiarot, 31, got four years, $19 million; Perron, 34, got two years, $9.5 million, Kubalik, 26, got two years, $5 million and Määttä, 27, got one year, $2.25 million. That still leaves about $11 million.

Five years for a player who has one 20-goal season may seem extravagant, but that’s free agency in a nutshell: To get the more coveted players, a GM has to be generous either in term or money, maybe both. Copp was an important signing, because the Wings see him as filling the need for a second-line center. To the Ann Arbor native and former Michigan captain, coming home was an easy decision.

“It’s growing my game and having a good opportunity with a good, young team,” Copp said. “From what I’ve seen it’s very similar to teams I’ve played on in Winnipeg and New York, where you kind of go from out of the playoffs and all of a sudden, you’re a contender. I feel like there are a lot of really good pieces here and I think today with a bunch of the additions, it’s an exciting time to take the team to the next level.

“I’m really excited about the additions and I think we’re definitely poised to take a big step.”

FREE AGENCY FRENZY: 

Red Wings add Andrew Copp on opening day of free agency

Yzerman signs David Perron for 2 years, $9.5 million

Wings stock up on defense, signs Ben Chiarot

Detroit adds forward Dominik Kubalik in free agency

Yzerman adds D Olli Määttä in free agency

The Wings may need to reserve a section at Little Caesars Arena for Copp: Family in the area includes, “my parents, brother, cousins, aunt and uncle, grandparents,” he said. “There will a big Copp contingency at the games now.”

It’s a sort of homecoming for Chiarot, too: He’s from Kitchener, Ontario, and liked the idea of being closer to family.

“My mom is pretty excited, she has more reason to go down to Windsor and see me,” Chiarot said. “Detroit has been one of my favorite places to come play. I have a lot of family in Windsor, Ontario, so it’s exciting every time I come in there. I was lucky enough to play in the Joe when that was still around, and that was an experience on its own.”

Chiarot brings experience (489 games) and size: He’s 6 feet 3 and 234 pounds. He joins a defense corps that now also boasts 6-2 Määttä, 6-4 Moritz Seider, and, most likely, 6-6 Simon Edvinsson. Chiarot sounded excited about the possibility of being paired with Seider.

[ Jeff Blashill proud of his Wings tenure; ‘ship is headed in the right direction’ ]

“He’s an impressive young defenseman, does everything well,” Chiarot said. “Plays physical, which you don’t see a ton of any more with young guys coming in. He doesn’t back down out there. I look forward to getting out there with him.”

Chiarot and Copp were at the same wedding earlier this month, and the two former Winnipeg Jets talked about being teammates with the Wings. Beyond being closer to family, there’s being closer to a legend.

“It’s Steve Yzerman, first of all,” Chiarot said. “For a kid who grew up in the 90s, Steve Yzerman was an icon in the game and one of the best players. Just getting to speak with him, it’s flattering hearing he wants you on his team. It’s exciting that he wants me to come be a Red Wing.”

Perron’s appeal is that he’s 6-1 and 202 pounds, shoots right, and won a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019. He’s topped 20 goals multiple times during a 15-year career that spans 973 games, including this past season, and 71 of his 269 career goals have come on the power play. Perron projects to add scoring punch and serve as role model for Lucas Raymond. Perron pointed to Raymond, Seider and Dylan Larkin among reasons to believe in the Wings, and noted the transition is smoothed by the fact he’s joining a growing list of former Blues: Husso, Oskar Sundqvist, Robby Fabbri and Jake Walman.

[ Derek Lalonde on Filip Zadina: A reset is healthy for a guy like that ]

“Some of us won together in St. Louis and we’d like to bring some of that success to Detroit,” Perron said. “This team is definitely ready to start competing on a regular basis for the playoffs and who knows what can happen from there.”

Kubalik netted 30 goals as a rookie with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019-20 and has scored in the 15-goal range the past two seasons. He adds more depth and more options for Lalonde.

The Wings have struggled with depth for so many seasons, Wednesday’s influx seemed like a piñata burst. The five additions weren’t the most coveted free agents, but they’re quality players who strengthen the team, and they’re fully on board with what Yzerman is trying to accomplish.

“Steve did a great job building the team in Tampa,” Copp said. “He was there for a while and drafted a bunch of the guys and turned that into a big part of where they are at today.

“Detroit is going to be good in a couple years, just wait. I’d like to be a part of that, I’d like to continue to grow with the team, and try to get to that ultimate goal.”

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. 

Getting to know you

The Red Wings added five new players via free agency on Wednesday: 

D Ben Chiarot

Deal: Four years, $19 million

Vitals: 31 years old, 6 feet 3, 234 pounds.

Last season: Nine goals, 17 assists, 74 games.

F Andrew Copp

Deal: Five years, $28.13 million

Vitals: 28 years old, 6-1, 206 pounds.

Last season: 21 goals, 32 assists, 72 games.

F Dominik Kubalik

Deal: Two years, $5 million

Vitals: 26 years old, 6-2, 179 pounds.

Last season: 15 goals, 17 assists, 78 games.

D Olli Määttä

Deal: One year, $2.25 million

Vitals: 27 years old, 6-2, 210 pounds.

Last season: One goal, seven assists, 66 games.

F David Perron

Deal: Two years, $9.5 million

Vitals: 34 years old, 6-0, 200 pounds.

Last season: 27 goals, 30 assists, 67 games.

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