Part of the appeal for Dominik Kubalik was the opportunity to see if he can sync his revival with that of the Detroit Red Wings‘.
He has a 30-goal season to his credit, which is a major reason why Wings general manager Steve Yzerman signed Kubalik for two years and $5 million when the free agent market opened on July 13. Kubalik, who turns 27 in August, was part of a slew of free agents signed by Yzerman.
“When you are on the phone with a guy like him, it’s always nice,” Kubalik said. “We had a good talk, and it helped me a lot to make the decision. I know what he has done in the past with Tampa and what he is doing now with the Red Wings. It’s exciting. I’m there to help.
“I’m hoping I can do much better than last year. I know it’s in me. I can’t ask for a better opportunity or higher motivation than I have right now.”
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Kubalik (6 feet 2, 179 pounds) has 62 goals in 202 NHL games, but after a standout rookie season in 2019-20 (30 goals in 68 games), he hasn’t topped 17 goals in either of the past two seasons.
“First season, the chemistry with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad was amazing and we started clicking,” Kubalik said. “Then we lost Saader (who was traded away in October 2020) and the second season, Toews was out. It wasn’t easy for me to find who I can play with, and I was up and down in the lineup. The second half of the season was much better. Last season, well, the season was up and down pretty much the whole year. We went on a losing streak and it’s hard to get back and get it going.
“That’s what happened to me — I had some good streaks and some bad moments in the season. Right now, it’s a fresh start and I’m very excited about the opportunity. Hopefully I’m going to start the same way I did in Chicago.”
Training camp will determine where Kubalik plays, but he could be a fit on a second line with fellow newcomer Andrew Copp at center and Jakub Vrana on the other wing. Vrana hasn’t been available much because of injuries, but he has 21 goals in 37 games with the Wings; he’s got a knack for being in position to score or create an opportunity for his linemates. Copp is a solid two-way forward coming off a 32-assist season with the Winnipeg Jets and New York Rangers.
New head coach Derek Lalonde could also opt to put fellow newcomer David Perron on the second line and create a third line of Kubalik, Pius Suter and Filip Zadina. Kubalik and Suter were teammates with Chicago in 2020-21, and became unrestricted free agents when the Blackhawks did not tender either a qualifying offer.
Suter is a responsible center with offensive skills, and Zadina is trying to establish where he belongs in the lineup. The line would benefit from not drawing top defenders and could help provide offense.
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Yzerman said after last season he wanted the Wings to play better team defense, and if they’re able to score more, that eases the challenge. It’s why Kubalik was appealing, and why the Wings appealed to him.
“Obviously the team, they are trying to make another step, which is always great,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of it and help them do that.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.