Steve Yzerman admits there’s still work to do as Wings rebuild, retool at trade deadline

Detroit News

Detroit − The Red Wings have improved this season, but there’s plenty of work still to be done in general manager Steve Yzerman’s mind.

Yzerman met the media via a Zoom call after Friday’s NHL trade deadline. Yzerman traded forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundqvist and defenseman Filip Hronek this week for early-round draft picks, and said the Wings remain in a situation where they need to accumulate picks and be patient rebuilding.

The Wings won seven of eight games, before going into a current four-game winless streak (0-3-1). In particular, the two one-sided losses earlier in the week to Ottawa, which were crucial games in terms of playoff positioning, made the decision to sell, a bit easier.

“Going into our West Coast road trip we had a plan in place and winning (during that trip) kind of just delayed things a little bit,” Yzerman said. “The two games in Ottawa kind of reaffirmed where I think we’re at. I’m pleased with the development of our team but how both games played out, it was clear to me we have work to do.

“It’s only two games but that was pretty indicative of so many different areas of the game we have to improve upon and it’s my job to address the needs.

“The last few days, it was pretty clear to me definitely the right thing to do was look toward the future.”

After meeting with Bertuzzi’s representatives, it was apparent to Yzerman there likely wouldn’t be a much of a chance of re-signing the forward. The trade with Boston (a 2024 first-round pick and 2025 fourth-round pick), said Yzerman, was fair for both sides.

“I did have some discussion early in the season with Todd Reynolds, Tyler’s representative, and we really didn’t get anywhere,” Yzerman said. “We talked briefly before the trade deadline and that didn’t lead to anything. Ultimately at the deadline it’s should we hang on to him and see where the season goes and maybe take another shot (at the end of the season). I was comfortable with the return (for the trade) and we move on.”

The Wings stand five points out of a wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with four teams between the Wings and the New York Islanders, who hold that second and final spot.

With a 28-24-9 record, Yzerman has seen progress. The Wings are playing meaningful games in early March, and are in the playoff picture, albeit on the outskirts.

“It’s been a positive season to date,” Yzerman said. “Our younger players have continued, for the most part, to develop. The veteran players have provided leadership and experience on the ice that we were hoping they would. Our team has improved. I believe we’re going in the right direction.”

Yzerman was also pleased to be able to work out an eight-year contract extension with captain Dylan Larkin signed this week.

“We both wanted to make a deal, and Dylan expressed an interest directly to me and through his agents that he wanted to get a deal done and with the Red Wings and for a long time,” Yzerman said. “I’m happy to have Dylan signed. He’s an excellent person and a very good hockey player. I’m very happy with it, I hope Dylan is, and both he and I recognize as an organization we have a lot of work to do and we’re looking forward to the challenge again.”

Yzerman gave credit to coach Derek Lalonde, who along with his staff, have put the Wings into an improved position in the standings.

“I’ve been very pleased,” Yzerman said. “Our team has changed a lot, on defense in particular the structure of the team is pretty solid. He’s created a good atmoshere and within the locker room, the players are enjoying the challenge, enjoying the coaching they’re receiving and he’s pretty honest. Our players appreciate his approach.”

Yzerman touched on a number of topics during his Zoom call:

On Vrana, who was traded to St. Louis, Vrana’s potential with the Wings never came to fruition after being acquired for Anthony Mantha two years ago.: “I don’t think I can go into details on a lot of things that have gone on. I just wish Jakub the best of luck, in his hockey career and on and off the ice. It was just time for both parties to move on.”

Yzerman said the wasn’t actively looking to trade Hronek, who the Wings got a first- and second-round draft picks from Vancouver the defenseman: “I felt with the return, for where we’re at, and the return we were getting that it was a good decision for the future. It stings our team a little bit right now but it’s imperative we made good decisions with those picks for this trade to work out good for the Red Wings.”

Yzerman wouldn’t commit to recalling defenseman Simon Edvinsson from Grand Rapids, the Wings’ 2021 first-round pick, before the regular season concludes: “Whether Simon gets recalled will be dependent on his play. If he plays well enough to earn a call up, and for us to think it’s worth taking a look at him or if he can help our team, he’s going to have to play well enough for us to decide that we want to take a look at him or we want to see hi in the NHL. There are other defensemen down there playing well that you might see too whether they’re going to help us or whether it’s necessity or where they fit for next year.”

On forward Marco Kasper, last year’s first-round pick, who is currently playing in Sweden: “He’s had a good season in Sweden and we’ll talk in the summer about a bit of a plan for next year. There’s a possibility he plays here (in North America) but we’ll determine that, what our plan is, in the summer and keep every option open.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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