How Detroit Red Wings’ look has been colored, for the better, by influx of St. Louis Blues

Detroit Free Press

Ville Husso and David Perron spend games talking to one another while ensconced on their respective sofas. Their allegiances lie elsewhere now, but their interest lingers.

The coming week figures to be emotional for the two friends, with the Detroit Red Wings facing their former team, the St. Louis Blues, twice: On the road Tuesday and at home Thursday.

“It’s going to be nice,” Husso said. “I have a lot of good memories there and a lot of good friends. It felt like home. I got drafted by them, went through East Coast, AHL, all the way to the NHL. All good things there. I’m a little nervous, for sure, but it’s going to be fun to play back-to-back games against them.”

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Husso and Perron are among four former Blues now calling Detroit home. They’ve improved the Wings at every position — Husso in goal, Perron and Robby Fabbri up front, and Jake Walman on defense — and strengthened the rebuild short-term and longer-term. When they aren’t dressed in red and white, they still keep up with their former colors.

“Me and Perron, we still watch Blues games and we even sometimes chat during the games when we watch them, and Wally and Fabbs,” Husso said. “It’s a connection, for sure.”

Fab-ulous trade

General manager Steve Yzerman first poached a player from the Blues in November 2019, when he acquired Fabbri for Jacob de la Rose. At the time, Fabbri’s career with the Blues had stalled due to multiple injuries; hence why the Blues basically gave him away. (The Wings had claimed de la Rose off waivers the previous season; he had 13 points in 76 games in that span.) The Wings needed offensive help and Fabbri delivered, scoring 14 goals in 52 games his first year. He was signed to a three-year, $12 million extension in December 2021. Injuries have continued to plague his career, but he scored 17 goals in 56 games last season, and overall has been a good addition. He had seven goals and 16 points in 28 games before suffering a lower-body injury March 8.

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Low-key additions

When Yzerman flipped defenseman Nick Leddy to the Blues at last year’s trade deadline, the most important part coming back for the rebuild seemed to be the second-round pick in the 2023 draft. But there were two players coming in, too: Walman and forward Oskar Sundqvist. Sundqvist has since been traded again (at this year’s deadline, to the Minnesota Wild for a fourth-round pick) but he was a valuable role player while with the Wings, delivering energy and a net-front presence, and keeping things lighthearted in the locker room. Walman’s debut this season was delayed by shoulder surgery, but once he suited up, he worked his way onto the top defense pairing, and earned a three-year, $10.2 million extension earlier this season. Walman has 12 points in 49 games and leads the Wings with a plus-14 rating.

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Playing the market

Last July, Yzerman took advantage of the Blues being in a pinch: They couldn’t afford to re-sign Husso, and rather than lose him for nothing by letting him become a free agent, Yzerman enticed the Blues to trade Husso to the Wings for a 2022 third-round pick. (The deal was done in the morning before the second day of the draft began.) Yzerman then turned around and signed Husso to a three-year, $14.25 million contract. Husso, 28, has been the MVP this season, delivering consistently reliable goaltending that has given his teammates a chance to win. Husso is 25-18-6 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .901 save percentage.

Five days after acquiring Husso, Yzerman signed Perron off the free-agent market for two years, $9.5 million. Perron, 34, has had a significant impact on the power play, where he has made it much more of a threat, and he’s added depth to the top six. He isn’t just effective with the puck, he’s effective because when he doesn’t have it, he’s chasing it down to get it back. Perron’s 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) rank second on the Wings.

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Blue wings

There’s still some red mingled in with the Blues, too. De la Rose only played parts of two seasons in St. Louis, but Leddy was signed to a four-year, $16 million contract last summer and is a workhorse in the top-four corps. Goaltender Thomas Greiss went from playing for the Wings to signing with the Blues as a free agent last summer. He’s served as a backup, posting a .900 save percentage and 3.50 goals-against average in 19 appearances. Jakub Vrana is the newest addition, arriving at the trade deadline this year when the Wings agreed to retain 50% of Vrana’s contract (which runs through 2023-24) in order to part ways with him; all the Blues had to give up in return was a 2025 seventh-round pick and a minor-league player who the Wings promptly loaned back to the Blues. Vrana had four goals and one assist his first six games with the Blues.

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Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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