Sleepy Steve Yzerman still looking to find offensive help for Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

Steve Yzerman would like to address his need for sleep, but there is still more work to be done this offseason to strengthen the Detroit Red Wings.

Yzerman was at Little Caesars Arena on Monday, just as he was over the weekend when he mined the NHL free agency market to add forwards J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, and Christian Fischer; defensemen Justin Holl and Shayne Gostisbehere; and goaltenders James Reimer and Alex Lyon. The haul filled many of the vacancies the Wings had, but admittedly, a glaring one remains.

“I addressed a lot of the needs we have,” Yzerman said. “Signed two goaltenders. Addressed our blue line and got a right-shot defenseman, which was a need. Got a defenseman that plays on the power play, which was a real need. Daniel Sprong addressed another scoring, right-shot winger. Christian Fischer, a good, solid penalty killer, another natural right shot. J.T. Compher can play any of the three forward positions, he’s very versatile. So overall, we targeted specific needs and we were able to address those and on each player, I am very comfortable with the term of all the contracts.”

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Compher signed for five years and $25.5 million; Holl for three years and $10.2 million, Gostisbehere for one year and $4.125 million; Sprong for one year and $2 million; Reimer for one year and $1.5 million; Fischer for one year and $1.125 million; and Lyon for two years and $1.8 million.

Asked what else he wants to address, Yzerman smiled and replied, “Sleep would be one.”

But here’s what’s keeping him awake: “I think the general consensus is, ‘Hey, the Red Wings need to score more,’ ” Yzerman said. “We need to keep the puck out of our net, we need to be better defensively, we’d like our special teams to be better. I’m counting on collectively, the entire group, that everybody chip in a little bit on offense, which will help us score more. Getting Robby Fabbri back healthy, Lucas Raymond a year older. J.T. Compher coming into the mix, chipping in some goals.

“Collectively, I expect us to improve a little bit. Probably still not where we’d all like to be, so we’ll continue in the offseason here, what, if anything, if it be through some more free agents that are still out there, or even look at potential trades.”

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Yzerman has about $10 million left in salary cap space after his shopping spree. He had to replace goalscoring forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrána, and defenseman Filip Hronek, all of whom were traded, and goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg, who were not re-signed.

Committing to Compher

Compher’s deal stands out for the term and money committed to a player whose single-season career high in goals is 18, but Yzerman viewed it as a solid investment.

“I think he’s a very good athlete,” Yzerman said. “He’s 28 and has remained relatively healthy. At five-year term, I’m comfortable with that. He’s a good skater. We try to do as much background work as we can on players. Do they take care of themselves, do they train, what kind of lifestyle are they living. So we feel comfortable that a five-year term is reasonable. What I do like is his versatility. We’ve got a right-shot centerman who has played all three positions, who has played on the power play and does kill penalties. That ability to move around to me makes him very valuable.”

Sprong’s appeal

Sprong has one 20-goal season to his credit, hitting 21 last season after reaching the mid-teens the previous two seasons. Yzerman is hoping Sprong, 26, will continue to blossom. “I took notice of him two years ago that he looked like he was becoming an NHL player, an NHL regular. In Seattle this year, we played them twice, I watched their team, and I was impressed with their speed and depth. And Daniel in particular, it looked like he had taken another step. We thought it was a good value signing. It looks like his game has evolved. I like his scoring ability and size. It feels a real need for us.”

Holl & Gostisbehere add up

Holl is the right-shot defenseman the Wings needed, and Gostisbehere is the offensive-defenseman type who can run a power play. Essentially, both were needed to make up for Hronek’s departure.

“We needed to get a right-shot defenseman, that was important,” Yzerman said. “We signed Gustav Lindstrom, that’s one, Justin Holl is two.

“We wanted a defenseman who can play on the power play and Shayne fills that spot. He’s a left-shot but half of his usage in five-on-five is on the right side, so he’s comfortable within that role. Shayne has played on the power play, scores power play goals, his shot is really a threat from the point. So he specifically helps our power play.”

The free-agent haul has made the Wings look like they will be better at pushing back at opponents, which was a facet both Yzerman and Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde mentioned needed to improve in their end-of-season comments. But without adding scoring help, it’s hard to see this team percolating all the way to the playoffs.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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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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