In a little more than a month, general manager Steve Yzerman pulled off two trades that project to significantly improve the Detroit Red Wings.
And he did it without much of a cost to the team.
This week’s acquisition of Jeff Petry, a right-shot defenseman whose history includes power play success, comes after July’s trade for Alex DeBrincat, a 40-goal scorer. DeBrincat, 25, and Petry, 35, both have resumes that indicate they can help end what has become a seven-year playoff drought for their hometown team.
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Petry, an Ann Arbor native who grew up in Farmington Hills, was acquired by sending Gustav Lindstrom and a conditional 2025 fourth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens. Lindstrom, 24, was drafted 38th overall in 2017. He appeared in a career-high 63 games in 2021-22, but coach Derek Lalonde’s arrival last summer left Lindstrom on the outside looking in, and he played in just 36 games this past season. He didn’t appear to have much of a future with the team beyond as a depth player.
In Petry, the Wings gain a 6-foot-3, 209-pound veteran of 864 NHL games, who has posted in the double-digits in assists eight straight seasons. He had a career-high 23 power play points in 2017-18 as a member of the Canadiens. And with the Canadiens retaining 50% of Petry’s contract (which runs 2024-25 with a $6.25 million salary cap hit) and the Pittsburgh Penguins also retaining a chunk, the cap hit for the Wings over the next two seasons is $2,343,750.
Petry shores up the right side of the defense, which lost Filip Hronek via trade back in March. Yzerman brought in right-shot Justin Holl via free agency, but Holl doesn’t have Petry’s offensive skill set.
Yzerman’s summer blockbuster trade happened July 9, when he acquired Farmington Hills’ DeBrincat from the Ottawa Senators. That cost Dominik Kubalik, Donovan Sebrango, and a conditional 2024 first-round pick. Kubalik, 27, scored 20 goals last season, and was in the last year of his contract and uncertain to be re-signed. Sebrango, 21, was a third-round pick (63) in 2020 who had dropped on the depth chart behind the likes of Simon Edvinsson, Antti Tuomisto and Albert Johansson.
The Wings can choose between their own or Boston’s first-round pick, which is from the Tyler Bertuzzi trade and top-10 protected. The bottom line is, the Wings still have a first-round pick in 2024, which is crucial for a team that is still rebuilding.
Even with adding Petry and signing DeBrincat to a four-year, $31.5 million deal, the Wings still have around $6 million in salary cap space entering the 2023-24 season.
Training camp opens next month, and then comes exhibition season, which is when the coaching staff will sort out who plays with whom. But via trades — Petry, DeBrincat, and forward Klim Kostin — and via free agency — forwards J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, Christian Fischer; defensemen Holl and Shayne Gostisbehere; goaltender James Reimer — the Wings appear to have the skill and depth to challenge for what would be their first playoff berth since 2016.
They look tougher (which needed to be addressed after those two embarrassing outings in Ottawa at the end of February, right before the trade deadline) and deeper, and Yzerman largely has accomplished that while leaving himself roster maneuverability and cap flexibility down the road.
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.