When Steve Yzerman made contact with a possible contract, Shayne Gostisbehere immediately saw a fine opportunity for himself.
Gostisbehere, 30, is coming off a six-year deal signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in the summer of 2021, and to the Carolina Hurricanes at last season’s trade deadline, and this summer found himself looking for employment as a free agent. Enter the Detroit Red Wings, who were looking for a defenseman to help them, especially on power plays.
“Steve knew my strengths on the power play and that would be a big part of me going there,” Gostisbehere said. “The biggest thing for me on a one-year deal is, I need to have the right opportunity to show what I can do. I thought it was a great fit. They’re a young, hungry team with a lot of skill, and that fits my game perfectly in the sense I like to play offensively, and when you’re surrounded by skill, it makes it work. I’m definitely excited for the opportunity.”
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Gostisbehere posted a career-high 65 points in 78 games in 2017-18. He had 51 points in 82 games as recently as 2021-22, and put up 41 points in 75 games split between the Coyotes and Hurricanes this past season.
“I had a few good years in Philly and then I think injuries really caught up with me,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s just a blend of falling out of favor there. Thankfully, I got a great opportunity in Arizona. I got to showcase that I could still play in this league and resurrect my career, give myself another chance in showing people that I’m still a good player. It springboarded me into the opportunity with Carolina. It’s nice to have two good years in a row.
“Offensive (defensemen) get a lot of flak for their defensive side. Any coach I’ve gone to for the first time, they say, I’m surprised that your defensive game is pretty good. I’m like, ‘Yeah, because I take pride in it.’ I try to do the best I can. I know my better abilities are on the offensive side, but I am a defenseman. I’ve got to play defense first. For me, I try to prove that I am a two-way player.”
It was during his time in Arizona that Gostisbehere overlapped with fellow Wings newcomer, forward Christian Fischer.
“He’s skilled and he’ll make those high-danger plays, and nine out of 10 times he’s getting the puck through,” Fischer said. “His IQ and how to read the play — he’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the fastest, but … he thinks the game at such a top level. He can play against that top line every night because he knows their style. I think he’s back to being the Shayne Gostisbehere that he was for 90% of his career.”
The Wings took a small gamble that could happen, giving him a deal worth $4,125,000; the annual average value on the six-year contract was $4.5 million. The hope is that Gostisbehere follows in the path of Jake Walman and Olli Määttä, each of whom earned a multi-year deal with the Wings after arriving on something of a tryout basis.
Gostisbehere has played 538 career games, and of his 311 points, 140 have come during man advantages.
“I’m blessed to have a pretty hard shot,” Gostisbehere said. “I try to get it off as quick as I can and get pucks through. My grandpa will text me after every game. ‘Only two shots? What’s going on?’ He wants me to shoot every puck that I see. Obviously, the more you shoot, the more goals that are going to go in.”
It was his grandfather who sparked Gostisbehere’s love of hockey, from his hometown of Pembroke Pines, Florida.
“I had a grandfather from Montreal, so that helped a lot,” Gostisbehere said. “He was a season ticket holder to the Panthers, and I went to every game as a kid and just fell in love with the game. My sister was a figure skater, so she was at the rink. My mom would give me a stick and I’d run around the rink and just fell in love with the game. I played baseball, for sure, but I was all hockey.”
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.