DETROIT – Detroit Red Wing general manager Steve Yzerman held a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the future of the franchise after a busy trade deadline day.
Yzerman and former Detroit GM Ken Holland worked two deals on Monday that sent both defenseman Mike Green and forward Andreas Athanasiou to Holland’s Oilers. Both trades netted draft picks for the Red Wings. As part of the Athanasiou trade, the Red Wings are sending left wing Ryan Kuffner to the Oilers, and the Oilers will ship center Sam Gagner to Detroit.
“We’re trying to rebuild the team," Yzerman said. "We’re trying to add draft picks and prospects. We’ve got to decide -- everybody has a value. Some players have more value. Some players are more marketable than others. If we’re trying to rebuild, trying to add draft picks and prospects, we’ve got to go to the players who are most in demand.”
Yzerman said “several teams” had serious interest in Athanasiou. He said if the team was a playoff contender, it wouldn’t be a seller, but considering the current situation, he had to decide who to keep and who to move.
“We haven’t made the playoffs for a few years," Yzerman said. "We’re obviously not going to make the playoffs this year, so that’s really dictated what we did here.”
He wasn’t going to trade players just for the sake of making moves, though.
“Ultimately, I believe you get as many picks as you can, you get the highest picks you can, just to increase your odds," Yzerman said. "We’re rebuilding. We’ve got to give up something if we want to be a good team three, four, five years down the road, and somewhere along the way we’re going to have to hit on some of these picks.”
He said he hopes Athanasiou will flourish for the sake of the player and Holland. Yzerman admitted he would have liked to get a first-round pick, but he feels like he got fair value for his trade pieces and generally accomplished his deadline goals.
Meanwhile, Yzerman also grabbed Dmytro Timashov off of waivers. Timashov, 23, was placed on waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the weekend. In 39 games played with the Leafs this season he had 4 goals and 5 assists. He was a 5th-round pick (125th overall) by Toronto in 2015.
Yzerman said he wasn’t looking to make any moves that shifted the core of the team unless he received a really strong offer. He reiterated that this process takes time.
“It’s going to take time," Yzerman said. "How much time? I don’t know, and I can’t give specifics, but what we’re going to do now -- we’re trying to acquire more draft picks to acquire more prospects.”
“I knew what I was getting into, and I think I have a general idea of what it takes to build a team and how to go about it. You need a little bit of luck. You try to minimize your mistakes, and that speeds it up a little bit, but the reality is, even the best organizations don’t get everything right. There’s a lot of unpredictability in it.”
Yzerman said the Red Wings wouldn’t rule out adding a free agent here and there or making a trade to help the team in the short-term, but he said the front office has the long-term goals in mind. The front office puts a lot of time and effort into the decisions the team makes, but that doesn’t always work out because of injuries and the volatility of young players, he said.
In regard to Jeff Blashill, Yzerman said the head coach has done a good job managing a very difficult season.
“It’s unfair to judge Jeff Blashill on our team’s record -- really it is," Yzerman said. “As of right now, I don’t plan to make a (coaching) change (at the end of the season), so you read into that what you want.”
Yzerman also said there wasn’t league-wide interest in any of the Red Wings’ goalies.
“Teams didn’t call about our goaltenders, and we weren’t looking to necessarily move them," he said. "But we didn’t have any discussion with anyone on our goaltenders.”
He said he will need to make a decision about Jimmy Howard as the veteran’s contract runs out. Yzerman said he isn’t necessarily against picking a goalie high in the draft, if he believes there’s a goalie who could be special.