DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman was candid and transparent Monday after selling at the trade deadline.
Yzerman and former Detroit GM Ken Holland worked two deals on Monday that sent 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 sent left wing Ryan Kuffner to the Oilers, and the Oilers shipped center Sam Gagner to Detroit.
Yzerman has been saying all along that he wants as many draft picks and prospects as he can get. He’s more or less playing the lottery.
“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.”
Here are the highlights from Yzerman’s news conference (watch it in full above):
‘We’re trying to rebuild the team’
Obviously, the team is in full rebuild mode. Yzerman is making this clear and not shying away from the pressure he will face to make this a successful rebuild.
“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.”
He remembers worst-ever 1985-86 season
The Red Wings went 17-57-6 for a .250 winning percentage in 1985-86. Yzerman was asked about that year and if he remembers how it felt as a player. At first he joked that he “didn’t remember” that year, but then offered a serious answer, saying he remembers how he was injured, how bad the season was, and how tough it was for him personally. However, he also remembers how the team rebounded the next season and went to the conference finals. He’s not saying that will be the case with this team, but he pointed out how quickly things can change.
“You feel sorry for yourself for a little while ... then you start training and get ready for next year. Things change in a hurry ... I don’t know what our record is going to be next year, but a lot of things will be different. Our team will be different,” said Yzerman. “We’re adding more prospects into the organization, our salary cap situation is going to be a little more favorable. But for the players, it’s tough.”
No one called about Bernier, Howard
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.
‘Unfair to judge Jeff Blashill’
“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."
Embrace the young players
Yzerman is asking fans to be patient about the team, but he also wants them to enjoy the process and enjoy watching young players such as Filip Zadina, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha develop.
“At some point we have to show progress, and I’m confident we’ll do that. All I can ask for is patience,” he said.
Joe Veleno has ‘really thrived’
Red Wings prospect Joe Veleno has spent the season with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Yzerman seems pleased with what he has seen from the 20-year-old center who was drafted 30th overall by the Red Wings in 2018.
“Joe Veleno has had a real good year. His numbers (9G, 10A) aren’t great. He’s played in all situations. He’s played regular. He’s played a lot ... I think he’s really thrived,” said the GM.
On Moritz Seider
“We’re really pleased with his development,” Yzerman said about Moritz Seider, the 18-year-old defenseman selected 6th overall in last year’s draft.
Seider has played 46 games with the Griffins this season (2G, 18A).
“An 18-year-old d-man in that league is tough ... here in GR he’s getting on (the power play) ... and being able to log big minutes is great for him,” said Yzerman.
Yzerman also said he will consider bringing Seider up to the NHL when he’s healthy.
“But I would say to you, don’t sit waiting for it to happen,” he said.
Captain will be named before next season
“That’s the plan,” he said when asked.
On retiring Fedorov’s No. 91
“It’s not my place to make that decision, and it’s not my place to tell the Ilitch family what to do. Ultimately I think it’s something that will get a lot of consideration,” Yzerman said when asked about whether the Red Wings will ever retire Sergei Fedorov’s No. 91.