Dear Red Wings: Adam Erne, one of ‘Yzerman’s guys,’ is heart-and-soul player for Detroit

Red Wings keep Erne for 2 more seasons

Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne (73) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

When watching the Detroit Red Wings of the past two seasons -- and believe me it has not been easy or even very enjoyable -- you can’t help but notice the impact of forward Adam Erne.

Erne signs on for 2 more seasons

Erne, 26, has signed on for a reported $2.1 million a season. He had filed for salary arbitration but then settled with the Red Wings on the two-year deal. It’s a low-risk signing for Steve Yzerman, yet again, and this might be one of his best.

To call someone a “heart-and-soul” player is a bit of a cliche, sure, but Erne has that kind of style about him. One moment he’s back-checking hard through the neutral zone, the next he’s finishing around the net in a beautiful play for a goal, showing off his hands and reminding us that he did in fact score 41 goals in his final season with the Quebec Remparts. He scored 11 goals in 45 games played for the offensively-challenged Red Wings this past season, enough to lead the group. He earned himself more ice time in Jeff Blashill’s lineup as the season unfolded.

This is the kind of depth player NHL teams need, and Yzerman knows it better than most. They need players who can fit into several roles when called upon. Erne can be placed on the 1st or 4th-line and be effective in either a scoring or shutdown role, or both. He could be described as a “complete” forward in this league of 200-foot players.

It’s no wonder Yzerman first drafted Erne at 33rd overall back in 2013 while managing Tampa, then traded for him in 2019 to bring him to Detroit. He saw what Erne was before Red Wings fans could, and now we’re starting to understand what kind of special attributes he can bring.

Erne first brought his tough forechecking to the team, but then suddenly started to show his scoring abilities as the 2020-21 season progressed. He was a bright spot on a team that could not score goals -- seriously, the Red Wings’ 2.23 goals per game was second worst in the league. There was a stretch in January/February where the Red Wings scored an average 1.625 goals per game over an eight-game losing streak. But Erne persevered, helping the Red Wings find the back of the net when it otherwise seemed impossible. And that was due to his commitment to putting in work up and down the ice.

He is clearly the type of player Yzerman wants to have around. You can see it in the fundamentals of his game -- going into the tough spots, winning battles in the corners, making the right decision along the boards and being responsible with the puck while staying hungry for offense. This is the type of player that when you see him you think, “Yep, this is an Yzerman guy.” And I of course respect that. You could say it’s for this exact reason Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou were sent packing, but I digress.

Erne is part of this burgeoning offensive Detroit group with Jakub Vrana, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Michael Rasmussen, Filip Zadina, Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri. Perhaps it’s time we can start to get excited about this team again, and Erne is an important part of it right now.

Read more: Red Wings sign 1st-round pick goalie Sebastian Cossa to entry-level contract

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Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.