Days before training camp opens, the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced general manager Steve Yzerman is stepping down.
During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, owner Jeff Vinik announced that that Yzerman will be moving into an advisory role while assistant GM Julien BriseBois will replace him — news which was first reported by The Athletic’s Joe Smith.
“Julien knows all facets of the business,” said Vinik. “He and Steve have worked right next to each other, picking players, working on contracts, free agency, doing trades together, working on the salary cap, understanding that, all aspects of the game. He is 100 percent fully prepared for this opportunity and I have no doubt he’s going to do a terrific job.”
Yzerman was named the Lightning’s vice president and GM in May 2010, four years after working in the Detroit Red Wings’ front office. He’s helped mold the team into an annual Stanley Cup contender through smart drafting, development and shrewd trades. They’ve made the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four seasons, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.
As Tampa’s progressed into the upper echelon of NHL teams, Yzerman has had to navigate the tricky waters of the salary cap. Through various deserved raises for key pieces and team-friendly contracts, he’s managed to keep the Lightning’s core together and help keep the roster successful on the ice.
While many GMs around the league struggle with the balancing act of keeping a competitive team while keeping a budget in order, Yzerman has surpassed his peers in that department.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Yzerman will remain with the organization through this season, the final year of his contract. That, coupled with Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland inking a two-year extension last spring, will start the rumor mill that Yzerman could return to the organization where he spent all 22 seasons of his NHL career. (And, hey, there’s always Seattle…)
For the record, Yzerman said that he’s fully committed to this season and isn’t looking beyond that.
“This change is important for me, which will allow me to spend more time with my family,” said Yzerman, who added he came to this decision in July.
BriseBois, 41, has been in charge of Tampa’s AHL roster since joining the team in 2010 and has watched numerous players come through the ranks to form the backbone of the current NHL team. Their minor league sides have made three Calder Cup appearances and won the 2012 title under his watch. He’s been highly-regarded around the league and has found his name brought up often when many GM jobs opened up.
“Everyone’s responsibilities will remain the same, the mission will be the same and that mission is to win a Stanley Cup,” BriseBois said. “Nothing will be neglected in our pursuit of a Stanley Cup.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.