DETROIT — Steve Yzerman is practicing patience in his first year as the Detroit Red Wings’ general manager.
On the opening day of free agency, the Hockey Hall of Famer and former Red Wings great made some subtle moves to improve his roster without saddling the rebuilding franchise with big contracts.
Detroit signed both center Valtteri Filppula and defenseman Patrik Nemeth to two-year , $6 million contracts and added goaltender Calvin Pickard with a two-year deal.
”We’re looking at doing shorter-term deals with everyone that we spoke with,” Yzerman said Monday. ”Being new to the organization, I want to proceed somewhat slowly and kind of get to know what we have within the organization.”
Yzerman is trying to turn around a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016, its longest drought since a five-year skid ended in 1984 when he was a rookie in Detroit.
The Red Wings have a core of young players, led by Dylan Larkin, to build around and a slew of prospects they hope are pushing for playing time in the NHL. Yzerman is counting on a trio of veterans to add depth as complementary players.
He is also reuniting with Filppula for a third time.
Filppula, who helped Detroit win the 2008 Stanley Cup, played with Yzerman with the Red Wings and was signed by him in Tampa Bay.
”It’s always important to feel like the team wants you,” the 35-year-old Finn said. ”I know Stevie from before and have a good relationship.”
Filppula had 17 goals and 31 points last season with the New York Islanders. He has scored 185 times and has 494 points over 14 seasons with Detroit, Philadelphia the Lightning and the Islanders.
Likely on the second or third line, he is expected to play center to allow Andreas Athanasiou to play on the wing.
”We had a hole in the middle,” Yzerman said.
Nemeth had one goal and 10 points last year in Dallas. The 27-year-old Swede has four goals and 35 assists over six seasons with the Stars and Colorado Avalanche. Detroit may have to replace Niklas Kronwall, a key player on the blue line, to make help on the blue line even more of a priority. Yzerman has said Kronwall, a 38-year-old defenseman, can take his time this summer to decide whether he wants to return to play for the Red Wings or retire.
”With the uncertainty of Nik Kronwall and Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson missed time with injuries and going into the last year of their contracts,” Yzerman said, ”it was important to bring in a defenseman that can play now on the left side and help us in the future as well.”
Detroit signed Pickard to compete with Jonathan Bernier to be Jimmy Howard‘s backup and perhaps to give the team three goaltenders.
”Gives us a little bit of security,” Yzerman said.
Pickard is 32-50-9 with a 2.93 goals-against average during his five-season career with Colorado, Toronto, Philadelphia and Arizona. The 27-year-old Canadian was winless in four starts last season with the Coyotes.