Steve Yzerman doesn’t provide regular updates about how he feels about his hockey team. But in the second half of last season, the word around Little Caesars Arena was Yzerman livid about the team’s lack of competitiveness.
Yzerman has a long-term plan for rebuilding. But Wednesday Yzerman turned anger into action by signing five unrestricted free agents who should step immediately into the lineup. He used $19.9 million in cap space to sign center Andrew Copp ($5.65 million), wings David Perron ($4.75) and Dominik Kubalik ($2.5 million) and defensemen Ben Chiarot ($4.75 million) and Olli Maatta ($2.25 million).
“I think that’s a sign to the whole fanbase and to the team that the team is ready to take that next step,” said Chiarot who helped the Montreal Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2021. He finished last season with the Florida Panthers.
No team has been busier on the opening day of free agency than Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings!
Notable signings today:
— TSN EDGE (@TSN_Edge) July 13, 2022
With all of the changes Yzerman has made and Simon Edvinsson coming in, Perron is not ruling out anything for the Red Wings.
“After the experience I lived through in Vegas (in its first year), I’m not sure how long it takes to just turn a team around,” Perron said.
That expansion team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. He thinks the experiences he learned with the Vegas Golden Knights can help the Red Wings.
He thinks this team could come together and compete for the playoffs “who knows what could happen from there.”
Yzerman has created a buzz about his team. Don’t forget that he traded for goalie Ville Husso at the draft. All of a sudden it feels like the rebuild has been expedited.
“I have a lot of faith in where this team is headed,” Copp said. “And the young talent that’s come up through the last couple years. ”
Yzerman even signed two players with NHL experience (center Austin Czarnik and right wing Matt Luff) to add to the depth for the Red Wings and Grand Rapids.
Plans for Copp
Second-line center and left-shot shutdown center defenseman were the Red Wings biggest needs this offseason. Ann Arbor native and former University of Michigan player Copp projects to be the team’s No. 2 center and Chiarot will make the lineup bigger and more prickly.
“(Chiarot) doesn’t get beat easily. He’s extremely physical. A big guy,” Perron said. “When I saw that it adds to the excitement.
Perron, 34, was a 27-goal scorer last season for St. Louis. He also can play with an edge.
Kubalik scored 30 goals for the Blackhawks in 2019-20. Maatta, 27, is a veteran defensive-minded defenseman who is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. Copp was the only Detroit pick-up to a five-year deal. Chiarot received a four-year deal. Maatta got a one-year deal, while Kubalik and Perron got two years.
Coveted players, such as Copp, Chiarot and Perron don’t usually go to rebuilding teams.
“First of all, the moment you get a call from Steve Yzerman, it catches your attention right away,” Perron said.
Chiarot agreed. “For a guy who grew up in the 90s, Steve Yzerman was an icon and one of the best players. Just getting to speak with him, it’s flattering hearing that he wants you on his team. It’s exciting that Steve wants me to come be a Red Wing.”
It was fun for Perron to see Yzerman’s recruiting work unfold during the day. “As you keep scrolling Twitter, your heart rate is at 160 the day,” Perron said. “Now that’s done over with, I’m excited.”
Perron scored 11 power play goals last season and has scored 71 in his career. Yzerman was clearly trying to provide a spark to a Detroit power play that ranked 26th in the NHL last season.
“You see a team that goes on a good run on the power play usually starts the year pretty well,” Perron said. “If you start behind the eight ball, and you have to dig yourself out, it’s pretty tough to come back and have a good season. I think with the Blues last year we had the best power play in the history of the team. I think I was part of that solution. It’s something that I want to help (with in Detroit).