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Red Wings Yzerman Plays Hardball With Johansson

Defense prospect signed two-way deal



Albert Johansson, Grand Rapids Griffins
Red Wings defense prospect Albert Johansson agreed to a one-year, two-way contract.

Detroit Red Wings defense prospect Albert Johansson is the latest player to discover that GM Steve Yzerman is a ruthless contract negotiator.

Granted, with nary an NHL game under his belt, the argument that Johansson wasn’t sitting down at the table across from Yzerman with a lot of ammunition of his side in this latest contract showdown between player and GM is valid. Yet Yzerman has shown us in the past that even when you do have some weapons at your disposal, he can deflect with the best of them.

Wednesday, the Red Wings were announcing that the 23-year-old Swedish defenseman was agreeing to terms on a one-year contract. A restricted free agent, Johansson’s pact will pay him $775,000 if he’s playing in the NHL. That’s barely above the NHL minimum salary of $750,000.

On the other hand, should Johansson be back in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins, his annual paycheck plummets to $90,000. That’s quite the haircut for what would amount to a $660,000 bus ticket to GR. It would be a $20,000 raise over what Johansson was earning with the Griffins last season, though.

Johansson Would Need To Clear Waivers

Perhaps Johansson is also rolling the dice. As a player out of options, he’d be needing to clear NHL waivers to return to the Griffins. Are the Red Wings willing to take the risk of losing him to send Johansson back down next season before getting a look at him in NHL action?

The 60th player chosen in the 2019 NHL entry draft, Johansson is getting good progress reports from Grand Rapids coach Dan Watson.

“(He’s) another guy who’s prepared, another guy who’s a pro and does things the right way,” Watson said.

Yzerman A Hardball Negotiator

Johansson isn’t the first player in the organization to find out that there’s little wiggle room when sitting across the negotiating table from Yzerman. Even veteran Red Wings have found him a tough nut to crack.

Last season, center Joe Veleno, with 152 NHL games and 18 goals under his belt, could only get a one-year deal worth $825,000 out of the Red Wings GM. That made Veleno the lowest-paid regular player on the team.

Even stars find out the Yzerman isn’t going to budge much from his negotiating stance. In 2022-23, following a 30-goal season, forward Tyler Bertuzzi was seeking a huge raise and significant term as an impending UFA. Instead, Yzerman dealt Bertuzzi to the Boston Bruins.

Based on Bertuzzi’s output in the two seasons since, it would appear that Yzerman’s hard stance was the correct approach.

That same season, captain Dylan Larkin was also on the brink of becoming a UFA. After a long, drawn-out negoitating process, the captain would ultimately agree to an eight-year pact worth $8.7 million. Larkin’s camp had been seeking an AAV in the $9-10 million range.