Former Red Wings teammates excited about Steve Yzerman's return

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Former teammates Steve Yzerman, left, and Kris Draper shake hands after Yzerman was introduced as the Red Wings' new general manager.

Detroit — Henrik Zetterberg wasn’t entirely surprised Steve Yzerman was back with the Red Wings, back with the team Yzerman is so closely aligned with.

Zetterberg was one of several former players in attendance Friday for Yzerman’s press conference upon returning to the organization as the team’s general manger, while Ken Holland was put in an executive vice president role.

“Everyone that’s been involved in this organization kind of hoped and thought this would be a possibility,” said Zetterberg, who retired before this season because of a bad back. “He’s such a big part of this organization as a player and this community. He started his managerial career here (as an assistant to Holland). He went to Tampa and obviously proved himself to be one of the elite GMs in the league.

“We’re lucky he played for this organization for so long, and he has a house here and his family still lives here. There were hopes that this would happen possibly.”

But Zetterberg was also respectful of Holland’s contribution to the Wings over his successful 22-year reign.

“I’m thrilled he’s going to still be around,” Zetterberg said. “They’re good friends and they will work together again. He’s (Holland) done so much good things for the club.”

Kris Draper, who played with Yzerman and is now an assistant to Holland, was excited about the day’s developments.

“It’s amazing the selflessness that Ken showed,” Draper said. “To be with Ken Holland on a daily basis and to talk to him and hear him and now, suddenly for myself, I thought my playing days were pretty lucky.”

Draper believes Yzerman’s arrival will benefit the Red Wings.

“When you sit and listen, you can hear the passion he has of where he wants to get the Red Wings back to,” Draper said.

Free-agent possibilities

Having Yzerman in the front office is sure to attract some attention from prominent free agents on July 1, in terms of signing with the Red Wings.

But Yzerman sounded hesitant about making a “big splash just so we’re a little bit better next year.”

Yzerman said continuing to draft well and developing players is the way to build a solid and stable organization.

“It’s going to take time,” Yzerman said.

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Time in Tampa

Yzerman was appreciate of his time in Tampa, with the Lightning, and working under owner Jeff Vinik.

In nine years, Yzerman took the Lightning to near the top of the NHL but could never win the Stanley Cup, something that disappointed him.

“It was really an enjoyable experience for me,” Yzerman said. “I’m very disappointed that I wasn’t able to, as a manager, to guide that team to a Stanley Cup.

"They’re a fantastic team, it’s an excellent organization, an excellent management group, and I wish them nothing but the best of luck. I hope they do get that Stanley Cup that they are close to getting.”

Datsyuk rumors

Zetterberg has heard the speculation about Pavel Datsyuk possibly returning to the NHL, but Zetterberg isn’t necessarily buying it.

Datsyuk, who will be 41 in July, floated the idea of possibly returning to the NHL this season — or remaining in Russia’s KHL (he is a free agent this summer).

“I’ve heard rumors he still wants to play and where that is, I don’t know," Zetterberg said. “I’m not sure if he wants to come play in the NHL and he’s been out for five years now. He’s gotta be old.

“But, obviously, if he decides to come back, I don’t see him in another place where he can play (than Detroit).”

Yzerman's schedule

Yzerman will travel this week to Europe for the Under-18 World Championship where many of the top prospects for June's Entry Draft are playing.

The Red Wings are picking sixth overall in the first round.

Yzerman said he’ll return and meet with coach Jeff Blashill and whatever players are still in town. Then he'll prepare for organizational meetings as well as the Entry Draft and free agency.

“I’m going to meet with as many people as soon as I can,” Yzerman said. “When there are changes made, there’s uncertainty and it’s important to reach out. I’m going to spend time with everyone I can in the organization.”

Twitter: @tkulfan