Detroit – Fans might have been underwhelmed, but the Detroit Red Wings accomplished what they set out to do Monday for the start of unrestricted free agency.
General manager Steve Yzerman wanted to sign veterans who could help the present roster, but to short-term deals, allowing flexibility while enabling young prospects to gradually work their way onto the NHL.
Signing forward Valtteri Filppula (two years/$6 million), a former Red Wing, and defenseman Patrik Nemeth (two years/$6 million) and goaltender Calvin Pickard (two years/$1.4 million), accomplishes those goals.
“We were working at doing shorter-team deals with everyone we spoke with,” Yzerman said. “Being new to the organization, I wanted to proceed somewhat slowly and kind of get to know what we have within the organization. I have a good handle on the NHL team. The prospects we have coming, the players we have in Grand Rapids, I wanted to give them balance, flexibility, opportunities for our young players, but also trying to help the Detroit Red Wings immediately as much as possible.
“The shorter-team deals made the most sense for us at this stage. We signed three players on two-year contracts, and they’re all designed to help us immediately but our hands aren’t necessarily (tied to long term contracts).”
There were some big names on the unrestricted free agent market Monday, but they were quickly gobbled up by teams closer to contention than the Red Wings.
Forward Artemi Panarin went to the New York Rangers (seven years/$81.5 million), goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to Florida (seven years/$70 million) and Matt Duchene to Nashville (seven years/$56 million), headlining a busy – and expensive – day around the NHL.
Considering where the Red Wings are in their rebuild, with a wave of prospects coming into the organization and a shedding of many long-term contracts on the NHL roster in the next few years, Yzerman didn’t want to dive into any big contracts all over again.
“We were looking at potentially players in one-, two-, and three-year contracts,” Yzerman said. “We weren’t in the market for the long-term contracts. We weren’t in on any of the long-term, high-profile contracts.”
But Yzerman isn’t necessarily done on the free-agent market.
“I would mull over a couple of other things,” Yzerman said. “We have a spot, potentially on our roster on right wing. I don’t want to fill it just to fill it because it gives us some options for some of our younger players to see if they’re ready and it leaves opportunity, maybe, for something to come along now and the start of the regular season.
“I’m not really in a hurry, but if I could another winger I would consider that.”
Yzerman also wouldn’t mind adding another veteran defenseman, if possible.
“But we weigh (that) adding another one, versus leaving a spot for one of our younger guys on the roster and maybe deciding at training camp or after training camp.
“If the right player and right contract comes along, we would consider signing another one.”
Even if the Wings do add veterans, Yzerman said young players will have the opportunity to make next season’s roster.
“We still are in a position where those guys are competing and if they’re ready to play, they’re going to force somebody out and we’ll deal with it at that time,” Yzerman said. “If we sign a forward or another defenseman it does not box out any of our young players. It gives us protection if they’re not ready to go in the fall.”