Yzerman on state of the rebuild, Athanasiou, Seider, Red Wings fans and more

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — With where the Red Wings are today in their rebuild, general manager Steve Yzerman basically couldn’t say no to what was on the table.

Yzerman made two deals before the Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline, trading forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner (playing in Grand Rapids) to Edmonton — and former Wings’ general manager Ken Holland — for forward Sam Gagner, and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

Also, Yzerman dealt defenseman Mike Green to the Oilers for forward Kyle Brodziak (who won’t play; he’s on long-term injured reserve) and a conditional draft pick in 2020 or 2021.

Detroit Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman shares a laugh as he addresses the media about the trade deadline Monday at Little Caesars Arena.

The draft pick will be Edmonton’s 2020 fourth-round selection for the Red Wings — unless the Oilers reach the Western Conference finals and Green plays in half of Edmonton’s games. If that happens, it becomes Edmonton’s 2021 third-round draft pick.

Athanasiou was the biggest name to be dealt, and evidently had the most interest from teams.

“We’re trying to rebuild the team, we’re trying to add draft picks and prospects and you have to decide everybody has a value,” Yzerman said. “Some (players) have more value, or are more marketable than others.

“Andreas, several teams had inquired or expressed a serious interest. This one (trade offer) made sense for the Detroit Red Wings in the short term and in the future.

“Ultimately you have to decide who we are going to keep and if we’re going to move guys, we’re not going to move guys for the sake of moving them. Ultimately, the return was two second-round picks, and we felt that was a good value for what we’re trying to do.”

Dealing with Edmonton was a unique situation, Yzerman said, in that Holland knew Athanasiou and Green so well from Holland’s years as the Wings’ GM.

“He’s been (around them) longer than I have, and worked with them,” Yzerman said. “This was a case (where it was) his decision, and does he (Athanasiou) fit for them and that was totally up to Kenny and the Oilers’ staff.”

Yzerman touched on a variety of topics in about a 45-minute news conference, his first since training camp:

► On whether Yzerman accomplished everything he set out to do this trade deadline: “We accomplished what we wanted. Did we do everything we wanted? Not necessarily. We’d love to acquire a first-round pick, I wasn’t able to do that. We had other unrestricted free agents we would consider moving (and didn’t move). Mike Green, we got what we felt was value for Mike, then talking about the core of our team, decide for yourself what the core of our team is, we weren’t deciding to do anything with them unless it was a real good return and we didn’t have any real discussions about those other players.”

► Yzerman wouldn’t give a specific timeline on how long the rebuild will take: “I can’t say it’s going to be two-years, three-years, five-years, I just don’t know. We’re going to pick in June, we don’t know who those players will be. We’ll probably pick in the top four, and I can’t tell you which player it will be, if we’re picking at four or one.  It’s going to take time. How much time, I just don’t know.

“I knew what I was getting into and I have a general idea of what it takes to build a team and how to go about it. You need a little bit of luck, and try to minimize your mistakes and that speeds it up a little bit. But the reality is, even the best organizations don’t get everything right. There’s a lot of unpredictability in it.

“Regardless of how the season has gone, I don’t think it’s any larger or smaller than what I thought. My idea, or plan, if you want to call it,  hasn’t changed.”

► On why things didn’t click for Athanasiou (dropping from 30 goals last season, to 10): “In training camp, it wasn’t a major injury, but a minor injury that nagged him through the preseason. Then, coming into the season, he actually had numerous scoring chances and they didn’t go in.

“Honestly, nothing has really clicked for us in any way. It’s been a bad year and what could go wrong has gone wrong, and I don’t think singling out Andreas Athanasiou, he dealt with injuries and couldn’t get into a rhythm and we dealt with injuries, and the season flies by and you play so many games in a short period of time, and it’s hard to get things turned around.”

► Yzerman dimmed the possibility of prospects such as defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Joe Veleno being called up from Grand Rapids in March, saying it was important for the Griffins to make the playoffs.

“We want that team to make the playoffs, we want them to do well,” Yzerman said. “We also want to win games here, but there’s a priority on those young kids playing in the playoffs and they’re in a dog fight to make the playoffs, so we have to take that into account.”

Yzerman noted Seider is out with an injury right now but doesn’t believe it’s a long term injury.

“It’s something to consider (bringing prospects up) but I would say don’t sit and wait for it to happen,” Yzerman said. “It’s something we have to consider but until he’s (Seider) back in the lineup, it’s not something I’m thinking about.”

► Yzerman said the Red Wings received many calls on Monday from teams, but no other deals were close.

“There’s always a lot of phone calls, a variety of things that once everybody gets settled in, kind of get kicked around,” Yzerman said. “Teams are generally going after the same guys. There were a couple of minor things, but nothing major, that we had talked about but for whatever reason, didn’t come to fruition.”

 ► Yzerman also said the plan is to name a captain before next season.

“That’s the plan, yes,” Yzerman said.

► Yzerman preached patience in the rebuild — and believes fans understand where the organization is at in the rebuild — but realizes fans will want to see progress relatively soon.

“It’s a hockey market, so there’s interest, and they want the team to win and do well,” Yzerman said. “What I’m hoping is and what people will embrace is Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha, and Filip Zadina and Filip Hronek, is embrace their careers and their development of their careers.

“The fan base has been pretty darn good (at games). They’ve been extremely positive and vocal and for the most part, our home games, we’ve hung in there and made it an entertaining hockey game. We’ve been through it before, the Wings did it in the 1950s and did it through the 1980s and 1990, and we’ll have to do it again.

“It’s (patience) is very difficult to sell and we have to show progress. I’m hoping the progress shows next year in wins and losses, but it will show in prospects in the system and their development. At some point, we have to show progress and I’m confident we’ll do that. All I can ask for is patience."

► On the importance of playing out the rest of this season hard for this Wings' roster: "They're naturally competitive guys, and they want to go out and play well," Yzerman said. "Individually, each and every one of them has a lot to play for. Guys are fighting for jobs. I'm also there deciding who we're bringing back, and not bringing back, and that goes to our unrestricted and restricted free agents, and for that matter, guys who are under contract. How they conduct themselves and perform over the end of the season will kind of finalize the decision for me. Players will be judged on their character for me, on how they handle this down the stretch."


Twitter: @tkulfan