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Red Wings not done adding players yet, GM Steve Yzerman says

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings jumped into the free-agent market Friday and signed forward Bobby Ryan and defenseman Jon Merrill.

But general manager Steve Yzerman said Friday night they aren't done acquiring players.

"Obviously we still have some positions to fill that we will continue to pursue," Yzerman said. "We still have some holes in our lineup we're trying to address in free agency. If we're not able to do that, we'll kind of wait and see what other opportunities may come over the remainder of the offseason, depending on what some of the other teams do."

Wings GM Steve Yzerman

The Wings need a goaltender to team with Jonathan Bernier, could use another defenseman, and another forward, so there is work to be done.

More:Wings strengthen system through last two drafts, but still 'a ways off'

If, or when, the Wings acquire those players, it'll likely be with short-term contracts similar to the one-year contracts signed by Ryan and Merrill.

One reason for short-term deals is that the Red Wings have a load of prospects on the way, and they'll need spots in the lineup for them. For example, Valtteri Filppula and Patrik Nemeth both signed two-year free-agent contracts last year.

More:Jon Merrill elated about returning to Michigan, playing for hometown Red Wings

"Based on what we've done to date this year and what we did with free agents last year, we're looking at shorter-term contracts with the free agents," Yzerman said. "We're trying to surround the younger players with high-quality veterans, with guys who can help our team get better, help our young guys improve and be professional and make us more competitive, and try to improve our team, and buy time (for) our young guys develop in the American League, juniors, college.

"We're trying to be more competitive. We're not opposed to the longer-term deals, bigger contracts on free agents. But at this stage, we choose, more maybe, to go with the shorter term and allow our young guys to develop.

"In the situation we're in, in the economy we're in, and all the uncertainty of whether we're playing in front of fans, or not in front of fans, what we're going to look like (as a league), the short term deals, in a lot of cases, makes sense for both sides."

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Yzerman was pleased to acquire both Ryan and Merrill.

Ryan is a right-hand shot, which the Wings lack, and is motivated to reverse the course of his career after being bought out by Ottawa this summer.

"Bobby is looking for an opportunity to jump-start his career," Yzerman said. "For us, we're looking for scoring help up front, for another right-hand shot, looking for help on our power play."

Yzerman, who has many contacts in Ottawa, where he grew up, all had positive things to say about Ryan.

"People who have been with him speak very highly of him," Yzerman said.

Yzerman liked the fact Ryan did research on the Wings, talking with Dylan Larkin, and making sure the Wings have not been mentally defeated by all the losing in recent years.

"He wanted to make sure he was going to an environment where the young guys were motivated and they cared and had pride," Yzerman said. "It's pretty safe to say these guys haven't accepted losing, and it's great Bobby did his own research because he wanted to know what he was getting himself into."

Merrill, from Grand Blanc, is viewed as a reliable left-shot defenseman who can play in a variety of roles and add quality depth to the Wings' defense.

"We think he can play minutes, he's relatively youthful (age 28), and he has a lot of hockey ahead of him," Yzerman said. "He provides on our left side a real safety net with Danny DeKeyser coming back from back surgery. He provides support for us. I expect him to play a lot and expect him to come in and play as a regular for us."

Yzerman fully expects DeKeyser to be ready for the start of the season in January — if the season does indeed begin in January.

"I can't say that with the utmost certainty, but that's our expectation," Yzerman said.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan