Every general manager has their comfort teams.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning of the mid-late 2010s, it was the New York Rangers. The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes have been close companions for what feels like decades. Even the Vegas Golden Knights have frequent trade partners, though theirs are usually “anyone that’ll take our contracts for draft picks”. Steve Yzerman, despite his secrecy, has a few comfort teams he prefers to deal with. Whether he prefers their play style or sees organizational fits within their groups, he’s frequently contacted these teams and lifted players, picks, and everything in-between to bolster the roster.
Next time you see a Red Wings trade, keep an eye out on the teams. Chances are, Yzerman’s decided to deal with one of the following organizations:
1. St. Louis Blues
Notable acquisitions: Oskar Sundqvist, Jake Walman, Ville Husso, Robby Fabbri, David Perron
With how often these two meet on the trade board, some have taken to calling the team the Detroit Blue Wings. It seems like Yzerman can’t go a month without calling Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. Trades with the Blues have brought in players like starter Ville Husso, middle-six forward Robby Fabbri, and one third of the Redwood line in Oskar Sundqvist. These players tend to play aggressive, shoot-first hockey, focusing on generating offense while sticking to solid, smart defense.
Even free agency can’t keep Yzerman away from the Blues. This year, he signed long-time forward David Perron to a two-year deal, locking down the team’s top-six with an offensively-gifted forward. With players like Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Ivan Barbashev hitting free agency, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Yzerman pick from their pool yet again next offseason.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Notable acquisitions: Adam Erne, Mitchell Stephens, David Savard(‘s cap hit)
It shouldn’t be a shock to see Yzerman frequently dealing with Lightning manager Julien BriesBois. After all, Yzerman built the juggernaut Lightning from the ground up and mentored BriesBois before his unprecedented level of success. While the trades haven’t necessarily been big moves, they’ve provided Yzerman with key depth pieces that have helped to keep the team afloat. Adam Erne in particular has proven to be surprisingly efficient, leading the team in goals in 2020-21.
The 2021 4th round pick acquired from the Lightning in the Savard trade could prove to be especially intriguing. Yzerman used this pick and a 2nd round pick to move up in the 2021 draft, selecting Shai Buium with the 36th overall pick. Currently, the 19-year-old University of Denver defenseman has six points in 10 games. He’s currently on pace to break last year’s record of 18 points in 39 games. If Buium pans out and makes it to the NHL, his offensive instincts will prove highly effective for the Red Wings. Here’s a clip of his first goal of the season, for reference:
Here’s a look at the 2nd DU goal. Shai Buium nearly squeezes one in the top right corner, but good job by DU to quickly recycle the puck to the other side as Benning finds King in the middle and he buries it. pic.twitter.com/CVW4vZii0O— Tyler King (@King_TylerB) October 22, 2022
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Notable acquisitions: Pius Suter, Dominik Kubalik, Brendan Perlini
While Yzerman doesn’t frequently deal with the Blackhawks’ front office directly, he does a fantastic job of poaching their unwanted players and making something out of them. One man’s qualified UFA is another’s top-line forward, as they say. Dominik Kubalik, who was released by the Blackhawks this last offseason, has proven to be a blessing for the Red Wings. He currently leads the team in points with 16 in 13 games. Pius Suter, another UFA acquisition, has been a quietly solid player for the Wings, playing up and down the lineup this season as somewhat of a militiaman for the roster. The Hawks, noticing what Yzerman’s done with their UFAs, decided to trade for and sign sign two former Red Wings this offseason: Petr Mrazek and Andreas Athanasiou. Haven’t heard their names in quite a while!
Brendan Perlini is an oddity. Not only was he the only trade to Chicago Yzerman has made, he also failed to make much of an impact in Hockeytown. The player that went the other way, Alec Regula, has struggled as well, playing in both the NHL and AHL over the last two seasons. At first, this trade appeared to be a bit of a loss for Yzerman, but in hindsight, it looks to be more of a lateral move than anything else.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
Notable Acquisitions: Shai Buium, Amadeus Lombardi, Red Savage
These two love to trade at the draft. In the four years Yzerman’s drafted for the Red Wings, he’s made three trades with the Golden Knights. Whether it’s a positional priority at the draft or some other vibes-based reason remains to be seen, but Kelly McCrimmon, the manager of the Golden Knights, must have Yzerman on speed dial. Moving up (and down) the draft has allowed Yzerman to acquire a handful of fun prospects, including defenseman Shai Buium (who we discussed earlier), Team USA hero Red Savage, and new draftee Amadeus Lombardi.
In the past, the Red Wings traded Tomas Tatar for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick. Only one of these picks was used by Ken Holland to draft Joe Veleno. The others (the 2nd and 3rd rounders) have been used to acquire Robert Mastrosimone in the draft and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Vegas make another draft day trade with Detroit. Then again, with such a cap-strapped roster, they may very well reach out to Detroit for an affordable scoring forward. I wonder who could fit the bill...