Now that Steve Yzerman has his head coach in place, the real offseason heavy-lifting begins. In a rare development, Detroit appeared in Elliotte Friedman’s “32 Thoughts” Sunday where Friedge riffed on a couple of key boxes Yzerman is looking to check off in the coming days and weeks.
Building Behind the Bench
Derek Lalonde spoke about getting a staff put together when he was introduced as head coach Friday. He specifically mentioned a “D Coach” that can pair well with the team’s young defensive foundation. Friedman mentioned Calgary’s Ryan Huska:
Now that coach Derek Lalonde’s in place, the focus turns to the roster. (Under-the-radar coaching interview: Calgary assistant Ryan Huska. Not sure if he had one or two there).
Huska has cut his teeth as an NHL coach with Calgary, he’s been there since 2018. Before that he was running the show for Calgary’s AHL team. Huska has been in charge of the Flames defense and penalty kill. So everything aligns here.. It sounds like a good fit for both sides if you ask me.
Friedman also mentions Alex Westlund as a potential candidate to replace goalie coach Jeff Salajko. Westlund has been serving as goaltending coach with the Hershey Bears since 2017. Before that, he was coaching in Germany’s DEL.
Keeping the Captain
Friedman believes one of Steve Yzerman’s top priorities is getting Dylan Larkin signed to a contract extension. Apparently it’s something the front office would like to get done sooner rather than later:
The Red Wings are believed to be working on an extension with Dylan Larkin. One thing to know: the final season of Larkin’s current contract has a no-trade clause that kicks in July 13. It’s not like Steve Yzerman (Lamoriello Lite) to tell us anything, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if he’s told Larkin he needs an answer before that kicks in.
The “Lamoriello Lite” comment is funny, but I don’t like it. Also, it’s kinda true I guess.
Larkin is Detroit’s highest-paid player and it will probably stay that way until Moritz Seider is due for an extension. Larkin’s cap hit is $6.1 million. I wonder if Yzerman is looking to lock up Larkin long-term with a deal comparable deal to what Steven Stamkos got in 2016.
Free Agent Frenzy
Steve Yzerman has a surplus in cap space and some key holes to fill on the roster. One of the biggest is, of course, goaltending. Alex Nedeljkovic has one more year on his contract (will be UFA after next season). Friedman mentioned Jack Campbell as a potential fit:
Detroit has room to do almost anything it wants, but there’s not a lot of intel that escapes. I did wonder if the Red Wings would be Jack Campbell’s next home, but they don’t seem to be the favourite.
Campbell is 30 years old and just had a pretty good season in Toronto. The cap hit on his expiring contract was $1.65 million. Obviously he is in line for a pay bump — I wonder if he gets a deal comparable to what Thomas Greiss got on Long Island (3x $3.33 million). My guess is the asking price from Campbell’s camp will be higher.
Looking Ahead to the Draft
Detroit has 10 picks in the 2022 NHL Draft and it all starts at 8th overall (for now). Friedman notes that there are a few teams looking to either trade a top-5 pick and there are teams who are looking to get more high picks. Steve Yzerman has money to spend and draft capital to play with. I wonder if Detroit is destined to act as a broker somewhere to acquire assets with its glut of cap space.
Derek Lalonde was reluctant to set the expectation of making the playoffs next season. If you listened to his comments Friday, you heard the term “the process” several times. Lalonde wants to build a team that’s difficult to play against — and I expect that his boss wants to do the same. Rebuilding is a long, delicate thought-out process. Yzerman is about as cerebral (and evasive) as NHL executives come.. So what will play out this offseason is up for anyone’s guess. The next few weeks will be busy around the NHL.