One of the things I love most about Steve Yzerman as a general manager is he don’t give a f**k. He don’t care how long you’ve been with the team, what you’ve done for the club or what you potentially could do in the future.
If you aren’t contributing your ass could be gone.
I can still remember seeing the notifications on my phone when Jonathan Ericsson was waived in October of 2019. And then again when Danny Dekeyser was also waived in two years later in February.
I knew then that Yzerman wasn’t messing around. But those two were aging defensemen who were passed their primes.
Waiving Vrana and Ned
Forward Jakub Vrana and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic are on the younger side with lots of potential. Many people had Vrana penciled in for 30 goals this season. Ned was at minimum looked at as 1B in a goalie tandem.
For Yzerman to waive both and risk losing them for nothing says a lot. Being a non-factor on this team won’t be tolerated.
Nedeljkovic had an elite 23-game stretch with Carolina to end the 2021 season. He regressed last year with a .901 save percentage in 59 games. If Ken Holland was still here he would’ve handed Ned a 6-year extension for that.
In nine games this season that number has dipped to .880. Which if you don’t follow hockey closely, that’s pretty bad.
The Red Wings picked up Magnus Hellberg off waivers and since they had so many injuries at the time were able to carry all three goalies for an extended period. Hellberg did well enough in spot starts to earn some trust.
Once the injured players started trickling back into the lineup, carrying three goalies was no longer feasible. And that’s when Yzerman decided to waive Nedeljkovic.
Vrana was a different story. He played two games to start the season and then was put in the Players Assistance Program. Which generally indicates a serious off-the-ice issue. After he came back, the Wings sent him to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint.
After a few uninspiring games in the minors, the Red Wings waived Vrana which allows them to keep him there indefinitely.
Vrana was scratched in recent Grand Rapids games, and coach Ben Simon said he needed to work on his compete level.
Doesn’t sound like we’ll see him back in Detroit anytime soon.
Regardless, the fact Yzerman put both players on waivers was pretty surprising.
Even the Captain isn’t Safe
It’s also note-worthy that he hasn’t re-signed captain Dylan Larkin yet either. Not that Yzerman should concede to Larkin’s contract wishes, but the fact the team’s homegrown captain is playing this season on an expiring deal, interesting to say the least.
Hell, Ken Holland would’ve given Larkin a 16-year deal with a full no-movement clause and a guaranteed assistant GM position by now. Sorry, that was the last Holland joke.
Larkin and the Wings will get a deal done at some point. It’s a question of when, not if. Yzerman did this in Tampa with their captain Steven Stamkos, and they reached a deal right before free agency started. I’m not worried about it at all.
But that’s mainly because Larkin is a star player having another good season. Not so much because he grew up in the area. If Larkin was older and near the end of his career an extension would be far from guaranteed.
Let’s not forget, Steve Yzerman is the same GM that bought out Vincent Lecavalier’s contract when he was captain of Tampa Bay. Not to mention the longest tenured player in the franchise’s history.
He also traded Tampa’s next captain, Martin St. Louis because he had requested a trade after Yzerman left him off of the Canadian Olympic team that year.
Like I said, Steve Yzerman doesn’t give you know what who you are. Captain, second line forward, or backup goalie. If you aren’t contributing to the team, you could be on your way out.
Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports