Early in the afternoon yesterday, I felt really good about the Detroit Red Wings' free agency haul and about my understanding of where Detroit was in its rebuild.
Today, I'm not so sure.
When the Red Wings signed Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp and Olli Maatta, it was almost exactly what I projected.
Why did I expect this?
It was clear as day we needed a second-line center, a big-minute left-defenseman and a depth defenseman.
Andrew Copp: The all-around 2C with a two-way game. Not overly skilled, but smart. He could play C for Vrana and Zadina. On a five-year deal, by year three, maybe Marco Kasper takes over as the 2C. Copp can slide over to wing, or slide down to 3C if Veleno or Rasmussen haven't established themselves.
Ben Chiarot: He was probably the best LD on the market. Let all UFA LHDs in minutes played. Is he a true #1 LD? No. But he should be far better than Danny Dekeyser. He moves well for a big man and he's more physical than Moritz Seider. Also, his 5-on-5 production wasn't far from Seider's. He can gradually slide down the depth chart as Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson or William Wallinder step in.
Olli Maatta: In my projection, I called Andy Greene. But Maatta does the same thing. Smart, defensively-sound LD on a one-year contract. Basically, this gives Edvinsson or Johansson to win a LD job this year while having the stability of Chiarot and Maatta to keep the team from getting run out of the buildings. I'd seen people penciling in Johansson and Edvinsson to start in Detroit next year. 2 rookie LDs? With such a young group on the right side (Seider, Hronek, Lindstrom)? No NHL GM would count on that.
So in these three moves, we'd filled three gaping holes without roadblocking the development of any of our prospects. Because, yes, Yzerman wanted this team to be significantly better this year, but he also wanted to allow the young players to develop. This was part of that organic growth Yzerman had talked about when he preached patience to the fans.
It was a perfect signing season. I expected a couple of two-way contracts for organizational depth.
But then came the rumors that Yzerman wasn't done.
OK. I wondered if he might sign Ondrej Palat, the 31-year-old veteran winger who's been crucial to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I really didn't think so, because we were already full on the Wings. As it was, I wasn't sure a key prospect like Jonatan Berggren or Elmer Soderblom would make the team. I thought having an open slot on the wing for a prospect to win would be a good idea. But for Palat? A great two-way winger and playoff stud? Maybe I'd consider that worth a development roadblock.
Instead, they signed David Perron (Palat went to New Jersey in what will be a great move for their franchise). Perron is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, with 27 goals and 30 assists. He's got a great one-timer (right-hand shot). He plays with some bite too.
And he's a winner. But he's not the same kind of two-way guy as Palat. I understood it just once sense. It was a two-year deal and not a five-year deal like Palat got.
Still, it was a sign. Are we giving up on Zadina? The Bertuzzi-trade speculation began.
And Yzerman wasn't done.
He signed Dominik Kubalik. He's a pretty decent player with a great shot. He's got some size and will use it from time to time, even if he's not very good defensively. 2x$2.5M seemed fine. But how does this fit? Now, not only have you filled Berggren's spot with a veteran, you've likely pushed Veleno out of the lineup.
We received more news this morning. The Red Wings signed defenseman Mark Pysyk to a one-year deal for $850,000. Does that spell the end of Gustav Lindstrom's time in Detroit?
Assuming health, you're looking at a tine up something like:
That is superior to a lineup with Berggren, Veleno and Lindstrom in it. No question. But does that lineup make the playoffs? I don't know. It competes for a wildcard, likely. But is that lineup worth putting roadblocks in front of Berggren and Veleno? Don't you want to see Zadina with a new coach? I've never been a big fan of Lindstrom, but I know some fans like him.
It's looking more and more obvious that Yzerman has seen enough of Holland's draft picks. But doesn't that prolong the rebuild? If so, it's clear tired that Yzerman, for whatever reason, has lost some patience with the rebuild. Maybe he's just tired of sitting down at draft tables knowing how hard it is to draft the kinds of players who truly turn a team into a contender. In Tampa, he had Stamkos and Hedman before he started. He added Kucherov, Point, Palat, Killorn, Vasilivesky and others. But Stamkos and Hedman were legit franchise-type guys before he started. Does he have a franchise-type guy in Detroit yet? Maybe Seider. There's no Stamkos or Kucherov level guy in the organization yet - that I know about.
What happened that caused Yzerman to lose patience with a rebuild that seemed to be going well? Maybe ownership had something to say about the state of the Red Wings.
Whatever happened, I'm really not sure where the rebuild sits today. I no longer understand the Yzerplan. Regardless, Red Wings' hockey should be more compelling entertainment this year.