Caputo: Yzerman can build Wings in the Lightning’s mold

97.1 the Ticket’s Pat Caputo offers an analysis of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s roster as built by former general manager Steve Yzerman…

For one, Yzerman had to find a way to keep Stamkos and Hedman around when both were headed for free agency in 2016. He locked up Stamkos through 2024, Hedman through 2025. And he locked up Alex Killorn through 2023 that same summer, just for good measure. Yes, he had the upper hand in a state without income taxes. But in the face of a possible cap crunch, Yzerman never blinked.

Moreover, the Lightning were mostly done picking near the top of the draft when Yzerman arrived. This is where he’ll be better equipped in Detroit. Tampa’s highest average pick from 2010-18 was No. 22. Yzerman still managed to land the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli and Cedric Paquette. Vasilevskiy was the only first-rounder among them, 19th overall in 2012.

And Caputo suggests that Yzerman has more than enough tools with which to build the Red Wings into a Tampa-like contender:

The job is bigger in Detroit, where Yzerman took over a bottom-tier team without the makings of a top-tier core. Dylan Larkin and Filip Hronek are the best players he inherited from Ken Holland. The Wings pivoted from chasing the playoffs too late, and their path to return got longer.

But Yzerman will have the kind of draft capital he never had in Tampa. He already had five picks in the top three rounds last year, and he’ll have six more this year, plus six more in 2021. That’s a total of 17 in his first three drafts – seven more than he had in the same time with the Lightning. He kicks off this year’s draft with the Wings’ highest pick since 1990.

The glut of second- and third-rounders is nothing new for Yzerman. He picked in that range often in Tampa. He missed a lot, as you will. He also found two-thirds of one the best lines in hockey in Kucherov and Point, plus a middle-six center in Cirelli. The third member of Tampa’s top line? Palat, a seventh-rounder in 2011.

In time, Yzerman will have to make a splash or two in free agency. He’ll have to spring a trade to chase the Cup. And if all goes well, he’ll have to hand out big extensions to some of the pieces already in place. That will be the fun part. We know he’s up to the task.

But right now, and for likely a couple more years, Yzerman’s building straight through the draft. He has all the tools he needs, and the vision to bring this team to the same place he took his last one.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.