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How Steve Yzerman’s move to Detroit could shake up the Lightning front office

Detroit connections run deep in the Tampa Bay organization, and they flow from Yzerman.
Steve Yzerman answers a question as the new executive vice president and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Friday, in Detroit. Yzerman returns to Detroit where he was part of three Stanley Cup championship teams and a captain. [AP Photo/Carlos Osorio]
Steve Yzerman answers a question as the new executive vice president and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Friday, in Detroit. Yzerman returns to Detroit where he was part of three Stanley Cup championship teams and a captain. [AP Photo/Carlos Osorio]
Published Apr. 19, 2019
Updated Apr. 20, 2019

TAMPA — Steve Yzerman is going home.

The Red Wings Hall of Fame center whose No. 19 inspired the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos to wear 91 always belonged to Detroit, even as he worked for Tampa Bay.

Yzerman, the Lightning’s general manager from May 2010 until he stepped down in September to be a team adviser, was named the Red Wings’ general manager and executive vice president Friday. Ken Holland moves from GM to senior vice president and senior adviser to hockey operations. He has a multiyear contract. Financial terms weren’t available.

Holland welcomed Yzerman back “where (he) belongs.” Yzerman, 53, won three Stanley Cups in 22 seasons in Detroit (1983-2006), and now the organization and city hope he can turn around three years of no playoffs.

Yzerman — whose Lightning contract ended with the completion of the Blue Jackets’ first-round playoff sweep — said he regrets not bringing the Stanley Cup to the Lightning and he hopes Tampa Bay does get the championship “they are very close to getting.”

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik expressed thanks to Yzerman for his contributions, saying he “literally transformed” the Lightning’s hockey operations and built “one of the finest organizations in the NHL.”

Yzerman built Tampa Bay into a perennial contender in eight seasons as general manager, making three trips to the Eastern Conference final and advancing to the 2015 Stanley Cup final, where the Lightning lost to the Blackhawks.

General manager Julien BriseBois said in the statement, “I will be forever grateful for the leadership and vision (Yzerman) provided the Tampa Bay Lightning during his time here, and most of all, for the opportunity he presented me to grow as a hockey executive.”

After stepping down as GM with one year left on his Lightning contract, Yzerman was available to bounce ideas off of and give advice, but he stayed in the background, turning down interviews on all topics with all who requested.

The question now is who goes with him to Detroit.

Assistant general manager Pat Verbeek is the most obvious candidate. Often it was BriseBois, Yzerman and Verbeek watching games together from the hockey operations booth in the Amalie Arena press box this season.

Verbeek played for Detroit for two seasons during Yzerman’s time (1999-2001) and was a scout for the Red Wings. He has been in the Lightning organization for nine years, coming in as Yzerman’s guy. The two have worked together in a front office since 2006, when the Red Wings hired Yzerman as assistant vice president and Verbeek as a scout.

It’s also possible Verbeek could leave to be a general manager for another team. The organization gave him permission to interview in 2017.

Stacy Roest, Tampa Bay’s director of player development, and Jamie Pushor, director of pro scouting, also played in Detroit. The Lightning did not make their contract statuses available.

The Lightning’s offseason was already in an interesting place as the organization assesses its embarrassing sweep by the Blue Jackets. Yzerman’s departure could trigger changes in the front office as well on the ice.

This could be an opportunity for BriseBois to hire some of his own people, if he chooses. Yzerman hired the vast majority of the more than 20-person staff.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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