News broke earlier today that Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has agreed to a four year extension with team owner Jeff Vinik. Yzerman’s current deal has a year remaining, so the extension will run through the end of the 2018/2019 season.
Since coming on board with the Tampa Bay Lightning under Vinik’s new ownership regime in 2010, Yzerman has left his mark on the team.
From the beginning, Yzerman emphasized long-term solutions over short-term fixes, and the Lightning are now beginning to see the benefits of that approach. With the help of head scout Al Murray, Yzerman has focused mainly on building through the draft, and every year the Lightning seem to come up with at least a steal or two. Ondrej “Dr. Drej” Palat, who’s widely believed to be in contention for this year’s Calder trophy, was a seventh round selection 2011.
The Lightning’s prospect pool has been getting rave reviews by various ranking organizations, and the best of the bunch, Jonathan Drouin and Andrei Vasilevski, have yet to make their NHL debuts.
Of course, Yzerman’s biggest statements have been the seismic moves: first, the buyout of Vincent Lecavalier, and later, the trade of Martin St. Louis. Lecavalier and St. Louis were the long-time faces of the franchise. In Lecavalier’s case, the move came down to dollars and cents – the Lightning couldn’t afford his contract if they hoped to improve. In St. Louis’s case, it was the player who requested the move, and Yzerman, in hindsight, might have come out ahead in the trade despite having his hands tied.
Whether you agree or disagree with Yzerman’s moves, you have to admit: they’ve been bold. Whether it’s the buyout of Lecavalier, the signing of Val Filppula, or trading Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop, Yzerman’s never shied away from controversy. That should make the next five years interesting.
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