Can Steve Yzerman execute salary-cap magic tricks?
One of Yzerman’s most impressive feats as GM in Tampa was repeatedly wriggling his way out of financial traps, from dumping Valtteri Filppula’s deal to deferring Nikita Kucherov’s big payday with a three-year bridge contract. In Detroit, Yzerman assumes control of arguably the league’s ugliest cap situation. When the trade deadline approaches, if and when the Wings become sellers again, can Yzerman find takers for dead-weight contracts such as Justin Abdelkader’s and Darren Helm’s? It seems impossible, but Yzerman’s Tampa resume suggests we shouldn’t doubt him.
Is Filip Zadina ready for the NHL?
Zadina vowed to punish the five teams that passed on him in the 2018 draft after he shockingly fell to No. 6 overall, but crow wasn’t on the menu last season as Zadina saw just nine games of NHL action, staying at the maximum game total allowed without triggering his entry-level deal. When Detroit drafted him, the scouting report painted a Marian Hossa-like picture thanks to Zadina’s mix of skill, scorer’s release and two-way smarts. At 19, he still has a strong chance to realize that potential, but he didn’t dominate in the AHL, so he’s no lock to make Detroit this season.
Does Detroit actually want to avoid the basement?
The Wings finished with the league’s No. 21 offense and No. 27 defense. Despite the presence of excellent two-way center Dylan Larkin and fellow 30-goal scorer Andreas Athanasiou, this is one of the NHL’s least-talented rosters. Considering Detroit shares a division with beastly Tampa, Boston and Toronto, not to mention massively retooled Florida, is it even a good thing to threaten for a playoff spot? Instead of floating around the bubble, the Wings would be better off bottoming out once more and competing with Ottawa to see who can stuff the NHL draft lottery bowl with the most ping-pong balls. The fact Yzerman played things quietly this off-season, with no earth-shattering moves, suggests he may be fine to let his team marinate in misery one more year. The top of the 2020 draft class looks tantalizing, led by budding superstar winger Alexis Lafreniere.
Stanley Cup Odds: 75/1
Zadina gets the spotlight, but don’t forget about Taro Hirose. He lit up the college ranks at Michigan State and, after turning pro and signing with Detroit late last season, held his own with seven points in his first 10 NHL games. On a talent-thin team, his playmaking skills should prove useful.