In a National Hockey League stunner, Steve Yzerman will step down as Tampa Bay Lightning general manager just days before the start of training camp, the team announced on Monday.
Yzerman will assume an advisory role while Julien BriseBois takes over the general manager post. BriseBois has been Tampa Bay’s assistant GM for the past eight years and he’s been with the organization since 2001, long touted as an up-and-comer in front-office circles. But Yzerman is widely considered to be the NHL’s best general manager, making the abrupt change all the more shocking.
Yzerman reportedly has one year left on his contract, and he said a desire to spend more time with his family in Detroit, where Yzerman played his entire Hall-of-Fame career and captained three Stanley Cup teams with the Red Wings, is the reason he’s stepping down. For eight years, he commuted between there and Tampa, and while he was able to still do his job effectively, Yzerman said that when he and owner Jeff Vinik started to discuss extending his contract, continuing to be apart from his wife and three daughters weighed on him.
“With some time to reflect, to do the job the way it needs to be done — the way I feel it needs to be done — and ultimately to be with my family as well, it’s becoming difficult to do, hence the decision,” Yzerman told reporters at a press conference in Tampa.
But the move has already stoked speculation that Yzerman will eventually become the Red Wings’ next general manager. Detroit extended longtime GM Ken Holland, 62, for two more seasons in April, despite the team missing the playoffs for a second straight season, and he’s going into his 22nd year on the job. Detroit is in rebuilding mode, while Tampa Bay has become a perennial contender and will again be a championship favorite this season. The Lightning lost to the Washington Capitals, the eventual Stanley Cup champions, in the Eastern Conference final. Tampa has reached three conference finals and one Stanley Cup final since Yzerman became the general manager in 2010.
In the salary cap era, perhaps better than anyone, he’s excelled at retaining top talent, such as captain Steven Stamkos, winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman, with team-friendly long-term deals. He’s also had success developing homegrown talent, like Brayden Point and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, a Vezina Trophy finalist this past season. BriseBois had a significant role in working with the organization’s prospects, as he oversaw the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate.
BriseBois told reporters he “would love for” Yzerman to stay in this advisory role with Tampa Bay beyond this season, but Yzerman acknowledged that he’s unsure of his future.
“We’re going to play this year, and after that, I don’t know,” Yzerman said.
Read more from The Post: