Red Wings 'settled' on skinny Yzerman

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 2:24 PM ET

It's hard to imagine Steve Yzerman as anything but a gap-toothed captain of the Detroit Red Wings hefting the Stanley Cup.

It is the enduring image of his remarkable, Hall of Fame career. It came close to not happening.

On two occasions in the early 1990s, the Wings, incapable of making a breakthrough in the post-season, contemplated trading Yzerman. The first occasion arose when the Wings initiated talks with the Buffalo Sabres.

The target?

Sabres star Pat Lafontaine, who grew up in the Detroit suburbs and attained exalted status with a 104-goal season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was picked third overall by the New York Islanders in the 1983 draft, one agonizing pick ahead of the Wings.

The Wings settled on Yzerman, the skinny kid from Nepean who played for the Peterborough Petes, with the fourth pick.

But, about 10 years later, having missed out on Lafontaine -- the local hero who had grown up down Interstate 75 -- the first time around, the Wings made another move to get him. It didn't happen, but not for a lack of trying on the Wings' part.

A couple of years later, with Yzerman off to a rough start under Scotty Bowman, there were talks with the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators were offering Alexei Yashin, the talented but troublesome centre with whom the Senators were having contract battles.

"I know there were some questions on the Ottawa side about Yzerman's knee at that time, but they didn't have to question his heart," said one insider familiar with the negotiations.

"It didn't matter. I think the deal was killed by Mr. Ilitch.

"Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make."


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