Steve Yzerman sheds a bit of light on Lightning free agency, talks dev camp

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Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman sheds a bit of light on Lightning's free agency process, talks about 2018 Development Camp

REPORTER: Is there anything you can talk about, about what's going on these past couple days with you?

- Well, there was an unrestricted free agent in John Tavares. And we went out and spoke with him yesterday.

REPORTER: How did it go? Was it just an informal meeting? Just trying to get an idea of his interest? And what was his interest?

- Well, I would say it's more than an informal meeting. And that's about all I have to say.

- Did you like this, quote unquote, "legal tampering window" was open, so you can get a feel for things like that? Not just on him, but all free agents in general?

- It's not illegal tampering. It is what it is. It's a period to talk to free agents. And I do personally like it, yeah. Because as opposed to on July 1, everybody-- the players, the agents, teams making decisions as quickly as possible under duress. It gives everybody a chance to think it through. So yeah, I think it's a better process.

REPORTER: He has knowledge of a number of your players. And your team is posied clearly-- is probably better positioned than most to win right now. It looks like it would be a very attractive [INAUDIBLE] for any free agent.

- Glad you think so.

REPORTER: Do you have idea, anticipate what time-- when you might know an answer regarding--

- I don't. No.

REPORTER: Does it put other things on hold for you, though, as you try to look in towards July 1 and knowing the cap and what moves you have to make. Does it kind of put things a little bit on hold as far as what you can do not knowing the answer to that?

- No, not really. I mean, obviously if John comes here, then we're going have to do some other things. But it's not nothing really on hold until that point. We just change directions a little bit.

- Plan A? Plan B? Plan C? Plan D?

- Yeah,there's lots of plans.

- Can you just talk real quick about Dennis Yan. And you had so many of those rookies come in to Syracuse last year. He looked like he get off to a good start and was kind of derailed a little bit by the injuries. Where was his growth? And what can he get in coming to this camp where maybe a lot of those first-year pros aren't here this year?

- Dennis. It was an up and down year, mostly due to injury. When he played, he played very well. He can score goals. He's a big, strong, really good athlete with a knack for scoring. And I think it was a very good first year not only for him, but all of our first-year guys came in and really did well.

He's one of our more experienced kids here. I think this is his third-- third, I think, maybe fourth camp. He kind of knows the drill. And we expect him to be one of the leaders.

It's an important offseason for him, 1, to continue to stay healthy. He's a tremendous athlete. He always tests well. But even to take it another step. And then, we're expecting him to take a significant step as a contributor. Whether it's goals and assists, leadership, have an impact on our team in Syracuse again next year. But we think he's a very good prospect with a lot of talent. He continues to work hard physically and mentally to mature, he's going to even be better.

- When you have a lot of those guys who are like that, though, [INAUDIBLE]. Does a setback like that [INAUDIBLE]?

- No, not at all.

- [INAUDIBLE] internal competition?

- Not at all. The injuries-- I mean, injuries. Every player deals with that at some point. Very few guys will go through their entire careers without these types of setbacks.

Your prospects. It's hard to get to the NHL even when you stay healthy. But this is a part of it and why it's so tough to play in the league is you've got to deal with a lot to get there. Just to get there. And then, to stay there. And injuries are a part of it. But coming to training camp this year, and he'll fall into place based on his play. So I don't see him setback really at all.

Obviously, not playing towards the end doesn't help. Doesn't help him last year. But again, you have an entire offseason, and training camp, and preseason to show how far you've come.

REPORTER: We haven't talked to you-- or I haven't spoken with you since the exit meetings.

- Yes.

REPORTER: How long did it take to process, kind of get that out of your system and close that chapter and begin this new process of gaining-- looking at free agency and getting ready, looking at this year's [INAUDIBLE].

- We take a couple of weeks to go through. We talk to the players, talk to the coaches. Julien, Pat, Tommy Kurvers kind of go through things, meet with our pro scouting staff, and kind of figure out what we're doing with our team, and what are our options or potential moves. Whether it be trade or free agency.

It's been a very busy offseason so far. Not that we've done anything other than the one trade, but busy in terms of talking a lot amongst ourselves. So it's been very time-consuming. And like I say, now we get into-- we get through the draft and the free agency period and go from there. But I thought it was a productive couple of weeks at the end of the season just kind of gathering information, getting different viewpoints from everybody within the organization, players included.

- Steve, what can Jeff Halpern bring to the coaching staff with his hiring?

- Well, we really like-- as soon as he's come into the organization kind of as a part-time assistant coach to full-time assistant coach in Syracuse and now up here, he's kind of fresh out of the game, relatively. Still knows a lot of the players. We really like the work he did with our guys in Syracuse. The work after practice skills. We like the work he did with the coaches and the players as well on special teams. And he's shown a lot of enthusiasm.

A very bright guy. A very engaging personality and upbeat personality. So I think he's an excellent addition to our staff. But really, in working with him in Syracuse and seeing the work he did in practice and the coach's meetings, he got a very good feel for the game and a good understanding of his role. And you know, we're pleased to bring him up here. And like I said, the comfort of having worked with him and seen him in action so to speak in Syracuse, we really feel he's a good fit to add to our coaching staff.

- Will he be the only addition to the coaching staff?

- Possibly. We'd consider hiring one more.

REPORTER: You liked James T. Miller enough to acquire him in that trade in February. But what did you see from him in the couple months you had him? Where obviously, you guys gave him a five-year deal here to be a part of this group.

- Yeah. Just a little bit-- he provides a lot of little things. He's very valuable, very versatile. And really, can play all three forward positions. Can play different spots in the power play. Left-hander that can play and take faceoffs for as well. And he's a big body that plays a somewhat physical game. So we like the versatility. We like his size. And again, just I thought he made us a better hockey team. And we're pleased to be able to come to an agreement on a contract.

REPORTER: You mentioned the draft the other day, that one of the better ways to improve the team is kind of keeping the group together for the most part, not wanting to go [INAUDIBLE]. How do you balance making-- trying to get a significant addition to your roster, a guy like Tavares, versus knowing you might have to make a couple moves to fit under the cap as far as--

- Well, we look at every opportunity that comes along. And in our opinion, does this make us a better team? Kind of as simple as that. And hopefully, we're right more times than we're wrong.

REPORTER: What is it about him that makes him so special?

- Who?

REPORTER: John.

- Well, we think he's one of the best players in the league. He's one of the best players in the league.