The following is an excerpt from "The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings," written by Free Press sports writer Helene St. James and published by Triumph Books. The book is available online and in bookstores.
Steve Yzerman wearing another NHL team’s uniform? It boggles the mind. The Wings did talk to teams about trading The Captain. The first time was in 1992. Jimmy Devellano had been pushed upstairs to a senior vice president role, and owner Mike Ilitch brought in Bryan Murray as general manager and coach. Ten years had passed since Ilitch purchased the Wings, and there was still no Stanley Cup championship. Pat LaFontaine—the Waterford native the Wings really wanted to draft in 1983—had forced the Islanders to trade him in October 1991. He put up 46 goals in 1991–92, his first season with the Buffalo Sabres.
“There was talk between Buffalo and Detroit about LaFontaine for Yzerman even up,” Devellano said in 2019. “There were talks. We didn’t make it happen. But it was considered.” Ultimately, Ilitch nixed the trade.
The second time the Wings explored trading Yzerman was 1995. Scotty Bowman was in charge. Ken Holland was the assistant general manager. The Ottawa Senators were newly minted and having a terrible time; they weren’t competitive and they weren’t a draw. Their arena at that time, the Ottawa Civic Centre, only seated 9,500 —and still there were often more empty seats than filled ones....
When Yzerman found out his name had come up in trade talks, he fumed to reporters about how much it bothered him.
“I can’t say I’m upset about the possibility of being traded,” he said. “I just expected to be treated like an adult. I would have thought that at some time somebody would have come to me and said, ‘Here’s what we’re thinking. Here’s why we’re doing this.’ I guess they’re not adult enough to do that. I thought I knew people in the organization well enough. I’ve always tried to be upfront and honest and I thought I deserved that in return—the good or the bad. I love this city and I love this hockey team. But life goes on. Hockey goes on. Careers go on. We’ll just wait and see what happens.”