This spring has marked the fourth year anniversary of owner Jeffrey Vinik taking control on the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise. With that anniversary comes with it looming contract expiration for an integral figure he hired to run the hockey side of his organization - Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman, who has a year left on his initial contract. Today, the looming expiration of Yzerman's four-year contract was rendered irrelevant as the club announced that Yzerman had been signed to a four year contract extension.
On May 25th, 2010, Yzerman joined the Lightning organization as the team's sixth GM. This had come after weeks of secrecy and false-conclusions drawn by local personalities as well as national personalities. Secrecy reigned and no one was sure who was a real candidate for GM except those who bowed out of the fray.
Since Yzerman took over the club, you've seen traditional operations of Lightning hockey turned upside down (and I mean that in the best way) - player development and organizational depth were a premium to be built around, draft picks weren't to be thrown away in trades to fill holes. While Yzerman retooled the 2009-10 roster to be competitive, in hindsight it appears that he was buying the organization time to aim for the future. Of the players who suited up at the end of the 2009-10 season (before Yzerman took over), only Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson remain (that comes with an asterisk though, as Mattias Ohlund is still under contract with the club, though his playing days are over.)
I've seen a lot of grief thrown Yzerman's way in the days preceding and immediately after March 5th's trade of Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers, with some voices among fans showing more than disdain for Yzerman and calling for his head... Yet Yzerman wasn't the one pushing to trade Marty; Marty wanted out. While fans and media types both cited the "Olympic snub" and thrown blame at both personalities... Well, Yzerman getting the axe was never warranted in this; Team Canada is not an affiliate of the Lightning, and Yzerman was never under obligation to name any member of the team to Team Canada's 2014 men's Olympic ice hockey team. But I digress, as it's over and done with now.
While there have been so many moves at the NHL and AHL levels under Yzerman that can be discussed or debated, I think the biggest qualm I have with Yzerman's tenure is of one coach and the repeated failures that the team sees by way of his inability to click with personnel... Perhaps the contract extension for B.J. Crombeen is also something that didn't sit well with me at the time it was announced. Largely though, Yzerman has been sound as an executive and built things for success. His retention as GM for the foreseeable future was inevitable (though I expect Detroit Red Wings fans to cry foul, they want the Captain back in their organization as soon as possible.)
It was announced shortly after the Yzerman news that Chief Operating Officer Steve Griggs would be promoted to Tampa Bay Lightning team president, while CEO Tod Leiweke remains in his perch running Vinik's broader Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment.