Now, that speculation and hope are a reality as the Wings announced early Friday morning that Yzerman is the Wings' general manager while Ken Holland is moving into a senior vice president role. Holland also signed a multi-year extension.
"With a leader like Steve in charge of our hockey operations and with the valued support of an accomplished executive in Ken, we feel that we've taken a strong management team and made it even stronger today," said Chris Ilitch, Red Wings governor, president and CEO, at a Friday afternoon news conference at Little Caesars Arena. "This is truly an amazing day for our organization, this city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and for Red Wing fans around the globe. We continue to be laser focused on building a team for our incredible fans that consistently competes for Stanley Cup championships.
"We believe Steve Yzerman is the perfect choice to lead our efforts."
Ilitch said he reached out to Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik in early March to ask permission to talk to Yzerman, who becomes the 11th general manager in franchise history.
"I'm extremely excited to be back in Detroit with the Red Wings," Yzerman said. "This city, Red Wing fans, the state of Michigan were incredibly supportive of me throughout the ups and downs of my playing career. I am very excited to return to the organization and join the Red Wings again and with our goal of getting the team back in contention for Stanley Cups and the championship that is expected and has come to be expected in Detroit.
"I'm grateful for the confidence that Chris and Mrs. Ilitch are showing in me and putting me in what I consider an extremely important position. I thank you and I look forward to working for you and with you in our quest again to return to the place where this club is expected to be."
Senior vice president and alternate governor Jim Devellano drafted Yzerman fourth overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.
That year, Devellano signed Holland as a minor-league goaltender.
It is kind of a full-circle moment for Holland, who replaced Devellano as general manager and who will now continue to mentor Yzerman as Devellano mentored him.
"It has been a privilege and an honor to be the general manager of the Red Wings," Holland said. "It's been a roller coaster ride at times but the three Stanley Cup championships as general manager is something that I will treasure forever. It's time to look forward and today is a real exciting day for the fans of the Detroit Red Wings and for the Red Wing organization."
Yzerman spent his entire playing career in Detroit and served as the team's captain for two decades, leading them to Stanley Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002.
He remains the team's all-time playoff scoring leader with 70 goals and 185 points in 196 games.
Yzerman retired as a player on July 3, 2006, ranked as the seventh all-time-leading scorer in NHL history, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
He joined the Wings' front office as a vice president and alternate governor and won a fourth Stanley Cup in 2008 as vice president of hockey operations.
Yzerman was also integral to the success of Team Canada, which won Olympic gold medals in 2010 in Vancouver and in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, while Yzerman was executive director.
Yzerman also earned a gold medal as a player for Team Canada in 2002.
He left the only professional team he had ever known on May 25, 2010, to join the Tampa Bay Lightning as their general manager.
"Stevie went off to Tampa Bay and he's been in Tampa Bay for the last nine years," Holland said. "One of the people that I respect. When you sit in those managers' meeting and you look around, I respect Steve as being one of the top general managers in the National Hockey League and obviously, his team this year tied the 1996 Red Wings record for the most wins in the regular season with 62 wins.
"Steve is a really good friend. Lisa and his girls are good friends with my daughter. It's a real exciting day for me to see Steve Yzerman come back where he belongs, back in Detroit with the Detroit Red Wings."
For his part, Yzerman said he had no regrets about leaving for Tampa to gain managerial experience.
"When I left for Tampa, I didn't know what was going to happen 5-10 years down the line," Yzerman said. "I really enjoyed working there, I enjoyed working with the people within the Lightning organization and loved working for Jeff Vinik. He's a really good man, tremendous owner, great asset, not only for the Lightning but for our league.
"When I left, I thought Kenny was going to be the manager, (former assistant general manager) Jim Nill's going to take over for Kenny. I'm going to be 100 before I get to be the manager of the Red Wings."
Ilitch expressed the ultimate respect for Holland's willingness to step aside to make room for Yzerman's return.
"We ask our players all the time to consider what's best for the team. To adjust their play not for their own individual statistics and accolades but rather what does the team need for them to do in order for success at the team level," Ilitch said. "What Ken Holland has done here through this process is incredible. He has looked at what is in the best interests of the Detroit Red Wings and put his self-interest aside. He loves what he does but he realizes this is a one-time opportunity perhaps, to bring Stevie back to Detroit and Ken has willingly done that. And I think it's just an incredible thing.
"It speaks to his selflessness and I think it speaks to the long-term success that the Detroit Red Wings have seen, because on a continual basis people in the organization putting their self-interest on the side in doing what's best for the organization."
Although the Wings have missed the playoffs the last three seasons after making the postseason 25 straight years, Yzerman believes there are some foundational pieces in place.
"I think we're off to a tremendous start if you watched the team this year. With the likes of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek, we have the foundation for a core there," Yzerman said. "Kenny has done a tremendous job over the last couple of years of acquiring more draft picks. In the previous two drafts, in the upcoming drafts, it's imperative that we do well in the draft. We have some promising young prospects that we saw play in the American Hockey League this year with Filip Zadina. We have the young (Michael) Rasmussen who played in Detroit this year.
"We have a couple of kids from junior that will turn pro, just to name a couple, (Jared) McIsaac and (Joe) Veleno playing in the Quebec League. There is an exciting group of young players, young prospects and a lot of draft picks. It's gonna take some time but I believe there's a foundation there for this team to be successful."
With all the success that Yzerman had as a player in Detroit, there is the worry that he could somehow tarnish the heroic image he built during his 22 seasons with the Red Wings.
It is not something that concerns the new general manager at all as he is focused on the task at hand.
"What I did as a player, I did as a player. It's done, I can't do anything about that now," Yzerman said. "I have goals, I have things I want to do. One, I want to be a general manager, I want to win a Stanley Cup as a general manager. I wanted to do that in Tampa. I didn't get the job done. How the people in Tampa feel is one thing. I know how I feel about it and I'm disappointed. It makes me more determined to be more successful.
"But I'm coming back to Detroit not worrying about, oh, what happens if I don't get the job done? I'm coming in thinking I'm going to do everything I possibly can to do a good job here, to make this team competitive. That's hard to do. And I'm hoping we can win a Stanley Cup. At the end of the day, I'm going to do everything I can, I'm going to do my best and how I'm judged down the line, I understand how pro sports work and I'm not afraid of that."