Yzerman, who has been vice president of hockey operations for the Red Wings, replaces the fired Brian Lawton as the Lightning's on-ice architect.
Yzerman starred for Detroit for 22 years, retiring after the 2005-06 season as the sixth all-time leading scorer in NHL history. He served this year as general manager for Team Canada, which took the gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
"It was a very difficult decision to leave the Red Wings," Yzerman said. "I was very safe there. Early in retirement, being involved with Team Canada and the Olympics reaffirmed that this was a career path I wanted to take.
"This is a long-term project for me, building a Stanley Cup team takes time," he said. "I don't have a notion that I can wave a magic wand and make the Lightning a Stanley Cup contender."
Tampa Bay finished 34-36-12 this season, missing the NHL playoffs for the third straight year.
Millions of Getty images now available for free via embed tool
Boston schools pull out free condoms over wrapping complaints