It’s no secret that Justin Abdelkader has been the target of a lot of Detroit Red Wings fans ire. He was given a seven-year $29.75 million contract by then-general manager Ken Holland for the start of the 2016-17 season. The deal was one of several questionable contracts given out by Holland that has saddled the team with a seemingly unmovable contract.
Abdelkader has seen his numbers go down in recent years and the level of anger has gone up. The Muskegon, Mich. native has only gotten over 10 goals once since inking that contract.
He has been working extra hard to prove his worth over the summer. There are still questions on if he’ll see out the rest of his contract with the team.
Justin Abdelkader Fighting for Spot
Abdelkader wasn’t the only one that got a sweetheart contract from Holland. However, his contract is the one that fans scrutinize the most. The 11-year veteran carries a $4.25 million per season cap hit and there are plenty of younger players nipping at his heels. Players such as Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov and Taro Hirose will want an opportunity for a permanent roster spot
General manager Steve Yzerman has also been trying to beef up the bottom six with the acquisition of Adam Erne from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Skaters like Rasmussen, Svechnikov, and Erne are big players that have skills reminiscent of a younger Abdelkader. Zadina has the potential of being one the better forwards on the team. Hirose is hoping to build off a solid start to his NHL career.
All these moves seem to be spelling the end of Abdelkader’s career in Hockeytown. He sheds his full no-trade clause at the end of the season as it turns into a modified no-trade clause. His contract will likely be hard to move but getting his deal off the books would be huge to help Detroit move forward.
Last season he went 40 games without a goal as the frustration in his game grew. That type of prolonged futility streak would cause anyone to question their place on the team.
Something to Prove
However, Abdelkader thinks he has plenty left in the tank with his experience. He’s played many roles in his career with the Red Wings and is ready to take on whatever head coach Jeff Blashill gives him.
“I just have to be ready for whatever role I will be put in, and then making sure I can contribute that way,” Abdelkader said to the Detroit News. “I’ve been fortunate in my career playing with some really good players, whether it’s been Pavel Datsyuk or Z (Henrik Zetterberg), and I’ve been on fourth lines a lot, especially at the start of my career.”
That drive has him on the ice earlier than ever as he’s trying to find the spark in his game. He’s been working out at Michigan State’s camp trying to refine his skill and adapt to an ever-evolving NHL. The game is faster than ever and Abdelkader is trying to keep his spot on a younger team.
What it Means for the Future
He could be a decent bottom-six option if he finds the form, something he had in him a few seasons ago. Abdelkader hopes to be a bridge from the Wings’ past success to a hopefully winning future.
Yzerman has brought a sense of renewed optimism. However, the team must clear out some of the albatross contracts that Holland left. Abdelkader’s contract is one of the more glaring deals. However, he will fight for his place to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever been part of.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – FEBRUARY 26: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Little Caesars Arena on February 26, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)