Abdelkader picks Wings over free agency with 7-year deal

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – One of the Red Wings’ home-grown players will remain home for a long time.

The Red Wings made it official Thursday, as they’ve extended forward Justin Abdelkader with a seven-year contract worth $29.75 million ($4.25 million salary cap hit annually).

A potential unrestricted free agent next summer, Abdelkader is coming off a career-best season in which he scored 23 goals and had 41 points in 61 games and led the Red Wings with 153 hits.

Abdelkader might have been an intriguing player on July 1 for other teams, but he had no intention of testing the market.

“I’m very happy and content here in Detroit,” said Abdelkader, a Muskegon native who starred at Michigan State (2005 second-round draft pick). “This is where I wanted to be and this is where I’m from. The organization has been great to me since I walked through the door and they’ve helped develop me into the person and player I am today.

“To get the opportunity to spend the rest of my career in a Red Wings uniform , it gives me butterflies and gets me excited.”

Wings hope for a 'lift' with Datsyuk debuting Friday

The length of the extension took many analysts by surprise, seven years being a long-term commitment for a power forward, given many similar players tend to slow down late in their careers (Abdelkader is 28). But Holland isn’t concerned.

“I know the person, I know the passion,” Holland said. “I’ve watched him since he was 18 years old. I know his commitment. I know what he’s all about.

“I know how  hard he works in the offseason and how committed he is to be a professional athlete. He’s a person that Jeff Blashill and I, looking forward, see as one of the eventual leaders of this team.”

The two sides have been talking since training camp began.

“He’s a big guy (6-2, 220), and we as an organization are trying to get bigger,” Holland said. “He can play in the top-six (forwards). He can play on the third line. He’s versatile, goes to the net, and be a net-front presence. He brings a lot of different dimensions.”

The start of the this season was good as could be expected, witih Abdelkader scoring four goals in the season’s first two games – including a hat trick opening night against Toronto.

But Abdelkader has been held without the goal the last 13 games, and has only two assists during that span (he has a minus-2 rating overall).

“I have to find ways to get in front of the net and work on getting to pucks and create second and third opportunities around the net,” Abdelkader said. “They’re not always going to be pretty goals. Hopefully we can get some breaks.”

Abdelkader is finishing a four-year contract that totaled $7.2 million (his base salary this season is $2.25 million).

“During the season it’s probably never easy for anyone (to negotiate a new contract),” Abdelkader said. “Now I can get back to work and do what I can to help the team win.”