Robby Fabbri signs two-year extension, excited about 'potential' of Red Wings
Knee injuries snatched away Robby Fabbri’s first shot in the NHL, but now the former first-round pick is making the most of his second chance.
After an early season trade from St. Louis to Detroit, Fabbri added some spark to the Red Wings’ offense, collecting 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points in 52 games. On Monday, the production was rewarded with a two-year contract extension worth $5.9 million.
“From day one walking into the dressing room the guys were so welcoming and it was easy for me to get comfortable,” Fabbri said. “I'd been waiting for that opportunity to play again and to prove that I'm still a good player in this league, and I knew with that opportunity I was gonna give everything I had and not let it go to waste. I couldn't have been happier that it's here in Detroit.”
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman made the deal to acquire Fabbri, 24, on Nov. 6, 2019, when he sent forward Jacob de la Rose to the Blues.
Fabbri was the Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 and made his debut in St. Louis in 2015-16, finishing with 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points in 72 regular-season games. He also had a team-high 15 points (4-11—15) in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But his promising run in St. Louis began to go the wrong direction the next season when a knee injury forced him to miss half the season, and he missed the entire 2017-18 season after reinjuring the same knee. Fabbri was part of the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship run in 2018-19, netting six points (2-4—6) in 10 playoff games, before getting dealt to Detroit in November.
It proved to be the right move for Fabbri, and while the NHL resumed play, it didn’t take long for the Wings and the young forward to reach a deal, something Fabbri was happy to get done based on what he believes the direction of the franchise is, even with its recent struggles.
“I think it's more about the potential this group has here,” Fabbri said. “You can see it through parts of the season and everyone can see it. We’re looking for that consistency and to keep building as a team, and as we move forward here that is important. Just with the Red Wings from being there, they've been a great team for however many years and a great organization, so I couldn't be more excited to be here for another two years and then go from there.”
There’s no doubt the Wings are confident in Fabbri’s ability, but the question now seems to be where he’ll play. He’s played on the wing most of his career but started to see some time at center late this season.
It’s his natural position and one he feels comfortable playing, but he’s not putting any expectations on whether or not he remains at center when the Wings do get back on the ice.
“In St. Louis I was a wing right away and had been a wing up until the last handful of games,” Fabbri said. “But my whole life before that was center and it helps playing wing, as well. So I'm comfortable all over the ice, but being able to play center and have the puck in your hands and have it in the middle of the ice for speed, it really, really helps me with my game.
“I’ve always been comfortable and I really enjoyed it the last handful of games there at center before the season paused. I'm looking forward to taking on that role if that's the position they put me in, but I think it's a little early now for them to be thinking lineup-wise until we get some things going. But, yeah, I felt comfortable and I really enjoyed it.”
While the league was shut down, Fabbri and his now-fiancé were back in his hometown of Toronto and he did his best to keep in shape in his home gym. For the past month or so, he’s been able to get back on the ice, though he admitted things feel a bit different.
“It's definitely a lot different getting dressed out of the trunk of my car,” Fabbri said, “but we're doing what we can to get out there.”
Fabbri is used to long breaks – though the previous time off was injury-induced – and he feels he’s capable of handling it. In the meantime, he’ll keep watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and talking to friends in the league playing in both bubbles. The feedback, he said, has been positive and he hopes it leads to next season resuming for every team.
Before that happens, Yzerman has more work to do on the roster. With Fabbri and Evgeny Svechnikov both re-signed, there are still 10 restricted free agents to deal with, including forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, Christoffer Ehn, Adam Erne, Taro Hirose, Brendan Perlini, Dymtro Timashov and Dominic Turgeon (Grand Rapids), and defensemen Madison Bowey and Kyle Wood (Grand Rapids).
How many join Fabbri in Detroit remains to be seen, but armed with his new deal, Fabbri is ready to take off.
“I'm confident myself,” he said. “So I can only see myself improving and getting better here with this team as we come together as a group and do some good things in our future here.”