Red Wings waive Justin Abdelkader in order to buy him out
Detroit — The rebuilding of the Red Wings accelerated Tuesday when they place forward Justin Abdelkader on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout.
Abdelkader, 33, signed a seven-year contract worth $29.75 million ($4.25 million salary cap hit) before the 2016-17 season and has struggled to live up to the contract in recent seasons.
Considering the buyout formula, Abdelkader’s buyout cap hit will be $1,805,556 next season, $2,305,556 the next two seasons, and $1,055,556 for the three seasons (2023-24 to 2025-56) after that.
General manager Steve Yzerman termed the move to waive Abdelkader "a cost savings for us.
"We felt the value of what we were paying him in this situation, we could try to save some money and replace Justin with a player making less," Yzerman said.
Given Abdelkader’s age, he’ll receive two-thirds of the remaining salary due ($9.5 million), resulting in a total buyout of $6,333,333 million.
A Muskegon native who played at Michigan State, Abdelkader was drafted by the Wings in the second round (No. 42 overall) in 2005, and made his NHL debut three years later.
Abdelkader played in 739 regular-season games over 13 seasons in Detroit, with 252 points (106 goals).
After scoring 23 (2014-15) and 19 goals (2015-16), Abdelkader never was able to come close to those offensive totals again.
Abdelkader's offensive production declined in recent seasons, capped last season when he totaled three points (all assists) in 49 games with a minus-14 rating.
Injuries played a factor, but Abdelkader (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) didn’t provide the physical presence the Wings desired, and his speed and quickness were declining in an NHL game that was getting faster.
In an interview with The Detroit News in May, Abdelkader admitted it was a disappointing season personally, but he was looking forward to a chance to rebound with the Wings.
“No, it wasn’t (a good season),” Abdelkader said. “I still feel good and healthy and I feel I can contribute. I’ve just got to get myself going into next season the best opportunity to contribute, and it’s not always points and goals and assists. There are intangibles and you have to make sure you’re bringing those intangibles and doing the little things every night.
“But when you go through a season where you’re not finding the back of the net like you think you can or have in the past, it can weigh on you and it was frustrating, for sure.”
Abdelkader broke a finger early in the season, which cost him a month out of the lineup. Late in the season, coach Jeff Blashill made Abdelkader a healthy scratch in four games.
“You never want to be in that position where you’re being taken out of the lineup,” Abdelkader said. “But any time you’re through a season like we had, and personally, if you’re not producing, there are going to be changes made to the lineup. I have to make sure I contribute.
“It’s motivating me going into this offseason to make sure I’m not in that position again.”
Abdelkader will be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team beginning Friday.
The Wings have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.
Forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi are RFAs who Yzerman has been working with on long-term contracts.
But it's forwards Christoffer Ehn, Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini and Dmytro Timashov, and defenseman Madison Bowey, who the Wings need to decide to whether to bring back.
Those players who don't receive qualifying offers become unrestricted free agents Friday.
Plenty of options
The Wings have nine picks in Tuesday's portion of the NHL Entry Draft (rounds two through seven), including three picks in the second round, including the first pick in the second round.
Kris Draper, director of amateur scouting, said the Wings' staff met immediately after Tuesday's first round ended to review Wednesday's possibilities.
"We talked and threw out some names (available) and scenarios," Draper said. "When we get back (Wednesday) we'll be ready to take pick 32. We're comfortable with the name we'll announce."
Yzerman will likely receive phone calls and offers for the pick, and Draper acknowledged as much.
"It's a coveted pick and I'm sure Steve will listen and discuss possible scenarios that might benefit the Detroit Red Wings," Draper said.