30-Year-Old Left Wing – Detroit Red Wings
Justin Abdelkader Contract Information:
Signed a seven-year, $29.75 million contract with Detroit in November of 2015.
Abdelkader notched a goal in Sunday's 4-3 overtime home loss to the Avalanche.
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Justin Abdelkader: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Abdelkader shocked the masses when he signed a seven-year, $29.75 million contract last November. Before that mega deal, the Michigan native had only averaged a third of a point per game over eight seasons, and despite his insertion on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Dylan Larkin, he struggled with consistency on the way to a career-worst minus-16 rating in 2015-16. Still, there’s more pizzazz to Abdelkader’s game than scoring. He’s also a pesky line defender utilized on the power play and penalty kill. You won’t see him back down from a scrum, either, as he finished with the seventh-most penalty minutes (120) in the league last season. Injuries to his knee and finger prevented the winger from doing much in the playoffs – Abdelkader went minus-3 with a single goal against the Lightning in five games before the Wings were eliminated – but he’s expected to be fine for the upcoming campaign. With Larkin getting so much attention in Detroit, Abdelkader could get overlooked in fantasy leagues this season; don’t let him slip too far.
Abdelkader previously made his mark with the Red Wings as a flexible winger capable of doling out hits, chipping in secondary scoring, and jumping in on special teams, but this past season, he rebranded himself as a legitimate scoring threat, hitting the 20-goal and 40-point mark for the first time in his career. Skating in a top-six role, the 6-foot-2 forward also set career marks in a number of other categories, including power-play goals (eight), shots on goal (154), and PIM (72). The breakout should be enough for Abdelkader to hang on to a spot on one of the Wings' top two lines and man-advantage units, despite the offseason additions of Mike Green and Brad Richards. If the new offensive heights he reached prove difficult to sustain, Abdelkader's well-rounded production in the non-scoring categories should make him a productive member of just about any fantasy roster.
Abdelkader provided a surprising amount of offense to go with his pesky play, recording 28 points in 70 games. He spent some time on the top line keeping opponents off of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, and may see some time in a similar role this upcoming season. He should put up similar numbers to last season, should he remain with the big two; a demotion will see his point totals fall significantly.
Abdelkader found a solid role on the Red Wings in 2012-13, keeping people off linemate Pavel Datsyuk and chipping in with occasional points. If he remains on the first line this season, he could settle into a Tomas Holmstrom-like niche with Detroit. While Abdelkader hasn't scored much in the NHL, keep an eye on him early in the year and he could be a nice sleeper off the waiver wire.
Abdelkader continues to increase his value as a depth-line role player for the Wings, punishing the opposition with his pesky play and earning time as part of the team's penalty-killing unit. With 148 hits last season, Abdelkader ranked second only to Brad Stuart (177) on the Wings in that category while picking up 22 points (8 G, 14 A) over 81 games. There's belief that another layer of offensive upside exists, but that would require a move onto a scoring line, and it appears more likely that he'll end up skating with Darren Helm on the third line or centering the likes of Drew Miller and Jordan Tootoo on the fourth unit than moving up to receive additional minutes at even strength.
On a team with plenty of star power, the gritty Abdelkader is emerging as a strong checking-line option. As the 19 points he delivered last season suggest, there's not an overwhelming offensive upside to get excited about in his current role, but in many ways Abdelkader has become part of the team's New Age Grind Line now that the likes of Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper have retired. Abdelkader projects to serve in a third- or fourth-line winger role with special teams work coming as one of head coach Mike Babcock's penalty killers this season.
Perhaps the player most impacted by the Wings' decision to sign veteran pivot Mike Modano, Abdelkader will have to battle Darren Helm for playing time if he's going to remain a center this season, but he could see time on the wing depending on how head coach Mike Babcock elects to deploy Kris Draper. His six points in 50 regular season games last season are more a reflection of his role -- hitting opponents -- than of his skill set. Opportunity for consistent playing time in Detroit may be another full season away for Abdelkader, but he could easily find himself in a 12-14 minute role each night should any of the veterans ahead of him succumb to an injury.
A strong skater with good speed and a nice two-way game, Abdelkader may have to open up the season at Grand Rapids (AHL) following the team's addition of Bertuzzi and Williams through free agency this summer. Abdelkader scored his first NHL goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against Pittsburgh, after tallying 52 points - including 24 goals - in 76 games with the Griffins. His eventual role in Detroit figures to be centering the third line, where he could chip in several 40-45 point seasons, but the numbers game on the roster may put that opportunity on hold for at least one more season.
Abdelkader will likely spend most of the season at Grand Rapids (AHL), but he remains a good long-term fit in Detroit as a third-line winger, where his improving two-way game will provide excellent depth. He's a potential 20-goal scorer down the road, but that's probably the extent of his upside as far as fantasy owners are concerned.
Abdelkader gained valuable experience last season as he helped lead Michigan State to an NCAA title. Abdelkader will never be a 50-goal scorer in the NHL, but he takes care of his own end and he has the ability to help out on the score sheet. It's quite possible that once he reaches the NHL, Abdelkader won't provide enough offense to be a fantasy factor; however, he contributes in so many other aspects of the game that he is still a quality prospect for Detroit.
Abelkader will play out his sophomore year at Michigan State in 2006-07.
A 2005 draft pick who's expected to return to Michigan State for at least one more season.