Justin Abdelkader still wants to play, signs tryout with Detroit Red Wings’ AHL team

Detroit Free Press

Justin Abdelkader remains on the Detroit Red Wings’ payroll, and now he may be on their minor-league affiliate’s payroll, too.

The former longtime Wings forward has signed a professional tryout contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Abdelkader, who turns 35 next month, played last season in Switzerland, where he won the 2021 NHL title with EV Zug. He played for the Wings from 2007-08 to 2019-20, rising to become an alternate captain.

Abdelkader grew up in the Grand Rapids area.

“It’s pretty cool for those guys that grew up in west Michigan to be able to potentially play in Grand Rapids at the end of their career,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Justin worked extremely hard, was a great pro, so certainly if he gets the opportunity, I certainly wish him luck.”

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Abdelkader’s play dropped off as he aged, and general manager Steve Yzerman opted to buy out Abdelkader in 2020. That put the Wings on the hook to play Abdelkader $2,305,556 this season and next season, and then $1,055,556 in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.

Abdelkader was drafted by the Wings at No. 42 in 2005. He joined them after three seasons at Michigan State, steadily working his way up from a grinder role to the top line. At his best, he played on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, where Abdelkader’s role was to retrieve the puck and go to the net.

Abdelkader played 739 games, recording 252 points and 608 penalty minutes. The left winger wore the “A” on his Red Wings jersey from 2016-20 while also captaining Team USA at two World Championships (2014, 2021). Abdelkader spent his entire North American career in the Red Wings organization and appeared in eight Stanley Cup playoff runs.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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