Justin Abdelkader leaves Detroit Red Wings’ AHL team to represent USA at Beijing Olympics

Detroit Free Press

Justin Abdelkader is taking advantage of the NHL’s decision not to send its players to Beijing.

The former Detroit Red Wings forward was released from his stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins to serve as an alternate for Team USA at the Olympics.

Abdelkader, who turns 35 in February, signed a professional tryout contract with Detroit’s AHL team last week.

“I still have the drive and the passion to play and love the game,”  he said. “I’m going to do it as long as I am capable.”

COLUMN: Even in rout, Wings (and the Little Caesars Arena crowd) deliver playoff hope

ANALYSIS: Red Wings have to do this to take strides forward

The NHL pulled out of the Olympics in December because the league needed the three-week break in February to reschedule the more than 100 games postponed as COVID-19 tore through the league around Christmas. Dylan Larkin was slated to be an alternate captain for USA Hockey; now that opportunity goes to a former longtime Wing.

Abdelkader, from Muskegon, 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.

RELATED: Former Wings draft pick Landon Ferarro makes Canada’s Olympic roster

PREVIOUSLY: Abdelkader still wants to play, signs tryout with Wings’ AHL team

General manager Steve Yzerman cut ties with Abdelkader in 2020, placing the forward on waivers and then buying out the remaining three years on his contract. It 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, but Abdelkader no longer fit into the Wings’ plans.

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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