2012-13 Detroit Red Wings Pro/No: Justin Abdelkader

He makes Blues fans sad, so there's that.

Last season, we teamed up with The Production Line to gauge the feelings of the fanbase on bringing back or cutting ties with Detroit's free agents. In the spirit of the offseason, we're back again this year with eight guys to cover.

Here's the background info for this season:

The Detroit Red Wings currently have 18 players under contract for the 2012-23 season with $44M committed to that group. While this is a CBA year and we can't be sure, we're assuming that the Wings will bring $20M in cap space to the bargaining table looking for a two forwards (including one top six forward), two defensemen, and a backup goaltender.

With that in mind, we'll start off with a guy we've recently discussed who would fill one of those forward positions. Follow after the jump for the breakdown on Justin Abdelkader.

THE VITALS
Justin Abdelkader, Forward #8
25 Years Old (February 25, 1987)
6'1", 215 lbs
3 Full NHL Seasons (208 career regular season games played) - All with Detroit
Born in Muskegon, MI, attended Michigan State

STATISTICS
Regular Season - 80 games played, 8 goals, 14 assists, 62 PIM, +4, 12:18 TOI per game.
Playoffs - 5 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 2 PIM, -5, 12:31 TOI per game

CONTRACT SITUATION
Justin Abdelkader was drafted by Detroit in the 2nd round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (42nd overall). He played the next three seasons with Michigan State before moving up to the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2008-09 season. In that playoff year, Abdelkader became one of the more famous "black aces" by scoring two goals in the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He became a full-time Red Wing about halfway through the following season. Abdelkader is coming off of his intermediate-level deal (the one after entry-level) which paid him $750K for 2010-11 and $825K for the 2011-12 season.

Abdelkader will be a restricted free agent on July 1st.

DEPTH SITUATION

Abdelkader spent last season solidly entrenched outside of the forward rotation as Detroit's 4th line center who could also play on the third line. He kills penalties and plays as the de-facto "enforcer" of the team when needed. His output has gone up every season, but he is not projected to ever turn into an offensive player. He would remain low on the depth chart if he is re-signed.

CASE FOR ABDELKADER
1) Abdelkader wins more than half of his faceoffs and can play tough defensive minutes in a grinding/energy role.
2) His energy is impressive, so much so that he was invited to play with Team USA at the IIHF World Hockey Championship this summer where he had an impressive showing playing the same type of role he would play in Detroit
3) Abdelkader is likely to come cheap and he knows Detroit's system.

CASE AGAINST ABDELKADER
1) Abdelkader spends long stretches where he doesn't affect the game. Stretches longer than even a fourth-liner should be putting up.
2) He very likely may have peaked as far as career potential. While he may not command much money, his presence on the roster can take up space that the Wings could use to test one of their young guys in a more substantial role with the team. As Fiend points out in this fanpost, he's replaceable by a number of different assets which would come just as cheaply.
3) Abby still takes too many penalties and doesn't seem to have the "gift" for knowing when is the best time to take on a fight.

WHAT HE'S SAYING
Whether it's because he's too busy at the worlds or because it seems like such an obvious thing that the diggers like Helene St. James put it as fact rather than asking the question, Abdelkader hasn't said anything recently regarding contract talks. It seems almost painfullly obvious that Abdelkader wants to come back.

SALARY RANGE
Justin Abdelkader has the kind of output potential of a low-paid forward. His RFA status means his qualifying offer must be at least $866,250 (105% of his current salary). With RFA compensation limits set higher than that bar, it's possible he could command somewhere in the $1.1M range or higher.

POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS

Internal :: Cory Emmerton made a push last season to unseat Abdelkader as the Wings' 4th line center. Gustav Nyquist will likely spend all of next season with the big club and, while he's typically been a winger in the Wings' organization, crazier things have happened than moving a center back to that position.
External :: Every year there are a ton of low-pay UFAs-to-be. This year, there are 14 UFAs-to-be who made between $850K-$1.2M, including Gregory "Daddy's Boy" Campbell, Dominic Moore, Taylor Pyatt, Team USA teammate Jim Slater, and moustache aficionado George Parros.

WHAT DO YOU THINK
Please use the form below to give us your take on whether the Wings should try to get Justin Abdelkader back at a reasonable rate. Then, sound off in the comments with your thoughts. Can Abby prove his worth and win a spot or has he plateaud? Voting will stay open for 48 hours. Thanks!

[Voting is now closed. Thank you for your participation! Results will be posted at the end of the series.]

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