Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman continues his cleaning of the team’s cap situation, this time placing Justin Abdelkader on waivers for the purpose of a buyout. Abdelkader has three seasons remaining on his contract, meaning the Red Wings will incur cap charges for the next six years. Those charges will look like this:
- 2020-21: $1,805,556
- 2021-22: $2,305,556
- 2022-23: $2,305,556
- 2023-24: $1,055,556
- 2024-25: $1,055,556
- 2025-26: $1,055,556
There was a time not too long ago when Abdelkader looked like exactly the kind of powerhouse winger that every team was looking for. In 2015-16 he scored 19 goals and 42 points while racking up 120 penalty minutes and 207 hits. A wrecking ball on the ice with a scoring touch around the net was extremely effective and it landed him a new seven-year extension during that season.
Unfortunately when you play that style, if the goal-scoring falls off you’re suddenly just an overpaid fourth liner. That’s basically exactly what happened to Abdelkader, who almost immediately struggled under his new contract. Since the start of the 2016-17 season he has scored just 26 goals in 259 games despite averaging more than 15 minutes a night. Only 15 of those have come at even-strength and Abdelkader failed to score a single goal in his 49 games during the 2019-20 season.
That’s not to say this move comes without a bit of surprise. The Red Wings are not in any sort of cap trouble and could have kept Abdelkader on the roster as an overpaid veteran presence. But Yzerman has a clear plan to sweep out all the bad money and install his own vision of the Red Wings.
With Abdelkader gone, Dylan Larkin is the only player in the organization signed to a one-way contract through the 2022-23 season. Every other contract is either an entry-level deal or will expire by the summer of 2022. That freedom will allow Yzerman to do anything he wants to the roster, likely relying on the draft-and-develop strategy that served him so well in Tampa Bay.