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A Compliance Buyout Of Justin Abdelkader Or Not

from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,

With the 2020-21 cap expected to take a COVID-19 hit, there are rumblings the league may consider implementing a similar option in the near future — with the NHLPA’s blessing, of course.

And while a throwback to the compliance buyout is purely hypothetical at this stage, we found ourselves with enough time on our hands to sift through the rosters and drum up a list of potential candidates.

Justin Abdelkader, three years at a $4.25-million cap hit

Because the rebuilding Red Wings are in no rush to spend to the cap and assemble an immediate contender, and because they’ll also have a bunch of expensive contracts coming off the books this summer (Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley), they can still absorb overpaid veterans like Abdelkader and Frans Nielsen (two more years at a $5.25-million hit) with ease.

Here’s the question: Does Steve Yzerman still want a 36-year-old Abdelkader taking up cap space in 2023?

It’s easy to look at Abdelkader’s 2019-20 numbers — zero goals, three assists, minus-14 rating — and start dreading another three declining years of overpaying a depth winger.

There could be sentiment at play here, with Abdelkader being a loyal, career-long Wing and a respected leader. But remember this: Yzerman used a compliance buyout on local hero Vincent Lecavalier when he served as Tampa’s GM.

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d ca's avatar

One buyout = Abdelkader
Two buyouts= Abdelkader + Nielsen

It’s pretty simple for the Wings and would greatly help their situation whether that be in having cap room to spend on another UFA or roster spots for prospects.

It’s the 3rd thing I am still interested in as a Wings fan this season: 1) draft lottery, 2) draft, 3) buyouts (rooting for compliance ones).

Posted by d ca on 03/24/20 at 03:38 PM ET


It’s kind of funny as conditional trade details go, but
Neal being stuck on 19 goals after a strong start, some time injured,
and the early end to the season, means Kenny owes Calgary a #3
pick rather than a #2…whenever that pick can be redeemed.

It’s up to the guys who spend and allocate all those millions obviously
but maybe the way you’d respect Abby’s career and leadership is to ask
him if he’d like to play out his career in Grand Rapids as perhaps a transition into
coaching, or if he’d prefer the buyout to give his career a shot in another org at a sub-one million salary.

I’d assume the team would also want to have a respectful sit down with Nielsen to help evaluate whether it makes sense for him to play out his career as a fourth liner on a bottom feeder, and for the org to pay so much to fill that spot with an unproductive veteran.

Posted by lefty.30 on 03/24/20 at 04:24 PM ET


There shouldn’t even be any discussion beyond Nielsen. Terrible untradeable and un-regular-buy-out-able contract, no place on the team and he’s a million years old.

Neal being stuck on 19 goals after a strong start, some time injured, and the early end to the season, means Kenny owes Calgary a #3 pick rather than a #2…whenever that pick can be redeemed.


Neal needed to score at least 21 goals. If the season ends now Holland owes Calgary NADA.

Posted by BaromirBragr on 03/24/20 at 05:24 PM ET


Justin Abdelkader has scored 1 goal in his last 90 NHL games. Based on his last two seasons of work we’d only expect him to be about a 25-30 points per season player in the AHL. In short, his offense is far, far below replacement level.

He also no longer players much on the powerplay or penalty kill, as the team has much better options on both units. And he takes more penalties than he draws.

Aside from being a guy who has been with the team a long time that people (or at least reporters) seem to like on a personal level, he adds nothing to this team. Actually less than nothing, since there are dozens if not hundreds of AHL players we could call up or acquire for free who could do his job better than he can.

This isn’t even a question, or at least shouldn’t be. Nothing against Abdelkader on a personal level, but a compliance buyout would be an absolute no-brainer.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 03/25/20 at 07:33 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Hmm… great question.  Neilson’s contract is larger vs. Abby’s which is a year longer.

I keep circling back however to the fact that we roster more players than are able to dress. I am not a fan, and the Wings as an organization are not either, of having a prospect sit idle in our pressbox or play meaningless minutes. Someone has to sit in our press box. That should be a player that is professional enough to eat his benching, shut up, practice hard, not determent the team when he’s plugged into the lineup every 5th game, and that we don’t give a rip about on a long term basis. 

I’d rather have that be a tougher player like Luke Wit myself, but when you have 2 aged vets, you fill the spots as needed.

I just don’t see Neilson being a healthy benched guy, but Abby already was.  I also think from a cap perspective, losing Neilson’s money would more meaningful to get an impact player. Either way has to be replaced by a league minimum player, so I’d go with the greatest capacity play in Neilson.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from YzerGod's pixie dust fueled bandwagon on 03/25/20 at 10:35 AM ET


Posted by MurrayChadwick from YzerGod’s pixie dust fueled bandwagon on 03/25/20 at 10:35 AM ET

The Red Wings were not even close to capped out this season (more than $13 million in space if they had decided to fully utilize LTIR) and likely will not be near the cap ceiling in either of the next two years either. So the $1 million cap hit difference between Nielsen and Abdelkader almost certain not relevant.

Honestly I would be fine with both just being straight up sent to the minors, since again Detroit is not likely to need the cap space.

But if there’s only one compliance buyout to spend, 100% use it on Abdelkader. Money is a non-factor, Abdelkader is the worse player and he’s on the books for longer. Both he and Nielsen are cooked, but if the choice is between 2 years of bad player and 3 years of an even worse player it’s really a no-brainer IMO.

I don’t buy the argument that Abdelkader would somehow make a “good” healthy scratch relative to anyone else. Even when he’s playing every game he’s no better than an AHL third-liner. He has no utility anymore regardless of how often he plays. And if Nielsen isn’t enough a professional to be a “healthy scratch” guy then he can enjoy riding the bus in the minors.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 03/25/20 at 11:07 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 03/25/20 at 11:07 AM ET

I’d be fine with either, I’m in the mindset that if we’re getting ourselves back to near the cap ceiling its because Stevie is adding an elite players, in that context, your correct, probably not happening nearterm so Ablekater is probably the better buyout.

While I understand the venom, I still don’t see why we need to send either of them to the minors, unless it means waiving someone we would like to retain.  Someone has to sit. And in the lineup someone is the 6 minute guy, neither is where I want to see any player that has potential to develop into something long term be.


Posted by MurrayChadwick from YzerGod's pixie dust fueled bandwagon on 03/25/20 at 05:31 PM ET


The reason for sending them (or at least Abdelkader) to the minors would simply be that there are 12+ other forwards in the system who are better and more deserving.

I am sympathetic to the argument that you might not want, say, Veleno as your “spare” forward (if he doesn’t grab a larger role out of the gate) and choose to keep him in the minors instead. But still:


... That’s 14 forwards either under contract or RFAs. Not including Veleno, not including Gagner, not including any other UFAs that Yzerman might sign, and not including Abdelkader or Nielsen.

I would take all of them on the roster, even as the 13th forward, over Abdelkader.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 03/25/20 at 08:30 PM ET


Plus Svechnikov who would have to clear waivers,
assuming he isn’t a throw in a trade.

Not guaranteed Erne is qualified but Stevie spent
a fourth on him and he could be that grinder who sits
a lot of nights. Ehn could also fit that role.

I’m assuming the Wings are moving on from Perlini.


Posted by lefty.30 on 03/26/20 at 12:35 AM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Here’s my list not in order of talent or importance, aside from the cut off from top to bottom 6.

1 Larkin
2 Mantha
3 Bertuzzi
4 Fabbri
5 Zadina
6 1st round pick (Assuming the NHL doesn’t eff us ala the cup finals, and we’re picking top 4 and a forward again)

That’s our top 6

7 Helm
8 Filppula
9 Glendening
10 Timashov
11 Ehn
12 Svech
13/Bench Open
14/Bench Open

Erne - Don’t see a need for him, he’s proved nothing, Neilson is actually a better player than Erne.

Hirose - He’s either going to force his way out of GR or not, and its got to be in our top 9 he’s not a 4th line player and he’s not better than 9 of our forwards.

Rasmussen - Definitely want him playing top line minutes in GR until he’s ready.

Smith - That’s a maybe, he can definitely play today in the NHL,  I personally think there’s more upside if he develops, a 3rd line impact player, vs. a 4th line plugger, but the brass knows better than I.

This assumes no other moves, trades off our roster, or free agents adds too.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from YzerGod's pixie dust fueled bandwagon on 03/26/20 at 10:29 AM ET


Thanks for the convo.

Where I’d disagree with you:

Hirose / Smith— I don’t see any real reason to prioritize “seasoning” them any longer, especially since Smith is already 22 and Hirose will be 24 at the start of next season. I don’t think either is destined to be more than bottom-six filler at the NHL level and at this point I think they are what they are. I doubt that more minutes / a bigger role in the AHL is going to take them any higher than playing a little less with the big club would. (Plus as guys with two-way contracts I’m sure they’d appreciate making ten times as much money and not riding the bus.)

I get what you’re saying about Hirose not being a “fourth line” type of player, but I’m not sure I fully agree. And in either case I think he’d still be more useful in that role than Abdelkader would. In the “new” NHL you don’t necessarily need those guys to be bangers. It’d be nice if they can play the PK and be defensively responsible, but Abby doesn’t do those things anymore either.

Rasmussen—Honestly I don’t think he has a high ceiling either. His skating just isn’t good enough, and statistically his numbers (even in junior) just don’t project out to be more than replacement level offensively (~30 points per 82). Personally I think he’d be better off learning how to be the next Holmstrom in the NHL. But he is still 20, so I’ll grant you that there may be some value in letting him “season” in the AHL one more year. Starting the clock on his ELC back in 2018 was not a smart call.

Erne—agree he’s really bad. I feel that way about Ehn as well. Still better than Abdelkader, although you’re right—not Nielsen.

I mean really what it comes down to is that I think Abdelkader is really, really bad (by NHL standards of course). Like, would not even be a second liner on some AHL teams bad. Like, I would rather have Chris Terry or Matt Puempel on the fourth line bad. He was already down to providing only replacement-level performance 4 years ago and has only gotten worse since.

Nielsen I’m less down on, since I think it remains to be seen whether he can bounce back a bit. Lots of Red Wings had awful years, and he has more of a pedigree of being useful (although bouncing back at age 36 is a tall ask). Abby though, my feelings are clear.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 03/26/20 at 11:13 AM ET

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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com