The Grand Rapids Griffins released Justin Abdelkader from his tryout contract to allow him to be an alternate for the U.S. Olympic Hockey team.
Abdelkader, 34, played three games for the Griffins, primarily to allow him to shake the rust off his game. He hadn’t played since last spring when he suffered a knee injury while serving as captain of Team USA at the World Championships.
Because of the threat of COVID-19, the alternate positions are important for each country. If teams suffer multiple positive tests, the alternates will be used. At one point before Christmas, the NHL had 121 players on the COVID-19 protocol list. A U.S. bobsledder recently tested positive right before he was supposed to leave for the Games in Beijing.
Justin Abdelkader didn’t score in his three Griffins’ games, but his timing improved in each game he played. The Red Wings bought out Abdelkader’s contract in 2020 and they will continue to pay him through 2025-26. They owe him $2.3 million for this season and the next and then must pay him just over $1 million for three more seasons.
Hopes for NHL Contract
One of Abdelkader’s hopes is that an NHL team will sign him for the remainder of the season. He played in the Swiss League last season and helped Zug EV win a championships. Abdelkader’s strengths at this point of his career are his passion, leadership and grit.
The Americans’ Olympic roster is made up primarily of college students. His leadership could end up being invaluable if he gets a chance to join the regular roster. Justin Abdelkader is a former college player. He played three seasons at Michigan State. Abdelkader scored the game-winning goal for the Spartans against Boston College in the 2007 national championship game. He was named the most outstanding player at the Frozen Four that season.
The Muskegon native played 739 regular-season games over 13 seasons for the Red Wings.