The Detroit Red Wings’ interest in Jeremie Biakabutuka went beyond name recognition. The 6-foot-4 defenseman was invited to the team’s training camp last fall as an undrafted free agent.
Biakabutuka was impressive enough to survive multiple cuts before being sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Fans were intrigued because Biakabutuka is the nephew of former Michigan and Carolina Panthers tailback Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabutuka. In April, the Grand Rapids Griffins signed Jeremie to an amateur tryout. He played three games and registered two penalty minutes.
But any hope he would end up with the Red Wings ended Wednesday when the St. Louis Blues signed Biakabutuka to a $775,000 two-way entry level contract with the St. Louis Blues. He received a $50,000 signing bonus and will earn a $70,000 salary in the American Hockey League.
The #StlBlues signed 21 y/o undrafted UFA RD Jérémie Biakabutuka to 3 year Entry Level Deal
Signing Bonus 50K
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) July 19, 2023
The Red Wings boast a good collection of young defensemen, and probably felt as if they didn’t have any urgent need for another young defenseman.
Football In His DNA
Jeremie said it was a little surprising to some friends that he ended up in hockey.
“We are a football family first. Hockey’s like a second sport in our family,” the young Biakabutuka said last fall. “But my father didn’t really like the contact aspect. You can get injured really bad with a concussion. So I played hockey, and I was pretty good at it. So I thought why not just keep going in that sport.”
Jeremie is a strong, north-south skater with a hard shot and decent offensive instincts. He doesn’t run out of confidence.
“I’m a big defenseman with good mobility an speed,” he said. “So obviously they want to see me play good defensively, see me finishing my check, be physical. Using my speed to join the rush. I have a good shot, too, so take shots on the net. I consider myself a two-way defenseman, so doing all that and not creating a turnover every shift. Just be hard to play against and join the rush when I have a chance to.”
Michigan know the family name well. Almost 27 years ago, Tim Biakabutuka had his best day as a Michigan player, amassing 313 yards rushing to lead the Wolverines to a 31-23 upset over the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes in Ann Arbor.
Ohio State was undefeated coming into the game. The Buckeyes had Eddie George. He was supposed to carry that day. Instead, the running back from the Democratic Republic of the Congo Biakabutuka ended Ohio State’s national championship ambition.