Abdelkader gets seven-year deal worth $29.75 million

Ottawa Senators center Zack Smith (15) and Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) battle for position in the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Oct. 30, 2015 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Ottawa Senators center Zack Smith (15) and Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) battle for position in the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Oct. 30, 2015 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


DETROIT >> When Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland finalized a seven-year deal with $29.75 million with Justin Abdelkader he didn’t hesitate one bit.

“I know the person, I know his passion and I know his commitment,” Holland said Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m with him every day. If you’re outside the organization you might have some hesitation but I know what he’s all about. So I think at the end of the day if it’s too long, you worry about it six years from now. The most important thing was to get him signed up.

“I know I’ve talked to some people in the industry that think it’s a fabulous deal for us,” Holland added. “I think it’s a fabulous deal because we’ve found a way to keep him signed and we couldn’t afford to lose him.”

The deal with Abdelkader, who would have been an unrestricted after this season, has an annual salary cap hit of $4.25 million.

“I wanted to make it clear in negotiations that I wanted to stay here and be here long term,” said Abdelkader, who’s in the final year of a four-year deal with a salary-cap his of $1.8 million. “I’m gonna keep fully committing myself to this team, this organization on and off the ice, and do what I can to be a leader.”

Abdelkader is coming off his best NHL campaign after registering career-high totals in goals (23), assists (21) and points (44) in 71 games last season.

He began the season with a hat trick in the opener and added a goal and an assist the next night. He’s since had two assists over the last 13 games.

“You try to say it’s not, you say it is, I don’t know,” Abdelkader said when asked if negotiations had become a distraction. “It was one of those things that you’re trying to negotiate during the season it’s probably never easy on anyone. But I just try to go out and play and do my best for the team.”

Wings GM Ken Holland isn’t sure when Franzen will return, he just wants him to feel ‘good about facing the day’

Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (93) shoots as Pittsburgh Penguins' Sergei Gonchar (55) defends during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game in Detroit on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (93) shoots as Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sergei Gonchar (55) defends during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game in Detroit on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT >> Right now the furthest thing on Ken Holland’s mind is when Johan Franzen will return to the ice for the Detroit Wings.

“Right now the number one thing from my perspective is that Johan has a wife and a family,” the Wings general manager said in a phone interview. “If he gets to a place in his life where he wakes up every day and feels good about himself and feels good about facing the day … but right now he’s not there. I think that’s the most important thing before there’s even any contemplation of returning to play hockey.”

Franzen, 35, missed his third straight game Saturday night in Montreal after leaving Joe Louis Arena Tuesday after the morning skate prior to the Wings taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He has suffered multi concussions in his career, the last of which occurred last season after a blind-side hit by Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer last January. He finished the game, but began experiencing concussion-like symptoms the next day.

Franzen didn’t return the rest of the season.

“It’s like last year,” Holland said. “He went home, day of the game, we thought all was good. We don’t want to use the word setback. I don’t think it’s been as positive recovery the last couple of months as I think we wanted us all to think.”

Franzen, who averaged just under 13 minutes of ice time in two games, picking up one assist, was placed on short-term injured reserve (minimum seven days).

He was cleared to resume playing prior to the start of training camp.

Franzen, who has 187 goals and 182 assists in 600 regular season games with the Wings, said up until the time of training camp that his headaches weren’t completely gone, but they’re not as severe.

Franzen, who has been limited to just 128 regular season games over the last three seasons, played in 33 games a year ago, picking up seven goals and 15 assists.

Franzen has 42 goals and 39 assists in 107 playoff games.

Holland wants Cleary to be a “role model” in Grand Rapids

Detroit Red Wings left wing Daniel Cleary (11) trips Boston Bruins center Alex Khokhlachev (76) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

Detroit Red Wings left wing Daniel Cleary (11) trips Boston Bruins center Alex Khokhlachev (76) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

DETROIT >> Daniel Cleary has rethought things and has decided to report to Grand Rapids.

He’ll be there for practice on Tuesday.

“I just needed some time to think it through,” Cleary said. “I’m going to go down and be a good pro.

“Anytime something new gets thrown at you, you need some time to think about it,” Cleary added. “It’s a challenge. We’ve got a lot of good, young players down there. I’ll be a good pro, a good mentor for the young guys. I got a good relationship with the people down there.”

Cleary being a good pro is exactly what Wings general manager Ken Holland is hoping for out of his veteran forward.

“I thought he had a good training camp so obviously I’m happy he’s going to report,” Holland said. “I think it does two things for us. I told him certainly from a depth standpoint there’s certainly a chance down the road he could be back. Secondly, I’m hoping he goes down with the right attitude. I think he’s going to be a tremendous role model and a veteran. We have a lot of young players, a lot of future down there and I think he could have a real positive impact on the future of the Red Wings.”

Cleary was placed on waivers by the Wings on Oct. 8, a move that was done to clear a roster spot for Jakub Kindl, who had been sidelined with an eye infection.

Cleary, 35, signed a one-year deal last month worth $950,000. His salary won’t count against the cap while he’s with the Griffins.

“Dan Cleary has a passion for hockey,” Holland said. “He’s been involved with the union on the perimeter of past CBA’s so he has some interest in the business of the game. He’s been here for 10 years. Even last year I had people down there in the locker room telling me the positive impact he brought to the team every day, in the gym, supporting and pushing his teammates. Given the adversity he faced he was a real pro. I think that’s important for young players to see.

“I’m hoping he goes down with that attitude into Grand Rapids because I think he can have a real positive impact on the future of our team because we have a lot of young players in Grand Rapids that we think one day will play in Detroit,” Holland added. “If they can watch a pro every day, a guy that competes, goes to the gym, chips it in, chips it out, makes all the right decisions on the ice to a degree he’s a bit of a coach.”

Jurco makes season debut; Franzen sidelined

tomas-jurco-producing-for-red-wings-d3a36ee5d93990d0
DETROIT >> After being a healthy scratch the first two games of the season, Tomas Jurco made his debut Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

“I’ve got lots of belief in Jurks,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’ve seen Jurks be great at times for me. He’s 6-foot-2 and he can skate, so the number one thing he needs to do is make sure he’s skating. He needs to pressure on the forecheck. He needs to have a physical presence and a stick on puck on the forecheck. He needs to have lots of time spending in the O-zone and then he needs to do a good job of pressuring back on the track. As simple as it can be though, in its simplest form, he needs to do a real good job of skating, if he’s going to make a mistake make it out of skating.”

Jurco was supposed to replace Landon Ferraro on the fourth line, but Johan Franzen was a late scratch so he took his place on a line with Brad Richards and Tomas Tatar.

The Wings said Franzen wasn’t feeling 100-percent and was pulled as a precaution. They didn’t know if it was concussion-symptom related.

Jurco struggled mightily last season in Detroit.

Despite playing in 27 more regular season games than he did his first season, he scored five fewer goals. Jurco had three goals and 15 assists last season, compared to eight goals and seven assists in the 2013-14 campaign.

While in Grand Rapids, Juro had 27 goals and 47 assists in 106 games over two seasons.

“We want to put in the best lineup every night to give ourselves a chance to win,” Blashill said. “We’re in a spot right now where we’re sitting very good players out. I thought Landon Ferraro played very good on Saturday. Those are very hard meetings to have when somebody plays really good, but yet you’re taking them out. Joakim Andersson is somebody I believe a lot in. Helm’s not ready. So it’s splitting hairs a lot. We think we’ve got some really good players. We just thought tonight this was the right spot for Jurco. We’ll see. We’ll see.”

Darren Helm progressing; could return to lineup Tuesday or Friday

DETROIT >> Darren Helm dropped the gray jersey, reserved for injured or healthy scratch players, and skated with the fourth line at practice Monday.

“Just got to talk to doc, voice a few concerns and see what everyone thinks and then make a decision after that,” Helm said. “There’s a benefit (to waiting till Friday), but there’s also a benefit of me getting in there and getting into game mode quicker than possible. So we’ve just got to weigh the pros and cons and see what’s the best choice for myself and the team and move on from there.”

Helm, who is still on injured reserve, has been out since the first day of training camp when he suffered a concussion and slightly separated shoulder in a collision with prospect Jerome Verrier.

“Playing a little bit slower and not as quick mentally as I usually like to be at this part of the season, but that’s part of getting injured early,” Helm said. “I really haven’t been too concerned with anything that’s been bugging me. There are a few things to worry about that I will discuss with the doc and move on from there.”

If Helm is activated Tuesday the Wings will need to clear a roster spot, which could be done by sending defenseman Alexey Marchenko to Grand Rapids.

Abdelkader picking up right where he left off last season

Detroit Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. It was Abdelkader's third goal of the game. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Detroit Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. It was Abdelkader’s third goal of the game. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


DETROIT >> Just two games into the season, Justin Abdelkader is showing that last year’s offensive uptick wasn’t a fluke.

Coming off a career-high 23-goal campaign last season, Abdelkader has four through two games this year.

“I think he’s got great a combination of physicality and skill set and he’s got offensive smarts to go with it,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after practice Monday at Joe Louis Arena. “I think one of those things, having a physical type presence on a line, sometimes those guys don’t have offensive smarts to play with elite offensive thinkers. He does.

“He’s been a high-end offensive guy through lots of his career,” Blashill continued. “I think what he’s done at this level is learn how to be very good defensively and build his offensive game back up. He’s certainly done that, not only last year but this season.”

After a hat trick to open the season last Friday, the second of his career, he added the winner in the Wings’ 4-3 win over Carolina to go with an assist on Saturday.

“I think it’s always important to get off to a good start regardless of the year,” said Abdelkader, who was named the NHL’s First Star for his past week’s performance. “You always have to prove yourself each and every year. I don’t think there’s more importance this year or the year before. I’m happy with the start, but it’s only two games. You have to keep improving and keep getting better.”

Abdelkader also had a career-high 21 assists last season.

Wings officially turn the page on the Mike Babcock era

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, left, reacts during his team's 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in preseason NHL hockey action in Toronto on Friday September 25, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, left, reacts during his team’s 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in preseason NHL hockey action in Toronto on Friday September 25, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young


DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings can officially now move on from their former coach, Mike Babcock.

“Maybe it meant a little more than playing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks,” Justin Abdelkader said Friday after the Wings’ 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m not going to lie there, but at the same time now that this game is past us we look to the future and turn the page, or close the book on that story line.

Abdelkader was able to rub it in just a bit more recording a hat trick in the win against his former coach.

“You know it’s our old coach,” Abdelkader said. “There’s pride, but it’s hockey. It’s business and people move on, people go to different places. We turn the page now.

“It felt good to win, but now it’s just going to be the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Abdelkader continued. “It’s not going to be the Toronto Maple Leafs and Babs.”

After 10 seasons behind the Wings’ bench, where he led the team to the playoffs every season, Babcock landed an eight-year, $50 million deal with Toronto making him the highest paid coach in the NHL.

Detroit’s final offer to Babcock, who made $2 million last season, was $4 million for each of the next five seasons. The offer the Wings general manager Ken Holland made prior to that was a four-year deal worth $3.25 million a season.

The team promoted Jeff Blashill, who had spent the last three seasons in Grand Rapids after one season as Babcock’s assistant in Detroit.

“We’re focused on our group and he’s focused on his,” Abdelkader said. “He was a big part of this organization for 10 years, had some great years here. It’s always tough to turn the page.

“I know he had an opportunity there in Toronto and he jumped on it,” Abdelkader continued. “It was perfect timing for Blash to come up because he had been so successfully in Grand Rapids. He’s going to be a great coach for us. We’re all really excited. The future looks bright.”

The Leafs, who have won 13 Stanley Cups, that last of which came in 1967, last made the playoffs in 2013, losing in the first round to the Boston Bruins in a heartbreaking Game 7.

The last trip to the postseason prior to that was 2004.

“The storyline is the Red Wings play the Leafs, two Original Six franchises, one that’s holding its rightful place and one that’s trying to get back to where it should be,” Babcock said. “I enjoyed my time here. I was looking forward to this game being over so I don’t have to talk about it anymore. But I’m enjoying being the Leafs coach, too. It’s energizing. It’s way different. And it’s fun.”

The Leafs finished 27th in the overall league standings last season.

“I met with Blash (Thursday) night,” Babcock said. “I know he’s enjoying being the Red Wings coach and he should be the Red Wings coach. He’s a Michigan guy. He’s done a lot to get to this opportunity and he’s got a good team. He’s going to have fun with that and I’m going to have fun coaching the Leafs.”

Babcock, who leaves as the Wings’ all-time winningest coach, took over a winning organization and helped maintain its success.

He guided Detroit to winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and then reached Game 7 of the Cup finals the following year. He’s also the only coach to guide a team to the playoffs every year in the salary-cap era.

“With him being the coach it’s a little different, just standing back there, than when we were playing against (Valtteri Filppula) down in Tampa Bay,” Jimmy Howard said. “It was a little bit sweeter when we got to beat him.”

Under Babcock, the Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and haven’t made it out of the second round of the playoffs since 2009.

“I don’t think so,” Abdelkader said when asked if they want to win more to show they can do it without Babcock. “I think the media makes a bigger deal out of it than it really needs to be. His first time him coming back to the Joe was big, for him coming back to where his family was raised for 10 years, where he called home for so long. For us it was going about our business.”