Life at MSU ‘Busy’ for Wings Prospect Abdelkader

Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader isn’t your typical freshman at Michigan State University.

Most first-year college students didn’t spend their senior year of high school living almost 400 miles from home, traveling around the Midwest United States playing in the United States Hockey League, preparing to make the jump from high school hockey to the NCAA. Most freshmen weren’t named Michigan’s Mr. Hockey as the state’s top high school hockey player in their junior seasons.

Abdelkader was.

At the July 30th NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings made him their second round selection with the forty-second overall pick. Since then, things have gotten very busy for the 6’1″, 195 lbs. center.

Before even arriving at MSU’s East Lansing campus, Abdelkader spent a week in early August in Lake Placid, NY, at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp. He was one of 43 players vying for a spot on the 2006 US National Junior team that will compete in the World Junior Championships this winter.

“Every guy out there was quality.” Abdelkader said of the players at Lake Placid. “That’s what I liked about it, the competition.”

Since getting to MSU, Abdelkader has been kept busy.

“It’s been kinda hectic, with all the meetings we’ve had. I kinda like the schedule better than the high school schedule.”

He admitted that he’s learned to go to bed early every day, so he doesn’t get worn out, and that the NCAA-mandated study periods take up “a lot of your time.”

Abdelkader wasn’t originally planning to be in East Lansing this fall. He was going to spend a second season with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders until discussions with his coaches convinced him he was ready to make the jump to the next level. Once that was decided, MSU was the obvious choice of schools, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both MSU alumni.

He understands that, although he’s been drafted by the Wings, he’s not ready for the big time just yet. He cites faceoffs as a skill he could improve on and says that his role with the Spartans will be to “provide some energy and play [his] game.”

“I’m just thrilled for the opportunity to be drafted by the Red Wings. Being drafted high is just a number but I realize what I have to do and how hard it’s going to be to make it to the next level.”

For now, he’ll focus on his studies and the MSU season and wait to hear back from Team USA.

“I thought I played well, I thought I played my game. Hopefully they saw some good things in me.”

Abdelkader makes one guarantee to fans of the Spartans, Griffins, Red Wings, and any other team that he might play with on his way to, hopefully, the NHL:

“I feel like I’m a player that, you know, brings my lunch pail every day to work. I’ll go to work every day.”

Wings Waiting on Datsyuk, Not Negotiating

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland still does not know where Pavel Datsyk will play the 2005-06 season.

On the day that Datsyuk and agent Gary Greenstin were supposed to announce their decision, the only statement they made was one declaring that they needed more time. No explanation was given for the delay.

“They just need more time to make their decision,” Holland said as he prepared for the Red Wings’ annual training camp. “Obviously my hope is he ends up in a Red Wing uniform. However long it takes, hopefully, eventually we’ll get a word saying he’s coming back.”

Last week Datsyuk reportedly signed a deal with Russian team Avangard Omsk. That deal was then matched by his former team, Dynamo Moscow. Datsyuk has not reported to either team and the details of the contracts are not available.

The Wings offered Datsyuk deals of $3.8 million per season for two and three years. Russian web site SovietSport.ru quoted Datsyuk as saying he should be paid the same as Joe Thornton, captain of the Boston Bruins. Thornton makes $6 million per season.

Detroit cannot make that kind of offer without going over the salary cap and Holland says the team wouldn’t make it anyway, as Datsyuk has not performed well enough in the playoffs.

“We are not negotiating,” Holland said.

The Red Wings will wait until Datsyuk makes his decision or until the December 1st deadline for signing restricted free agents passes. If Datsyuk is unsigned after that date, he will be ineligible for NHL play in the 2005-06 season. He would also become ineligible if he played in Russia after the October 5th start of the NHL season.

DetroitHockey.Net Launches Rebuilt Site

DetroitHockey.Net is proud to release the newest edition of its site, one of the two oldest fan-operated Detroit Red Wings sites on the Internet.

The new version of DetroitHockey.Net offers a much more customizable experience for visitors. Users can now register for a MyDetroitHockey.Net account that gives them access to the DetroitHockey.Net Community Forums and allows them to save their favorite news, multimedia, and NHL logos to one easily accessible page.

DH.N RSS feeds are now in place to serve news straight to users’ desktops, allowing them to be alerted to news as we report it.

More accessible coding allows our site to be viewed more easily by disabled persons.

Additionally, a merger between the fan community at DetroitRedWings.org and the DetroitHockey.Net Community Forums has been completed, combining the two communities to create an even larger, more active group.

All of the changes are consistant with DH.N’s commitment to being “The Definitive Detroit Red Wings Resource.”

Datsyuk Return Still Possible

The Pavel Datsyuk Saga continues on Friday, almost a week after it was supposedly wrapped up as the young center signed a deal to play the 2005-06 season in his native Russia.

On Monday, Datsyuk agent Gary Greenstin announced that Datsyuk would play for Avangard Omsk in the Russian Elite League for the upcoming season. The supposed deal did not include an out clause that would allow Datsyuk to return to the NHL if he came to an agreement with the Red Wings.

The deal, then reported at $6 million for one season, was later matched by Russian club Dynamo Moscow.

Now, according to Sovietsport.ru, neither team has registered its contract with Datsyuk. In an interview with the Russian web site, Greenstin stated, “Now on September 11th, after the clubs discuss the resulting situation, Pavel will make a final decision where he will play, in Detroit, Moscow or Omsk. Until then we won’t bother him. He’s been flying around in recent days.”

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland confirmed that he is keeping an eye on the situation and that Detroit has not ruled out bringing Datsyuk back.

“I’ll continue to stay in touch with Gary,” Holland said. “We’re still exploring all of our options.”

Wings Sign Zetterberg to 4-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday that restricted free agent forward Henrik Zetterberg signed a four-year deal to remain with the team. As per club policy, the financial terms were not announced, but the contract is reportedly worth $2.65 million per season.

Zetterberg’s signing comes just days after restricted free agent Pavel Datsyuk agreed to a deal in his native Russia, costing the Red Wings one of their top young forwards.

After a long negotiation process (Zetterberg was unsigned throughout the lockout that cost the league the 2004-05 season), the two parties finally agreed on an amount that would convince Zetterberg to give up one year of unrestricted free agency.

“Something his agent and I talked about over the course of the month is trying to get a long-term deal done that both of us were comfortable with,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland told the Canadian Press. “We were able to do that.”

Zetterberg let the Swedish Elite League in scoring in the 2004-05 season, scoring 50 points in 50 games with Timra.

Holland said that Zetterber is “just now coming into the prime of his career. He dominated in Sweden last year and he’s continued to develop. He’s a young player we want to build around.”

Meanwhile, Datsyuk is unlikely to return to the NHL this season.

“His agent told me his contract in Russia does not include an out-clause,” Holland said. “I’m operating under the assumption that we don’t have Pavel for this season.”

The Red Wings have $5.5 million in salary cap space remaining and would like to sign three more forwards before the start of the season.

Datsyuk Signs With Russian Club

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk made good on his promise to sign elsewhere if the Red Wings did not make him an acceptable offer by Monday, announcing that he had agreed to a one-year deal with Avangard Omsk.

The 27-year-old All-Star is a restricted free agent, meaning that the Red Wings still retain his NHL rights. If another NHL team were to sign Datsyuk, they would forfeit a package of draft picks to Detroit based on Datsyuk’s salary.

Datsyuk had previously been rumored to have been asking for a $5 million deal. Reportedly Detroit offered that amount but the Russian is now asking for $6 million.

“I think I am worth at least what (Dany) Heatley or (Joe) Thornton got from their deals,” Datsyuk told the Russian media.

Ironically, Heatley signed with the Ottawa Senators for only $4.5 million per season. Thornton’s deal with the Boston Bruins is reportedly worth more than $6.5 million.

There is an escape clause in Datsyuk’s contract with Avangard, allowing him to leave the team for the NHL midway through the season.