The final days of Justin Abdelkader's time with the Detroit Red Wings have no doubt tainted his legacy in the city. Abdelkader is a beloved local boy from Muskegon, Michigan so he was immediately a fan favorite when he first appeared in a Red Wings uniform, but unfortunately even that wasn't enough to sway more recent fan opinion.
I can't blame the fans either, Abdelkader's cap hit of $4.25 million was an overpay on the part of former general manager Ken Holland at the time the deal was signed and Abdelkader's decline in performance only made it that much worse. It was for that reason that, despite the fact that he had 3 more years remaining on his current deal, general manager Steve Yzerman made the decision to buyout the remaining years on his contract during this offseason.
All of that is to set up the fact that Abdelkader himself would have every reason in the world to be bitter about the way things turned out. He was bought of a contract he negotiated, the fans of his childhood team were highly critical of his performance, but in spite of all that is is clear that Abdelkader's heart remains with the Detroit Red Wings, and it always will.
On Monday Abdelkader published a message to the Red Wings organization, the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the Red Wings fan base around the world and his message was clearly one of love. Although Abdelkader went into great detail about his time growing up in Michigan and with the Red Wings organization there was one message that stood out among the rest.
"All I ever wanted to be was a Red Wing," wrote Abdelkader at 3 different points in his message.
Abdelkader got to live his dream, and is clearly grateful for it, but he realizes of course that his dream has now come to an end. Even if the Red Wings wanted to bring him back on a cheaper deal they would be unable to do so after buying him out of his current deal, but Abdelkader has made it clear he will be a Red Wing for life.
"Maybe one day I’ll be in the stands again, with all of you," wrote Abdelkader.
"I’ll remember that dream I had when I was five."
"I’ll know that I chased it with everything I had. I’ll know that I did it. And I’ll know that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be."
As I said no doubt Abdelkader's troubled last few seasons with the Red Wings damaged public opinion about him as a player, but I can't imagine any fan reading his message today and feeling anything but love for Michigan's own Justin Abdelkader.