Robby Fabbri has been an obvious bright spot for an otherwise bleak Detroit Red Wings team. As a surprising mid-season addition, the Red Wings now have a decision to make heading into the homestretch of the year: what will they do with his contract?
In November of last year, Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings put together a somewhat surprising trade: sending Jacob de La Rose to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Robby Fabbri. Since then, he has put together a fine season and earned a spot as a top-six left wing. At the time, it was not an obvious trade, making Fabbri’s success all the more unexpected.
Last week, we outlined the details of the trade, and it was indeed a steal for the Red Wings. For a season and a half in Detroit, de La Rose was a capable winger. Meanwhile, Fabbri has accomplished more than twice as many points—in fewer games and minutes than de La Rose. True, any amount of success will stand out among a historically bad Red Wings team, but Fabbri has still been undeniably good.
At only 24 years old, this trade may end up paying dividends for years to come, if Yzerman can negotiate a proper contract. Fabbri will enter the 2020 offseason as a restricted free agent, after coming off two consecutive one-year deals worth $925,000 and $900,000, respectively. As well as he has been playing, he deserves longer terms and a higher price.
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What are the drawbacks of seeking a longer deal? For starters, injuries are a worry for any player, and Fabbri is no different. He did tear an ACL in 2017, and there is always the risk of re-injury. He then missed most of the following year with injuries to the same knee.
Another consideration is whether this season could be an anomaly in Fabbri’s professional career. A former first-round draft pick (21st overall), Fabbri never lived up to his potential in St. Louis. They clearly were not desperate to keep him around, considering they gave him up for a third-line wing.
Through fifty games, Fabbri has proven he can handle more responsibility and more minutes. His regular duties on the second line are higher than they ever were in St. Louis, and he sees more than four extra minutes of ice time per game. Of course, these numbers are inflated because, unlike recent Blues squads, the current Red Wings are not competing for a Stanley Cup, so Fabbri has more of an opportunity to shine.
Given the counterpoints addressed above, Robby Fabbri still has a lot to offer, especially to a team on the rebuild. A contract extension in July means the Red Wings are investing in a young backup to an already strong core of Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. Surely, this is worth two or three years, maybe somewhere shy of Bertuzzi’s $1.4 million per year. If the Red Wings can get away with two years at a $2.2 million cap hit, for instance, it would be a prudent deal, and they would be wise to take it.
Last year’s unconventional draft of Moritz Seider or shoring upcoming draft picks by unloading Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou at this year’s trade deadline may prove more beneficial in the long-term future. It is hard to argue; however, any transaction was more immediately impactful than trading for Robby Fabbri.
Depending on the contract he receives in the coming offseason, this could be even more significant in years to come. This shrewd move could end up being the most memorable of Steve Yzerman’s first year heading up the Detroit Red Wings.