Red Wings Need to Re-Sign Fabbri

Coming off one of the most historically bad seasons in the Salary Cap era, it’s fair to say the Detroit Red Wings have reverted to their “Dead Wings” days. GM Steve Yzerman has tough decisions ahead regarding the future of the team, but as the saying goes, “In Yzerman We Trust.” That said, there’s one player who should receive a qualifying offer from the Red Wings, and that’s restricted free agent (RFA) centre, Robby Fabbri.

“He’s a great kid and a hard-working guy,” St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube said of his former player when Fabbri was traded to the Red Wings in November. “He fell on some injuries around here, and we wish him all the best.”

From ‘Red Wings acquire Robby Fabbri in trade with Blues,’ National Post, 11/07/2019

What Does Fabbri Bring at Forward?

I’d like to see Detroit re-sign Fabbri. He tallied 31 points in 51 games for the Red Wings this season. If he’s re-signed, I wouldn’t mind seeing him play second-line minutes, but his best fit is on the third line in a checking role. He only made $900,000 last season and would be another dependable piece for Detroit to keep around.

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He bounced in and out of the Blues lineup before St. Louis shipped him for Jacob de la Rose. So far, that trade has gone the Red Wings’ way and it would be a shame if they didn’t bring him back next season. He looked ready when given the opportunity with the Red Wings last season and there isn’t a big market for Fabbri, so there is no harm in bringing him back on a short deal.

I especially liked watching him playing in red and white. He’s a low-cost asset that can help make the team’s rebuild go that much smoother. He also got engaged in June, and I want to root for him because he looks so happy.

What would Fabbri Cost Detroit?

Again, Fabbri only cost the Red Wings $900,000 last season, which factored into why they were willing to acquire him. He is an arbitration-eligible RFA and it’s best for both sides if they can avoid arbitration. To see what kind of contract Fabbri might get, you have to look to his stats.

His best NHL season came in 2015-2016, his first full season when he scored 37 points in 72 games with the Blues. His postseason play was most impressive with 15 points in 20 games that season before the Blues fell to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. Since then, he has not had the same success.

Since the 2016 Playoffs, he has 67 points in 144 career games, which is less than half a point per game. Fabbri’s 31 points in 52 games with Detroit this season are similar to his 2016-2017 season (29 points in 51 games), so any contract should come with the expectation that he is good for half a point-per-game pace. He hasn’t shown us anything to expect more than that.

Robby Fabbri Detroit Red Wings
Robby Fabbri, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fortunately, there are other upcoming RFAs with similar stats to Fabbri that we can compare. Both Jake Virtanen and Chris Tierney averaged 0.52 points per game this season and I’d suspect Fabbri is looking at a contract similar to those players. Virtanen made $1.25 million this season while Tierney made $2,937,500 with the Senators. My guess is Fabbri will sign for something between those two figures but it’s uncertain at the moment.

Does Fabbri Bump Anyone in the Lineup?

Yes, but he’s earned the right to bump some players. I’d argue he deserves to be on the second line more than anyone who was on it when the season went on hiatus in March. I mentioned earlier that he’s better as a third-line checking forward, but with the Red Wings’ bleak outlook for next season, it’s better for both the team and Fabbri if he plays on the second line.

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I would be shocked if Yzerman decides to move on from first-liners Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi (both of whom are RFAs) considering the chemistry they had with Dylan Larkin. After those players, every forward could be considered expendable (even Fabbri to a certain extent). While Detroit has Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula under contract for next season, both were on Detroit’s second line in March, maybe Fabbri could take over for Sam Gagner on the second line right-wing? That would be one of many options for him.

Robby Fabbri Detroit Red Wings
Robby Fabbri, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Detroit decides they like having Fabbri on the third line, it’s fine to keep him there. They could pair him with someone like Brendan Perlini and give him a bottom-six forward role. I could also see him playing with Filip Zadina with the hopes they can develop chemistry and become an explosive line. We’re still a long way from finding that out.

Fabbri Must Be Patient for Deal

Although free agency doesn’t start until October, teams that missed the playoffs can re-sign RFAs for next season. I don’t see Fabbri being re-signed until early October as Yzerman has several players he needs to re-sign and probably wants to use make the best use of his time before making free agent decisions. Expect Yzerman to offer him a two-year extension as Detroit adds a quality player while still giving Fabbri an opportunity to sign a long-term contract at age 26.