Robby Fabbri was a young forward whose promising career in St. Louis had been sidetracked by major knee injuries when the Detroit Red Wings acquired him as a reclamation project in 2019.
Three years later, he’s proven to be a productive top-six forward and part of the franchise rebuild. On Monday, the Red Wings announced they have signed Fabbri to a three-year contract extension with an average annual value of $4 million.
Fabbri, 25, is in the last year of his contract at a cap hit of $2.95 million. He was due to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Now he is locked up through the 2024-25 season.
Fabbri has eight goals and six assists in 28 games this season. He has appeared in 110 games over parts of three seasons with Detroit, collecting 32 goals and 63 points.
And continuing with Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff…
The Detroit Red Wings have made it abundantly clear how they feel about forward Robby Fabbri.
“He’s done a good job,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think Fabbs has played extremely hard all year. He’s done a good job with us in terms of how hard he’s played. I’ve been happy with Fabbs’ game through most of the year. He can score. There’s no doubt about it. He knows how to score. He’s played well. We’re gonna need him to continue to play well.”
That need will be lasting into the ensuing three seasons. Fabbri would’ve been eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end. However, he’s the latest player to buy into what the Wings are buillding. On Monday, the Red Wings made the announcement that they reached an agreement with Fabbri on a three-year contract extension that will pay him $12 million per season.
Fabbri is carrying a hot hand around the net of late. He’s netted three goals in the past three games while playing on the top forward line in place of Tyler Bertuzzi (COVID-19). Fabbri shows five goals over his past eight games.
As Bertuzzi returns to action on Tuesday against the New York Islanders, Fabbri will slot back down into the second with Pius Suter and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Fabbri scored twice in his first game with the Wings, and steadily established he would be a good fit as a complementary piece in the rebuild. He has played in the top six and on the power play. Fabbri has eight goals and six assists in 28 games this season, and 32 goals and 31 assists in 110 games in a Wings uniform.
Fabbri had a good start to his career with the Blues, but when knee injuries sidelined him, he lost his spot to other players, and struggled to regain a foothold.
The Wings, then in the first year under Yzerman, were looking for offensive help, and Fabbri was a low-risk move that turned out to yield a good reward. With his new deal, Fabbri has the most term left on his contract among the Wings.
The $4 million price tag is manageable for Detroit, which has no other cap commitments beyond 2024 and should be able to comfortably afford Fabbri even after factoring in potential extensions for Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider. Larkin and Bertuzzi are set to hit free agency in 2023, and Vrana, Raymond and Seider (the latter two will be restricted free agents coming out of their entry-level contracts) are on deals that expire in 2024.
Fabbri has not necessarily been considered a core player on the level of those other names, but he goes in as a long-term piece of the puzzle the Red Wings are building. He won’t turn 29 until late in the final year of the contract, so if he can remain the 20-goal threat he is now, it’s easy to envision him remaining a staple of Detroit’s middle six for the duration of the deal.
It’s worth noting his defensive impacts — which have been among Detroit’s worst — won’t have him contending for Selkes (or even killing many penalties). But he’s nonetheless earned important five-on-five assignments from the Red Wings’ coaches (including filling in for Bertuzzi on the top line when he’s missed time this season), likely because of his high motor. That’s a trait Detroit values highly, and Fabbri has embodied it on shifts like the one on which he blocked multiple shots in a frantic defensive stand against Florida earlier this season.
Still, it’s Fabbri’s goal scoring that earned him the contract, and his lack of defensive value simply means he will need to continue to produce for this to pay off for the Red Wings.
Bluntly: This is a market-value signing for a point-per-every-other-game player who can post 15-20 goals per season. It doesn’t complicate the Wings’ roster picture to the extent that Fabbri can’t be traded or replaced if a prospect comes up and steals his job, but it affords Fabbri a good payday and some security, too.