Up until the last few days, sources had been informing the DetroitSportsRag that Red Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg intended on playing one more season in Detroit before calling a career.
I said as much in a Tweet on Sunday afternoon ….
This was in response to General Manager Ken Holland’s comments earlier Sunday regarding Zetterberg’s back …..
“The last I talked to him, he’s planning on playing. Obviously his back is going to determine whether he can or can’t. Do I have a clear green light? I’m expecting him to play. Do I have a clear green light? No.”
After Holland made those comments the DSR started doing some investigation into the situation, including speaking with three sources who believe Zetterberg’s days wearing the Winged Wheel are over.
In a bizarre revelation for a player who has not missed a regular season game in three seasons, the DSR has learned that Zetterberg currently isn’t medically cleared to play due to a back injury. And nothing about Zetterberg’s health is expected to change in the future.
Conveniently for the Wings, this medical condition will allow them to bury Zetterberg on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) alongside his fellow countryman Johan Franzen. If Zetterberg had decided to just leave the NHL — like longtime teammate Pavel Datsyuk — the Wings would have been on the hook for a recapture penalty of $4.3 million for the next three seasons.
In layman’s terms, Detroit’s salary cap would have been artificially lowered by over four million dollars due to Gary Bettman’s CBA correction, which penalizes franchises for attempting to circumvent the salary cap with ridiculous contract lengths in order to lower annual salary cap hits.
Zetterberg signed a 12-year deal in 2009 that wasn’t set to expire until 2021. The contract was HEAVILY front-loaded — with very little incentive for #40 to finish the contract. Of the $73-million deal, Zetterberg has already received almost $68 million.
Zetterberg is scheduled to make $3.35 million this year and only $1 million in each of the following two seasons.
And according to multiple sources, Zetterberg has no intention of playing in Detroit again. This can’t be called a retirement because of the recapture penalty, but make no mistake about it …. that’s exactly what this is. It’s unknown whether the injury is as severe as the Wings medical staff claims.
Quite simply, Zetterberg didn’t want to just retire and leave the only organization he ever played for holding the bag like Datsyuk did.
In fact, Zetterberg let it slip out in August last offseason that he didn’t intend to play through 2021 ….
“The only reason we signed such a long contract back in 2009 was because of the cap. It’s pretty obvious, you try to fool the system. In reality, I think I have two years left. I don’t think I will play through the 2020/2021 season.”
Zetterberg had to walk back those comments a month later, most likely because Holland knew this day would come and he didn’t want that quote floating out there when the NHL eventually investigated the validity of Zetterberg’s injury.
“First of all, it was the not the full story that came out. I’ve got four more years. I hope I can play four more years. That is my goal. But also I know that I have gone through a few things with my body, especially my back, and even though the last few years has been good, you never know.
Of course, there will be speculation that this is all very convenient for everyone involved. The same type of innuendo swirled last year when former Wing Marian Hossa “retired” due to a skin condition that wouldn’t allow him to play because he couldn’t wear hockey equipment any longer. The NHL eventually investigated that situation and agreed that Chicago was within their rights to place Hossa on LTIR instead of suffering their own prohibitive penalty.
In any event, a new era in Detroit hockey is on the horizon. Will the team play the 2018-19 season without a captain, or will Dylan Larkin take over that role immediately? The 21-year-old would be the youngest to wear the “C” in Detroit since head coach Jacques Demers delegated that responsibility to Steve Yzerman in his “Age 20” season.
One thing is for sure, the team just lost its leader and one of its better players. A center who still put up 56 points at the age of 37.
Major questions will have to be answered. Who will be the one to face the music every night when the Fox Sports Detroit cameras are looking for an explanation of another disappointing loss? This was a dreadful responsibility that Zetterberg never skipped.
Will Zetterberg’s exit cause the Wings to implode? The team hasn’t been good for the last two seasons — missing the playoffs both times — and now they just lost a potential future Hall of Famer.
The Jack Hughes Derby just got more interesting.
And the Tomas Vanek signing seems to make a tad more sense now.
The official Red Wings response will be that no decision has been made yet.
We will see on October 4th at LCA when the Blue Jackets are in town.