The Detroit Red Wings thought that team captain Henrik Zetterberg would be ready to go for the upcoming season. However, his long-time back problems have thrown the Swedish forward’s future into doubt.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) August 10, 2018
Henrik Zetterberg and His Changing Status
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a summer golf outing that Zetterberg was planning on playing this season. The 37-year-old said told the media that he would be back for his 16th season with the club.
However, Holland gave reporters a health update on August 10th. Holland said that he talked to Zetterberg’s agent and the forward hasn’t been able to train like he’s done in past summers.
Zetterberg hasn’t missed a game in the last three seasons after sustaining a back injury during the 2014 Winter Olympics. He’s been a staple of a lineup that has undergone many changes in that time frame. He’s played at least 75 games in a season 10 times in his career.
“Certainly, he’s a bit of an unknown in terms of health,” said Holland during the conference call. “He didn’t practice basically the last two, two-and-a-half months of the season, he just played games.”
A Multi-Faceted Leader
The Njurunda, Sweden native is still a valuable asset to head coach Jeff Blashill. Zetterberg topped 25 assists every year since his sophomore season and is very intelligent on the ice. He’s also one of the team’s better penalty killers and eats many valuable minutes.
Zetterberg’s point production has declined over the last few seasons as he only totalled 11 goals last season and scored more than 20 since 2011-12. However, he’s been a locker room leader who has helped players like possible future team captain Dylan Larkin mature.
Detroit is expected to be in rebuilding mode over the next couple of seasons and players like Zetterberg can help foster the youth movement. He can nurture the next generation of talent looking to get back the postseason.
He currently sits 40 points shy of the 1,000-point plateau and has a good shot of surpassing the mark if he can get back on the ice. The milestone would have given fans something to look forward to in a year that may trudge along.
What It Means For the Future
Zetterberg still has three seasons left in his contract with a cap hit of $6.083 million per year. Detroit can reclaim that money if he is placed on long-term injured reserve.
The injury may allow the Wings some valuable cap space because the team is at their limit entering the season, according to Cap Friendly. There may be some trades to alleviate the salary-cap pressure especially if the team falls out of contention. Players like Gustav Nyquist, Jimmy Howard and others could be available for the right price.
The cap savings could help Detroit out, but losing a leader like Zetterberg could stunt the development of the team’s rebuild.