Niklas Kronwall has been a fixture of the Detroit Red Wings for the last decade. The Swedish defenceman has been known for his physical play so much that he became a verb. “Kronwalling” was so popular that he was made into a viral video where people checked others in random everyday situations.
However, it may be the end of the line for the 37-year-old blueliner at the end of the season. He talked to Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com about his future and the Stockholm made no secret about his declining play and health problems in recent seasons.
Niklas Kronwall Nearing the End
Kronwall is in the last year of a seven-year contract that he signed on Halloween 2011. His contract carries a salary cap hit of $4.75 million according to Cap Friendly.
The 6-foot, 193-pound defender still packs a wallop when he can put his weight into a body check. However, it’s been much harder for him to keep pace with the faster skaters. Kronwall was able to stay with quicker skaters earlier in his career.
Media members like Fox Sports Detroit’s Mickey Redmond and Ken Daniels often said that Kronwall looked like he was playing on one leg. The injuries were so bad that he was behind the often-maligned Jonathan Ericsson in ice time.
A Great Red Wing
Kronwall will have distinguished himself as one of the better defencemen in recent years when he does retire. He was part of the 2007-08 Stanley Cup champion squad where he handed out 15 assists. The defender also was part of the gold-medal winning Swedish team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. He was also part of the silver medalists at the 2014 Torino games.
His best years were when then-coach Mike Babcock paired him with Brad Stuart. The duo was the physical pairing that Babcock relied on when he needed the opponent’s top line shut down. They were part of three pairings that the Red Wings could roll out every night.
Kronwall also learned a lot under for captain and fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom. The Hall-of-Famer mentored his countryman and Kronwall has been a locker room leader since then. Kronwall has been an alternate captain since the 2011-12 season.
What It Means for the Future
The veteran blueliner acknowledged in the NHL.com interview about his shortcomings. He knows the team is in the middle of a youth-based rebuild and he’s older.
He said that he’d love for one more season but thinks it might be time for him to step away. Kronwall also said that he couldn’t picture himself in another uniform.
The team will lose a very good leader in Kronwall when he does retire, but the team will also save nearly $5 million in cap space. Detroit is right at the limit as of now and that will give them some breathing room.
His retirement will also open a spot for someone like Dennis Cholowski or Joe Hicketts next season. Many are anticipating that Filip Hronek will be on the team this season, but his role could increase with Kronwall’s departure.
The changes will keep coming the next few years as the club looks to return to the league’s elite.