By: Will Burchfield
After suggesting last month that he would only play through the 2018-19 season, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg told reporters on Thursday that he intends to honor the full extent of his 12-year contract.
The 36-year-old forward, who will turn 37 in October, is signed through 2021.
So long as he’s able to stay healthy, Zetterberg sounds committed to the Wings for the next four seasons.
Zetterberg’s 12-year, $73 million contract, which he signed in 2009, is heavily front-loaded. It carries an average annual salary of about $6 million, but Zetterberg is set to make just $1 million each of the last two seasons (2019-20, 2020-21).
In an interview with Swedish media in August, translated by the Free Press, Zetterberg said, “The only reason we signed such a long contract 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.”
At the time, Zetterberg spoke of a desire to return to his native Sweden — the same impulse that saw Pavel Datsyuk ditch the final year of his contract last season in order to return home to Russia.
“If you’d asked me seven years ago, I probably would have said I’d like to stay in Detroit, but now I’m pretty certain I’ll move back home,” Zetterberg said. “After 15 years Detroit is also home, I have a lot of friends there, but I miss Sweden more and more.”
The ageless left winger led the Red Wings in both points (68) and assists (51) last season, the latter of which ranked seventh in the NHL. He hasn’t missed a game since the 2014-15 season.
He’s battled back issues in the past — he had back surgery after the 2014 Olympics — but has a clean bill of health entering the 2017-18 season, his 14th in the NHL.
If Zetterberg were to retire after the 2018-19 season, as he originally suggested, Detroit would be hit with a cap recapture penalty of about $5.1 million each of the final two years of his contract.