Signs were starting to point to it, but now there’s confirmation a back issue will end Henrik Zetterberg’s NHL career.
Henrik Zetterberg played all 82 games for the Detroit Red Wings last season, by an ongoing back issue kept him from practicing late in the season. All summer there has been news regarding his inability to train, which pointed to his not being ready for the start of the upcoming season. On Friday the news got a bit worse, as Red Wings general manager Ken Holland announced a degenerative back condition will end Zetterberg’s career.
Zetterberg, who will turn 38 on Oct. 9, has three years left on his contract with an annual cap hit of just over $6 million. The last two years of the deal of the 12-year, $73 million deal he’s on came with low $1 million salaries. Zetterberg himself once pointed to those years being added to the deal as an effort keep the cap hits lower, and were never expected to be fulfilled as he approached 40 years old. Now that’s come to fruition due to a significant injury.
Zetterberg will not immediately retire, and instead be placed on long-term injured reserve. That’s mostly a procedural move for the Red Wings, to avoid salary cap recapture penalties. But it would leave the door open for Zetterberg to return, if he finds a magic treatment to fix a back condition that seems like it can’t be reversed.
Zetterberg has dealt with back issues for the last few years, and his production has suffered as a result. But he will go down as one of the best players of his era.
According to Kevin Gibson of TSN Research, Zetterberg’s 960 career points are the sixth-best total in the NHL over his career span, behind Joe Thornton, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and the Sedin twins (Henrik and Daniel). If Thornton retires, Ovechkin and Crosby will be the only two who will play in 2018-19. Like his peers on that scoring list, Zetterberg is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.