Could Zetterberg be leaving Detroit sooner than expected?
According to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the 2018-2019 season may be Zetterberg’s last in a Red Wing uniform. This would mean that Zetterberg would retire 2 years earlier than his contract length. At 37 years old Zetterberg has shown that the skill level is still there, and Z has been able to stay healthy most of his career, so he does not have to play through injury the same way Kronwall does. So why walk away? It may be as simple as money. The last two seasons of his contract would pay Zetterberg 1 Million per season. Pocket change for a Hall of Fame player still lighting the lamp, and leading his team on and off the ice. These last two seasons were put into the contract as a way for the Red Wings to pay Zetterberg market value earlier in his career while lowering the yearly cap hit. A strategy the NHL took exception to, and put a stop to after the last CBA.
Besides the obvious impact of the Red Wings losing their best player, the team will also take a 5.1-Million-dollar cap hit if Zetterberg does choose to retire “early”, again thanks to Gary Bettman’s efforts to close salary cap loopholes, even on contracts signed prior to the latest CBA. Less talent and less money for the Red Wings to work with, just what the team needs.
One can hardly fault Zetterberg if he retires early. The last two years of his contract were just there for cap relief, and he definitely has earned his money in Motown both on and off the ice. It can hardly be expected for a player nearing 40 to go through the long off-season regiment, and put themselves through the grind of an NHL season for 1 Million dollars, especially with almost no chance of winning the Stanley Cup for motivation. It looks like Ken Holland and the Red Wings might be forced to forgo the on the fly re-tool for a full on rebuild after all.
Zetterberg has not made his decision yet, though he does seem to be leaning towards retiring after the 2018-2019 season. If you have the opportunity, consider getting out to a game or two and enjoy seeing one of the greatest Red Wings to put on the jersey work the ice like few can, and appreciate all the Swedish Captain has done for this team and city.