The news Friday wasn’t all good for the Detroit Red Wings.
As they announced they had reached a new agreement with Dylan Larkin on a five-year deal, retaining one of the critical pieces for their franchise rebuild, the extended outlook for Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, 37, wasn’t quite as optimistic.
General manager Ken Holland said he’s not sure if Zetterberg, who has been hampered by back issues, will return for his 16th season.
“I am anxious to know where Henrik Zetterberg is at — certainly, he’s a bit of an unknown in terms of health. He didn’t practice basically the last two, two and a half months of the season; he just played games,” Holland said Friday. “I have talked to his agent a number of times over the course of the summer and I know he’s had a tough summer.
“He hasn’t been able to train anywhere near close to what he’s been able to train in past summers due to his back, so there’s a real unknown right now with Henrik Zetterberg. I’m hoping that Z is good, and we’ll have to address that probably in the month of September.”
Zetterberg played all 82 games last season and had 11 goals and 45 assists, but whether he’ll be able to come back could help determine the Red Wings’ course moving forward.
Holland is looking to get a better sense of where Zetterberg is physically, but he’s not discounting that the captain could return and play. The outlook doesn’t look good, though, as the way Zetterberg ended last season and the trajectory of his summer workouts don’t lend to much in the way of optimism.
“I want to get to camp and see if Henrik Zetterberg is healthy — he’s a real unknown,” Holland said. “Probably about January last year, Henrik Zetterberg went to Jeff Blashill and told him he felt in order to help him get to the finish line of the season it would be best if he didn’t practice.
“He played the games and that was able to keep him healthy enough to play all the games. That’s a real unknown for us. I’ve got to get to training camp and got to find out where he’s at.”
Zetterberg’s status also has other implications for the Red Wings — namely the salary cap. He’s slated to make $3.35 million next season, with a cap hit of $6.08 million. Holland estimates the Wings would have about $1 million in space, depending on how the final roster shakes out and which young players make the team.
For Larkin, the thought of losing one of the central figures of the franchise for the past 15 years is a sobering thought, but it’s the reality of dealing with injuries and players progressing through their careers.
“He’s got to look after his health and his future. I know he’s played through a lot of pain in his career and he’s done so much for our team and our city,” Larkin said. “He’s going to help our team no matter what — even if he’s playing on one leg. He’s one of the most skilled players I've played with and a great leader and the best player on our team.
“It would definitely hurt to lose him but he definitely has to look after his future.”