Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg is staying with his team and hopes the Wings will find a way to create more offense next season. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News
Detroit — They are two of the last real links to the past, when locker clean-out days happened much later in the spring and the summers were shorter.
Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall were here for the glory days, and now are part of the rebuilding.
And, the two veterans aren’t planning on leaving.
The end is closer — Kronwall’s contract expires after next season and Zetterberg in 2021 though few believe he’ll play until then — but both confirmed at Tuesday’s locker clean-out day they are returning next season.
Both are 37 now, both are battling aching bodies, but as long as their health lets them, they’ll be in Traverse City in September.
Zetterberg was second on the team in scoring with 56 points (he had 45 assists, 11 goals), and incredibly, played all 82 games for a third consecutive season.
This season was a struggle at times, Zetterberg said, although he didn’t think about his future at any time.
“Once you’re in the season, you’re focusing on what you’re doing that season,” Zetterberg said. “I will say this year has been a little … last year was better personally, production-wise and health-wise and time on the practice sheet-wise.
“But now you have to clear some issues and hopefully come back strong.”
Zetterberg is about five years removed from major back surgery, and his durability since then has been amazing.
But Zetterberg, since January, missed considerable practice time to stay fresh and remain in the lineup, and the time off this summer should be valuable.
“He’s our leader, he’s out there each and every night,” linemate Gustav Nyquist said. “He’s still our best player, and also the work he puts in, it’s remarkable to see.”
Zetterberg stated several times in recent weeks he continues to have fun playing the game, and enjoys the current roster with its mix of older and younger players and the closeness of the group.
“It’s no fun losing, but I still have a lot of fun playing hockey,” Zetterberg said.
One thing is for sure: Don’t look for Zetterberg to ever play anywhere outside of Detroit, despite the current rebuilding of the roster.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Zetterberg, about asking for a trade. “Unless Kenny (general manager Ken Holland) tells me to leave, no, you’re not getting rid of me.
“You won’t see me in another jersey.”
After struggling last season with his knee, Kronwall only missed three games this season, didn’t miss many practices and, like Zetterberg, is looking forward to a productive summer of training.
“I don’t think it’ll be any different than it was last year, (which is) trying to train as hard as I can and be ready to go come training camp,” said Kronwall, who has chronic knee pain. “From my own standpoint and body-wise, as of right now, yes (he is returning).”
Heading into this summer, Kronwall feels better than he has the last two years.
“At this point of time, definitely,” Kronwall said. “The last two years I wasn’t really sure what’s going to come out of the training. I do feel if I just stick with the program (this summer) and do what gave me the chance to play this year, I’ll be just fine.
“Hopefully tweaking the program regimen a little bit make it even better.”
Last summer, Kronwall limited his weightlifting to one day per week, and it proved to be “less pounding on the joints,” he said. Kronwall has switched to more alternative workouts, such as swimming, “and stuff like that gave me the opportunity to play this year, and I’m hoping will do the same thing next year”.
Kronwall also is embracing the chance to be a veteran presence for the expected transfusion of young defensemen onto the roster next season.
“Absolutely, it’s awesome when you have guys coming up, and obviously with where we are at, we’re destined to have some young defensemen taking steps,” Kronwall said. “We’ve seen some guys up front and it’s definitely time for the back end also to get a little rejuvenated with some young blood.”
Zetterberg was pleased to see his longtime friend and teammate successfully complete this season.
“Especially (because) last year was a struggle to watch him go through what he did,” Zetterberg said. “But it shows if you do the right things and you meet the right people in the summer, work hard, you can come back stronger and he did, and healthier.”