After months of speculation, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland made it official on Friday: Henrik Zetterberg‘s playing career is over.
A degenerative back issue is causing the 37-year-old Zetterberg stop playing, a big announcement to make as the Red Wings opened their 2018 training camp. Holland said that doctors in New York who were consulted on the issue said there’s no treatment that would allow him to continue playing.
“I think he wants to play, but he can’t,” he said.
Zetterberg, the 210th pick in the 1999 NHL Draft, was unable to train this summer and Holland said last month that the Red Wings captain was unable to practice during the final two months of the 2017-18 season — he only played games.
“It is emotional,” Zetterberg via Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. “It’s been 15 years here and even though I knew that I was on my last couple years, I wish that I could play a little bit longer.”
There’s still three years left on Zetterberg’s contract, which carries a $6.083M cap hit. He’s not going to officially retire, of course; that would mean forfeiting the remaining $5.35M owed to him through the 2020-21 season. The Red Wings will get some cap relief by placing him on long-term injury reserve, as CapFriendly notes.
The 37-year-old Zetterberg broke in with the Red Wings during the 2002-03 season and was named captain of the franchise in Jan. 2013 after Nicklas Lidstrom retired. He was a major presence in the dressing room and had a notable influence on many young Red Wings over the years.
“He’s a true professional. He’s a great player, great guy,” said Dylan Larkin during the NHL Player Media Tour earlier this month. “It’s definitely going to hurt not having him. When he speaks in the room everyone listens.”
He would help them to win the 2008 Stanley Cup and finishes his NHL career with 337 goals and 960 points in 1,082 games played. Along with the Cup, part of his trophy cabinet includes the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy, 2015 King Clancy Memorial Trophy, gold medals from the 2006 Olympics and 2006 IIHF World Championship, and two silvers from the 2003 Worlds and 2014 Olympics.
Zetterberg is also one of 28 hockey players in the “Triple Gold Club,” having won the Cup and gold at the Olympics and Worlds.