Updated 3x at 1:57 PM: TSN took note of Ken Holland’s comments regarding Henrik Zetterberg’s health, as issued during the Dylan Larkin conference call:
“I am anxious to know where Henrik Zetterberg is at,” Holland said Friday, per the Detroit Free Press. “He’s a bit of an unknown as far as health. Have talked to his agent – he has had tough summer. He hasn’t been able to train anywhere near where at past summers.
“I’m hoping he’ll play.”
The 37-year-old posted 11 goals and 56 points last season and remains signed for three more seasons at a $6.08 million cap hit, though his salary sits at $3.35 million this year and $1 million in each of the following two seasons.
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill was noncommittal when asked last month whether the centre would be back with the team.
“At this point, I haven’t heard anything from Henrik to say that he is or is not playing,” Blashill told the Free Press. “The biggest thing with Henrik is how healthy is Henrik? I know he spent the whole second half of last season not practising because of his back. He ground it out because he is the ultimate warrior, one of the best I have ever been around, and was able to still be a real good player. But that continues to take a wear and tear on your body.
“So I think he is in the process of deliberating to see, where is his back at? And only Henrik can answer that and it will be answered I am sure come camp time.”
Update: Here’s more from Sportsnet’s Josh Beneteau:
“I am anxious to know where Henrik Zetterberg is at,” Holland said Friday. “Certainly he’s a bit of an unknown in terms of health.”
Zetterberg, who will turn 38 in October, hasn’t missed a game in any of the past three seasons, but lingering back issues have put his availability in doubt. In a late July interview, head coach Jeff Blashill revealed that Zetterberg didn’t practice at all during the second half of the season because of his back problems.
“At this point, I haven’t heard anything from Henrik to say that he is or is not playing,” Blashill said. “The biggest thing with Henrik is, how healthy is Henrik? I know he spent the whole second half of last season not practicing because of his back. He ground it out because he is the ultimate warrior, one of the best I have ever been around, and was able to still be a real good player.
“But that continues to take a wear and tear on your body.”
Update #2: Here’s more from MLive’s Ansar Khan:
If Zetterberg isn’t cleared to play, the Red Wings can place him on long-term injured reserve and receive some cap relief. Zetterberg, who turns 38 on Oct. 9, isn’t likely to retire because that would saddle the club with a cap recapture penalty of approximately $4.3 million in each of the next three seasons.
Zetterberg has three years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $6.083 million. His actually salary decreases from $7 million last season to $3.35 million in 2018-19 and $1 million in each of the final two years.
When he signed the front-loaded 12-year, $73 million deal in 2009 it was widely assumed he wouldn’t play the final two seasons.
Despite his health issues, Zetterberg has appeared in all 82 games in each of the past three seasons. It helped not practicing the second half of the season.
“Probably about January last year, Henrik Zetterberg went to (coach) 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,” Holland said. “He might have practiced sparingly, but for the most part he didn’t practice. He played the games and was able to keep himself healthy enough to play all the games.
“That’s a real unknown for us. I got to get to training camp and got to find out where he’s at.”
Update #3: 97.1 the Ticket’s Will Burtchfield took note of the Zetterberg situation…
“He’s gotta look after his health and his future,” Larkin said. “I know he’s played through lot of pain in his career and he’s done so much for our team and city. I think he’s gonna help our team no matter if he’s playing with one leg, he’s one of the most skilled players I’ve played with and a great leader. I think he’s our best player on our team.
“It would definitely hurt losing him, but he does have to look after his future.”
It always looked improbable that Zetterberg would fulfill the 12-year, $73 million contract he signed in 2009. His salary falls to $3.5 million in 2018-19 and to $1 million each of the two seasons after that. His cap hit remains a steady $6.083 million, but the Red Wings could get some cap relief by placing him on long-term injured reserve if he’s deemed unfit to play. He turns 38 in October.
With Larkin’s $6.1 million cap hit on the books, the Red Wings are “very tight,” Holland said, in regard to the $79.5 million salary cap. But their situation won’t become totally clear until Zetterberg is factored into — or out of — the equation.
“I’m hoping he’s gonna play, and if he’s gonna play then we’re probably going be somewhere in the neighborhood of about $1 million (over the cap), give or take, depending on which players make the team,” Holland said. “We’re going to have to make some decisions at that point in time, but it’s nothing significant. It’s a workable number.
“But, again, I’m sitting here with an unknown. I want to have more information, and then I’ll deal with it in September.”
As did The Athletic’s Craig Custance:
THE SALARY CAP IMPLICATIONS
This contract makes Larkin the highest paid player on the Red Wings, edging Henrik Zetterberg’s $6.083 million cap hit by a hair. It also puts them slightly over the cap, even once Johan Franzen is moved to long-term injured reserve, which he will be.
The Red Wings can bury Martin Frk and Luke Witkowski in the minors if need be to create more flexibility. Although, if we’re counting every dollar, Witkowski comes in pretty cheap at $750,000, something that could come into play if the Red Wings are really squeezed. Holland estimated that they’re “in the neighborhood” of $1 million over the cap.
“We’re very tight,” Holland said on Friday of the cap situation. “With this deal, we’re probably a dribble over. Not a lot, but we’re over. We’re going to have to make some decisions moving forward.”
The biggest decision might not be theirs to make. The speculation about Zetterberg’s future was more behind the scenes at the start of the summer and has now moved fully into the public realm. During his conference call with reporters on Friday, Holland painted the most doubtful public picture yet about Zetterberg’s ability to play this season.
He said Zetterberg approached coach Jeff Blashill in the second half of last season about shutting down practice time in an attempt to finish the year on the ice. Another Red Wings source said it hurt to watch Zetterberg put on skates toward the end of the season because of his back problems.
“I’m anxious to know where Henrik Zetterberg is at,” Holland said. “I know he’s had a tough summer.”