The Detroit Red Wings have expressed concern within the organization about whether Henrik Zetterberg will return next season.
Despite playing all 82 games in each of the past three seasons, Zetterberg has a history of back issues. He underwent major surgery in 2014, when he was forced to withdraw from the Olympics.
General manager Ken Holland, during Sunday’s conference call about the team’s free-agent signings, wasn’t certain about Zetterberg’s plans.
“The last I talked to him, I think he’s planning on playing,” Holland said. “Obviously, his back is going to determine whether he can or can’t. Do I have a clear green light? I’m expecting him to play. Do I have a clear green light? No. I don’t know that I’ve got a clear green light.
“Obviously, when you are dealing with the back and you’re dealing with the health of a person, it’s hard to read the future when it comes to health. Obviously, that’s a key piece for us. I’ll stay in touch with Henrik as we get into July to see how his health is.”
Zetterberg has three years remaining on the 12-year, $73 million contract he signed in 2009. His cap hit is $6.083 million but his salary is $3.35 million this season and $1 million in each of the following two seasons.
Zetterberg turns 38 on Oct. 9. If he can’t play, he likely will be placed on long-term injured reserve, giving the club cap relief.
He is not likely to retire because the Red Wings would face a cap recapture penalty of approximately $4.3 million in each of the next three seasons.
Zetterberg, during locker cleanout on April 10, was asked if there is any doubt about whether he’ll return in 2018-19.
“Right now, no. So that’s all I can say,” he said. “But like I’ve been telling you guys, health is the key thing. If I’m healthy, I’ll be back.”
He added, “I will say last year was better for me personally I think, production-wise and health-wise and time on the practice sheet-wise. But now you have time to clear some issues and hopefully come back strong.”