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We May Have Seen the Last of Z

With more reports of Henrik Zetterberg’s back being an issue again, it seems like all signs may be pointing to the Red Wings captain’s retirement.

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NHL: New York Islanders at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Now hang on, let me explain. I don’t want Zetterberg to retire, he’s so vital to this team in so many ways nowadays that it would really hurt this franchise to not see him out there at least for one more year. However, I feel the more the offseason has moved along and the more reports have come in of retirement being a possibility, it has become more of a reality for Zetterberg than ever before. Here are three huge reasons why I think Captain Hank has played his final game in the NHL.

1. Original reports he was considering retirement.

Craig Custance came out with an article on the Athletic ($$) saying that,

Not only is Custance one of the best in the business, but also one of the best at having quality sources among hockey writers. Now let me explain why I think this was a red flag from the start. Why did it take until June 26 before we heard anything about him retiring? Sure, there may have been speculation or rumors here and there, but pretty much every Red Wings fan just assumed he’d be back per usual. Now, since the initial report, the Red Wings have added Thomas Vanek to a logjam of forwards, re-signed Athanasiou and Mantha, and pretty much are guaranteed to sign Dylan Larkin in the coming days as well. I’ll get into this more in point #3. The main reason this is a red flag for me because it wouldn’t seriously be under consideration if it weren’t a real possibility, and the fact this news took 2 months into the offseason to surface means that his back has only gotten worse as the summer has gone on.

2. Helene St. James’ Q-and-A with Coach Blashill

HSJ is, in my opinion, the best local writer for the team as well. She sat down with Jeff Blashill and released the interview excerpt yesterday morning. She asked Blash about his expectations for Zetterberg’s upcoming season, and his response really started opening my eyes to the possibility he is done,

That right there tells me this has been an ongoing issue and they just didn’t release this information during the season (duh). So his back problems didn’t just suddenly flare up this offseason, but have continued to get worse and worse which is why it took so long to be announced. If his back had gotten better by now, there would be no speculation. Another quote that stood out was Blashill’s initial response that he hasn’t heard anything from Hank whether he is playing or not. Granted, we still have roughly seven weeks to training camp, I feel that if he were playing for sure, he would’ve told Blashill, Holland, etc. by now. I know you can make the argument for it being a good sign he’s going to play this year as well, but I still think it’s a bad sign as we continue to get closer to training camp. Now I certainly don’t want Z rushing his decision by any means, but the longer this goes on, the more of a problem his back appears to be.

3. Logjam of forwards.

I touched on this in my first point, and now will go into it further. Custance, again, had a great article breaking down the Red Wings projected depth chart ($$) come October 4 and it is crowded as all can be at the top which led him to speculate that another move will be made in the near future. Well we’re now 24 days into NHL free agency and all the Red Wings have done is add to their roster. They haven’t traded anyone (cough, cough, Nyquist, cough) and even re-signed Athanasiou, which came as a surprise to some. All this tells me is that they truly are preparing for Zetterberg to retire, because if he does, they won’t have to get rid of anyone (although they should, but that’s another argument), and we know how much loyalty Ken Holland has to his roster. So the fact there hasn’t been a single move up front yet concerns me even more.

Look I’m not saying it’s 100% certain he’s going to retire, but my gut is telling me we’ve seen the last of Zetterberg. I’m hoping, praying, for one more year, but the closer we get to September without hearing anything positive about his back, the more I really fear he’s gone. And for those thinking this is could be a good thing because it’ll free up more cap space, we would still owe Z $12.9M spread out over the next 3 years provided he goes with the actual retirement route rather than LTIRetirement (S/O to JJ for the recapture charts). If Zetterberg does come back, it’s tough to think anything other than this year being it for him as he rides off into the sunset. Let’s hope we all get that wonderful image at LCA in June of him hoisting a Stanley Cup. Ok, ok, that’s not a very realistic scenario, but Zetterberg’s retirement could be very real.


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