With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk to the KHL, Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg assumed the mantle as the team’s longest tenured player. Entering his 14th NHL campaign and soon to turn 36-years-old, the skilled Swedish forward has certainly seen better days as evidenced by his 16-point drop in scoring from 2014-15 to this past season. That being said, Zetterberg is still someone the Wings will lean on if the team wishes to stretch its streak of qualifying for the postseason to 26 years.
Zetterberg acknowledges a drop-off in his play during the second half of each of the previous two seasons and suggests he is looking at different ways to stay fresh throughout the coming season, according to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.
“That’s what’s gotten me the last two years, I ran out of gas. You can’t play hockey in this level when you run out of gas. So that’s one thing we’re going to play around with.”
Zetterberg tallied 27 points in the season’s first 34 games through December but struggled down the stretch recording just nine points over the final 24 contests. He also chipped in just a single point, a goal in game three, during Detroit’s five-game, first-round playoff loss to Tampa Bay. Zetterberg stated he is at least willing to listen if head coach Jeff Blashill suggests decreased ice time or even taking a game off here and there.
“As a player, as soon as you hear ’less minutes,’ you’re not happy. I don’t think I will go and tell Coach I need less minutes. But if he decides that I need to play less or get some rest dates, I’m open to listen to that.”
“We want to see the younger guys take steps and kind of take minutes from the older guys. But I won’t give it away, they have to earn it. That’s part of the transition. I went through it when I came in and started to play more. But you have to earn it.”
Zetterberg has five seasons remaining on a long-term deal that took effect in 2009-10. He carries a cap hit just in excess of $6MM annually but the final three seasons of his contract come with actual salaries of $3.35MM, $1MM and $1MM respectively. It will be interesting to see if Zetterberg is both willing and able to finish out the pact with the Red Wings.
Elsewhere around the league:
- After trading away talented young blue liner Dougie Hamilton and steady veteran defender Johnny Boychuk in successive offseasons, the Boston Bruins are still searching for a reliable top-four defenseman, as Joe Haggerty opines. An aging Zdeno Chara is still the club’s top defenseman with Torey Krug likely not far behind but beyond those two, pickings are slim. Haggerty admits the team has the cap space and veteran assets to make a trade if they so choose, though they may already have the top-four option they seek on the roster. While also listing prospect Brandon Carlo and youngster Joe Morrow as possibilities, Haggerty believes Colin Miller might be the Bruins “X-factor” on the blue line. As Haggerty notes, Miller scored 19 goals and 52 points in 70 AHL games with the Manchester Monarchs in 2014-15, suggesting he has the skill to put up points in the big leagues. Miller came to Boston from Los Angeles in the Milan Lucic trade during the 2015 offseason and may be coming into his own as an NHL player after producing 16 points in just 42 games as a rookie. With few quality options available either on the trade market or in free agency, it might be wise for Boston to give Miller a chance before looking outside the organization for a top-four blue liner.
- According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet (via tweet), Mike Brown is the latest veteran player to land a PTO with the tough guy winger signing on in Columbus. Brown, 31, spent time with both San Jose and Montreal last season, scoring two goals and three assists in 58 games with 90 PIMs. For his career, Brown has potted 19 goals and recorded 778 minutes of penalties in 407 NHL games. He has suited up for Vancouver, Anaheim, Toronto and Edmonton in addition to the Sharks and Habs in his nine NHL seasons. The Blue Jackets bought out the contract of veteran enforcer Jared Boll earlier this summer and could see Brown as a possible replacement depending on his play during training camp.