Though he had quite the renaissance last season with the Detroit Red Wings, Henrik Zetterberg’s NHL career may be coming to an end in the next few years. Zetterberg discussed his possible retirement with Aftonblat in Sweden, admitting that the last two years of his 12-year contract with the team were only put in to lower the cap hit. The years—2019-20 and 2020-21—would earn Zetterberg just $2MM total, or less than 3% of his total contract value.
Zetterberg says that he still takes things one year at a time and that he wouldn’t commit to retirement after the 2018-19 season, but that he likely won’t spend the last two years of the contract in the NHL. He’ll play this season at age-37, but did show an incredible ability to perform at an advanced age last year. In 82 games he recorded 68 points, his highest total since 2011-12.
The 12-year contract was signed before rules clamped down on these types of extensions, but it actually will see his salary drop to just $3.35MM in 2018-19 and then $1MM for each of the remaining two seasons. That comes despite a $6.1MM cap hit due to his normal salary that has ranged between $7-7.5MM per season. That drop means that Zetterberg won’t be giving up much money if he retires early, but it will have dire consequences for the Red Wings. The NHL instituted rules to prevent and punish the contracts that were signed taking advantage of the average annual salary loophole, meaning that Detroit would face cap recapture penalties should he retire following the 2018-19 season.
Zetterberg would cause nearly a $5.1MM recapture penalty in each of the last two seasons, making his retirement sting even more for the Red Wings. We recently went deep on the Red Wings’ cap situation, which doesn’t look pretty even with the team struggling at the bottom of the standings. Cap recapture penalties would just be icing on the proverbial cap problems cake.