The Detroit Red Wings brought one franchise legend back to run their front office in Steve Yzerman, and he’ll be joined by another one. Niklas Kronwall has announced his retirement as a player and will now move to the front office as an advisor to Yzerman. Kronwall and the team released a four-minute video explaining his decision and thanking everyone that has been involved in his long career.
The 38-year old Kronwall was an unrestricted free agent after his last contract with the Red Wings expired, but it never seemed like he would sign anywhere else. Selected 29th overall in 2000 out of the Swedish Elite League, Kronwall spent his entire career with Detroit, playing in 953 regular season games and winning the Stanley Cup in 2008. In that playoff run Kronwall was one of the Red Wings’ best players, recording 15 points in 22 games and leading the entire postseason with a +16 rating.
Known best for his punishing open-ice hits, Kronwall was an extremely effective player at both ends of the rink. Three times he recorded at least 44 points in a single season with his career-best of 51 coming in 2008-09 as part of a three-headed monster on defense along with Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. When Lidstrom and Rafalski would eventually retire, Kronwall took on the mantle of top dog for the Red Wings defense corps and reached new heights in ice time and responsibility. For three consecutive seasons from 2012-2015 he received Norris Trophy votes as one of the best defensemen in the league, while averaging more than 24 minutes of ice time.
To go along with his incredible NHL resume, Kronwall also consistently performed well internationally. In 2006 he took home an Olympic gold medal with Sweden to go along with his Stanley Cup and World Championship gold, putting him in the rare “Triple Gold Club.” Add in his two Swedish championships before coming to the NHL, another pair of silver medals at the Olympics and Worlds, and Kronwall is one of the most decorated hockey players of his era in terms of team success.
Even last season as age and injury started to catch him, Kronwall recorded 27 points and averaged nearly 20 minutes a night for the Red Wings. Losing him from the blueline eventually was inevitable, but his departure will likely have a fairly substantial impact on how the team performs next year. The Red Wings will now look to some of their young players to start taking on more responsibility while veterans like Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley all enter their finals years under contract.