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Henrik Zetterberg, taking it a year at a time

Detroit's captain wants to honor contract, but his body will have the final say

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner /

TRAVERSE CITY - Over the summer, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg sent shockwaves throughout Detroit's hockey community when he told a Swedish newspaper he planned on playing for the next two years and then retiring from the game.

Zetterberg has four years remaining on his current contract and if he were to walk away from the Wings after the 2018-19 season, Detroit would take a salary cap hit of $5.1 million for each of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

"First of all, that's kind of not the full story that came out, but as everyone knows I got four more years," Zetterberg told reporters Thursday morning at Centre Ice Arena. "I hope I can play four more years, that's my goal, but also I know that I've gone through a few things with my body, especially my back, even though the last few years has been good, you never know.

"I take it year by year. I'm happy the way I played, especially last year and hopefully I can follow that up this year. But that I'm only going to play two more years, I don't think that's a correct answer.

"Hopefully I can play four, but as I said I'm happy that every morning I wake up you feel good and are ready to go. It's been like that the last two years and hopefully it can continue like that."

Detroit's captain was adamant that the Wings' competitiveness would not be a factor in whether he played out the remainder of his contract.

"I don't think that will have anything to do with it. I want to play hockey as long as I can," he said. "The things that are going to decide if I'm not going to play anymore is my body.

"If I'm not healthy enough to play, I don't play, but it's been going better the last couple years and hopefully it will continue that way but I'm getting older, too. It is more and more of a grind to go through every season."

Based on last season when Zetterberg was plainly Detroit's best player, it's hard to imagine where the Wings would be without him. But Zetterberg isn't trying to fool anybody and he's never been one to dole out lip service.

When he says he'll play if his health holds up, it is the simple truth, but he did get a wry smile on his face when he was asked if last season's numbers had him thinking about a contract extension.

"I kind of joked to Kenny (Holland) about that last summer when all this (retirement) talk came out but we'll see," Zetterberg said. "I'm going to be 41 when I'm done so I think it's going to be a pretty hard task to get an extension."

Main photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings.

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