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Zetterberg is now a Red Wing for life

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg has been one of the league's top two-way players over the last five-plus seasons.
DETROIT -- One of Detroit’s most famous draft gems will remain the Red Wings for life.

Henrik Zetterberg was the 210th player drafted in 1999, and 10 years later, the 28-year-old Swedish star holds a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe Trophy, an ‘A’ on his jersey, and now - the longest contract in franchise history.

“I have never seen any reason to want to go anywhere else,” said Zetterberg after Wednesday’s press conference at Joe Louis Arena. “I really like it here, on the ice and off the ice, great teammates, great coaching staff, great owners that know we’ll have a good team every year. I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t stay.  I love it here and I want to be here forever.”

Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch, executive vice president and general manager Ken Holland, vice president Steve Yzerman, and coach Mike Babcock were all on hand to finalize the historic deal that will essentially keep Zetterberg a Red Wings’ uniform for the rest of his career. The Swede will be 40-years-old when the contract expires in 2020-21.

“When Kenny got a hold of me Sunday night, told me what had happened, I was absolutely ecstatic, because it had been such a long, long negotiation,” Mike Ilitch said.  “We were going to take a couple weeks off, and go to Florida, but there’s no way I’m leaving this town now, Henrik, our boy signed, we got him signed.”

In his closing remarks, Holland commented on the fact that such a long term deal brings risks, but it’s risks the Red Wings’ organization were willing to shoulder to keep one of the rising stars in Hockeytown.

“Obviously when you talk about a 12-year contract, one of the things obviously is risk, on both sides, and we feel that we were able to find a solution that, there’s always risks on both sides but both sides are very, very excited,” Holland said. “And I’m excited that Henrik is going to be a Red Wing for life and a player to build around, so welcome Henrik, and congratulations.”

Zetterberg is in his sixth season with the Wings. He has averaged 30 goals and 36 assists in his past five NHL seasons. He emerged as one of the game’s elite players last season, when he posted 43 goals and 49 assists in 75 games.

The two-way player left his mark in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals when he locked-down Sidney Crosby’s stick on the side of the Red Wings’ net, preventing the Penguins’ star from scoring during Pittsburgh’s critical 5-on-3 power play late in the third period of a one-goal game. The play arguably sealed the Conn Symthe Trophy for Zetterberg.  Captain Nicklas Lidstrom is the only other European to win the prestigious award, doing so in the 2002 playoffs.

“I was so proud, during the Stanley Cup finals, of how he was toe-to-toe with Sidney Crosby, and showed the grit and the toughness of European players, who are not supposed to win Stanley Cups, but did win the Stanley Cup,” Ilitch said.

Holland pointed to Zetterberg’s on and off-ice leadership and responsibility while explaining his willingness to sign him to the franchise’s longest contract.

“He’s one of the players we determined we wanted to build our franchise around,” Holland said. “He’s fortunate to come here as a player and watch Steve Yzerman … and I think a lot of the attributes Steve has, Henrik has, and our organization is very fortunate to have these kinds of leaders on our team.”

Yzerman had a lot to say about his former teammate, citing his work ethic and his determination as reasons why the front office fought to keep Zetterberg in Detroit.

“From day one in his first year as a rookie up until this day and for the next 12 years, we have had a chance to watch him play, watch him develop,” Yzerman said. “Got to know him myself personally, in the locker room playing along side him, watching his work ethic, seeing his character, seeing all the intangible things that it takes to be a good hockey player and a player to build your team around and structure everything around.  You get a little bit of the inside look that some other people don’t have.  

“For us, it was very important that we keep Henrik in the organization, to have him here.  He’s the type of person that we want to represent our organization throughout his career.  He was drafted by the Red Wings, he won a Stanley Cup, our goal is to try and keep this team together, and in order to do that we have to keep our best players, and Henrik is one of them.”

Holland credited all parties involved for working hard to close the Zetterberg deal. 

“He wanted to be a Red Wing for life, and we wanted to keep him for a Red Wing for life, so we worked very, very hard, with (Zetterberg’s agent Marc Levine), Henrik, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and myself, along with Yerman, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, to try to find a number and a contract that made both sides very, very happy, and I think we have come to that.”

“I wanted to get it done as quick as possible,” Zetterberg said. “I think it dragged on a little bit, but I’m real happy that it’s over, and I’m especially happy that I don’t have to do it again.”

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