Report: Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg plans to retire in two years

Henrik Zetterberg said in a Swedish newspaper that he may not play out his entire contract, with the last two years of his deal being there mainly to skirt the salary cap.

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg reportedly plans on forgoing the final two years of his front-loaded contract and retire after the 2018-19 NHL season when he’d be paid a fraction of what he’s earned in recent years.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet quotes the veteran forward saying he’ll likely skip the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons in which he’s signed for just $1 million for each season.

“The only reason why we wrote such a long contract was because of the payroll,” said Zetterberg, translated by the Detroit News. “It is quite obvious that you try to fool the system. Actually, I may have two years left, but I have also learned to take one year at a time. But I will probably not play until then.”

Zetterberg signed a 12-year, $73-million contract in January 2009, before seven- and eight-year term limits were implemented following the last lockout. Part of the deal included larger salaries during the first nine years — in the $7-million to $7.75-million range — before dropping to just $1 million in each of the final two seasons. He will be paid $3.35 million in 2018-19.

These types of deals were constructed to pay a player more during the prime years of his career and artificially lower the cap hit — in Zetterberg’s case, $6,083,333 — which benefits the team. Such contracts were banned in the latest collective bargaining agreement agreed to in 2013. From that point on, a player’s year-to-year salary couldn’t increase or decrease by more than 35 per cent, while any salary couldn’t drop below 50 per cent of its highest value.

Zetterberg turns 37 in October and is coming off a 17-goal, 68-point season. He played all 82 games for the second consecutive campaign.

He has 326 goals and 904 points in 1,000 NHL games, all with the Red Wings, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy the last time Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 2008.

Despite his lengthy tenure in Motown, he doesn’t plan on sticking around the city once he retires from the Red Wings. Zetterberg plans on returning to his native country after his NHL career is over.

“After about 15 years there (Detroit) it has become a home,” he said. “I have many friends and acquaintances there, but I miss Sweden more.”