Henrik Zetterberg's health 'a real unknown' for Red Wings in 2018-19

Henrik Zetterberg (Getty Images)

The doubt keeps building this summer about Henrik Zetterberg’s future with the Red Wings and whether he’ll return for a 16th NHL season in 2018-19.

Three weeks after Zetterberg’s agent, Gunnar Svensson, told the Swedish publication Hockeybladet his client “has not decided” about playing next season due to injury complications, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland on Friday expressed concern over Zetterberg’s “tough summer.”

“I am anxious to know where Henrik Zetterberg is at. He’s a bit of an unknown as far as health,” Holland said on a conference call announcing the contract extension for Dylan Larkin. “I have talked to his agent. He has had a tough summer. He hasn’t been able to train anywhere near where at past summers. I’m hoping he’ll play.” 

Zetterberg, 37, has been dealing with “some injury problems with his back,” Svensson said in July. He’s played through three seasons since undergoing back surgery in 2014, including back-to-back 82-game campaigns, but age and other ailments seem to have caught up with Detroit’s captain. 

He was second on the Red Wings with 56 points in 2017-18.

At the end of the season, both Holland and Zetterberg expressed optimism Zetterberg would return to full health with a “a strong summer” and be ready to go when training camp opens in September. If he’s unable to play immediately — or at all — Larkin, 22, would assume responsibilities as Detroit’s No. 1 center.

Larkin’s new five-year, $30.5 million contract makes him the Red Wings’ highest-paid player, passing Zetterberg, who has three years remaining on a contract that counts $6.083 million against the salary cap.