Would Trading Henrik Zetterberg Be a Good Idea?



Over
the next two weeks, we’re going to be looking over some tough questions
for the Wings this offseason, one per day. Today, we ask the question: 

Would trading Henrik Zetterberg be a good idea?

I know what you’re thinking. Why would the Red Wings even consider trading their longtime franchise player, and current captain? It would be a terrible thing to do to a player who has loyally dedicated his time to the Red Wings organization.

But, these are tough times for the Red Wings. They have been mediocre at best over the last five years, not good enough to be a contender, but not bad enough to put themselves in a position to acquire a young franchise player.

And in tough times, the Red Wings need to make some tough decisions with the roster, with Henrik Zetterberg’s future with Detroit being one of them. So, let’s take a look at some reasons why he should, or shouldn’t, be traded.



HIS DECLINE

Henrik Zetterberg has had a storied career with the Red Wings. While he’s never hit the 100 point mark, he’s been a consistent point per game player throughout his career. He sits 7th all time on the Red Wings scoring, with 836 points in 913 games. From an analytical standpoint, he’s been just as good. His 2.08 5v5 P60 and 56.57% 5v5 CF since 2005-06 certainly nothing to scoff at.

But, the Henrik Zetterberg we’ve been watching for most of his career is not the one we saw this season. He’s produced his worst totals in a full season since his rookie and sophomore seasons before the lockout. The same goes for his shot totals, as he only had 214 this season, which is still impressive, but Zetterberg’s totals are usually higher.

zetterberg woi

From an analytical standpoint, it looks worse. His 5v5 P60 has taken a steep drop from last season, which was his worst before this season. Not only that, but his possession numbers this season are at an unusually low total. Probably the most concerning numbers are his PDO and PSh%. It’s not even that they’re bad, but that’s the problem. They are in the middle of the pack for his career, which means that he wasn’t experiencing bad luck this season, it is quite obvious that he is beginning to hit his decline.

While having a declining Zetterberg certainly isn’t a bad thing (after all, when an elite player is bad by their standards, they are merely average), this is why it might be an opportune time to trade him. If you find a team stupid enough, you could get a fair return if they think he is still an elite player. However, hang onto him for too long, and his value will slowly diminish.



HIS CONTRACT

Even the most loyal Red Wings fans might admit that, while he’s been worth every penny of it so far of his $6,083,333 contract for the first seven years, the remaining five years on his contract will not be pretty.

If Datsyuk decides to leave, and assuming that the Red Wings don’t sign anyone for a higher price, Zetterberg will become the highest paid Red Wing, and while you could make the case for him deservedly being so a year or two ago, that is no longer the case.

Now, you might be saying “It’s not a huge deal that he’s the highest paid Red Wing”, sure , you are correct. It’s not a huge deal NOW. However, when this is a contract that goes on until 2021, it’s an issue.

First of all, it’s going to be almost impossible to hang onto all of their young players with that contract looming around for another half decade. And if you think only a few of them are a concern, no, I mean just about every player in the Wings organization is a concern at some point in the next five years. Here’s a list of Red Wings who are on the books in 2021:

  • Justin Abdelkader

That’s it. Even Johan Franzen’s contract is off the books by then. And they have no cap space right now. So, good luck trying to hang onto everyone. Half of the forward group, Marchenko, and Mrazek are all on entry level deals right now. So when everyone wants some extra cash, and very little salary is coming off the books (thanks to Ken Holland signing EVERY veteran to a long term deal), there will be no wiggle room.

“But what if they unload Howard, or Ericsson, or…”

Let me cut you off right there. Sure, they don’t have to trade Zetterberg’s contract, they can trade a worse player’s contract. But, here’s the problem: they’re worse. That means that it’s going to be a lot harder to find a buyer, and if you do, you’re going to get a lot less of a return, maybe even to the point that the Wings need to give up assets for other teams to take them. Zetterberg might be the only player with any value that they can use to unload some salary. So, if the Wings want to have a brighter future, trading Zetterberg might be their only option.

And this ties back into my previous point about his decline, as to why they need to do it now. If they wait a year or two, it might be even harder to trade him than any of the other bad contracts, due to having a higher salary. So, if the Wings are planning to do it, now’s the time.

ANTITHESIS

However, with the reasons to trade him, there are also reasons to hang onto him.

First and foremost, this is Henrik Zetterberg. He’s the face of the franchise, the captain, a spitting image of a true Detroit Red Wing. He’s poured his heart and soul out to both the team and the city. Ideally, he’s the kind of player you want to retire with the franchise. He’s won his Cups, so they don’t need to trade him for that purpose.

Now, I don’t usually agree with these types of arguments, but who knows what kind of impact trading Zetterberg would have on the team, especially in a year where they might be losing Datsyuk. It would take a huge blow to the team, who no longer have the leadership of Zetterberg. It would have a bigger impact on the guys who have been here longer, like Kronwall, Abdelkader, Ericsson, and Howard, but losing a captain would take a hit on even Larkin and Athanasiou.

Considering the tradition of this team, it would be against everything that they’ve done during their 25 year playoff stretch. Even the media would probably have a cow. It would tarnish the image of Detroit Red Wings and their model of consistency, perhaps to a point where they fall into another Dead Wings era. Basically, the Red Wings would no longer be looked up to, everyone would look down on them.



CONCLUSION

This is a very, very tough topic. While no one wants to say it, trading Henrik Zetterberg might save the franchise from several years of bottom feeding, while hanging onto him is the morally correct thing to do.

Basically, the difference in opinion is between someone who doesn’t care about emotions playing Be a GM mode on NHL 16, and a general manager who is a member of the old boys club, and puts their heart before their logic from time to time. Unfortunately, Ken Holland is the latter.

That’s another thing as well. Despite all these arguments in favour of trading him compared to not trading him, the odds of him actually getting traded are super slim. Based on Holland’s reputation alone, there is no way he turns his back on the face of the franchise. That’s what makes it a tough business. The difference between potentially damaging the franchise, and hanging onto the leader of the team.

Regardless, I still think the smarter option for Detroit is to get rid of Zetterberg. Preferably through trade, but if they have to leave him unprotected at the expansion draft, or hope that he retires soon, it might be a better idea than for him and his contract to stay on the team.