NHL believes Zetterberg's legitimately on LTIR, but will likely investigate
The NHL isn't worried that any behind-the-scenes business factored into Henrik Zetterberg ending his playing career and landing on the Detroit Red Wings' long-term injured reserve for the remaining three seasons of his contract.
The club announced Sept. 14 that the 37-year-old's days on the ice were finished due to his back condition. Zetterberg signed a 12-year, $73-million contract in 2009, which carries a cap hit of just over $6 million until 2021. However, Zetterberg's salary declines to $3.35 million for the 2018-19 season, and then falls to $1 million in real dollars for the final two seasons of his pact.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league investigated the contract when it was initially signed.
"We wanted to understand the motivations, what was discussed, everything about that," Daly told Craig Custance of The Athletic. "We were ultimately very satisfied that there was no precooked deal that after 'Year X' he was going to leave, go into retirement, and the club is going to benefit because of that."
Zetterberg hadn't missed a game in three consecutive seasons, but Daly is also convinced of the severity of the player's back problems. However, he acknowledged the league will likely investigate to make sure the medical issue is legitimate.
"We don't question it by any means," Daly said. "We know he's been suffering and it's been a significant issue for a number of years going back to the Olympics. He couldn't even participate in the Olympics. You know it had to be a serious injury. I have no doubt to the bona fides of the situation. But will we (investigate) to make sure we check the boxes? Probably."
Prior to puck drop last season, the league handled a similar scenario with Marian Hossa, whom the Chicago Blackhawks placed on LTIR due to a skin condition with four years remaining on his contract. After an investigation, the transaction was ultimately approved.