Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, of Sweden, smiles during a news conference in Detroit, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. The Red Wings have signed Zetterberg to the longest contract in team history, a deal that will keep the star forward in Hockeytown until 2021. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Carlos Osorio
DETROIT - Looking to keep one of hockey's top teams on steady footing, the Detroit Red Wings knew exactly where to start.
The Stanley Cup champions announced Wednesday that they signed Henrik Zetterberg to the longest contract in team history, a US$73-million, 12-year deal that could keep the star forward in Hockeytown until 2021.
"Henrik is one of the world's premier players at both ends of the ice," general manager Ken Holland said. "This is a tremendous commitment on the part of the organization as well as by Henrik. ... We are thrilled that a player we drafted and developed will play out his career in Detroit with this lifetime contract."
Zetterberg could have become a free agent at the end of this season, his sixth in the NHL, but Holland said the team decided the Swedish forward was "one of the players we wanted to build our franchise around." Negotiations began last June.
"I'm happy I don't have to do it again," Zetterberg said. "I don't want to play anywhere else."
The contract will pay Zetterberg $7.4 million next season, $7.75 million in each of the following three seasons and $7.5 million in each of the next four seasons. He is to receive $7 million in the 2017-18 season, $3.35 million in 2018-19 and $1 million in each of the final two seasons.
"From the start they've been taking good care of me," said Zetterberg, a 28-year-old drafted in the seventh round in 1999.
Zetterberg has 43 points in 45 games this season, the last of a four-year, US$10.4 million contract. In 400 NHL games, he has 169 goals and 375 points, and 28 goals and 52 points in 62 playoff games.
He was picked to the All-NHL second team last season, when he and then-linemate Pavel Datsyuk combined for 74 goals and a robust plus-71 rating.
Zetterberg also set a franchise record with 27 points last post-season, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP when Detroit won its first Stanley Cup since 2002. He scored the clinching goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Our goal is to try to keep this team together," said team vice-president Steve Yzerman, who won three Cups as a Red Wings player. "He's the kind of person and the kind of player we want in this organization."
The salary cap - $56.7 million per team this season - makes it likely that Holland will have to choose between two other key players who become free agents at the end of the season: winger Marian Hossa and centre Johan Franzen.
"We're not going to be able to keep every player," Holland said. But Zetterberg's contract is structured so that it "gives us a chance to keep an extra player down the road," he said.
Other Red Wings players signed through at least 2012 include Datsyuk, fellow forwards Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary, plus defencemen Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart.