OTTAWA - Daniel Alfredsson is confident he still has what it takes to compete in the NHL, but the Ottawa Senators captain doesn't want to rush into a decision about his future.
Alfredsson says he won't even begin contemplating whether he'll play next season for at least a week as he recovers from an exhausting season that ended Friday with a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I feel my game is good enough and I can keep up and I don’t feel like I don’t have it anymore," he told reporters Monday at the Senators' season-ending media availability. "If I felt that it would make my decision pretty easy I think. I still feel I can play all situations and I enjoy playing all situations."
The 40-year-old Swede, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this year, led the Senators in scoring through the playoffs with four goals and 10 points and was third during the regular season with 10 goals and 16 assists.
"I’ll probably take at least a week before I allow myself to even think about it and go from there," said Alfredsson. "It’s been a mentally draining season with the schedule and everything and I just feel like I need to give it a bit of time and freshen up and take it from there."
When asked if he has anything else to prove Alfredsson had just one answer.
"Win a Stanley Cup."
As the father of four young children, Alfredsson says the decision will ultimately come down to whether or not he has it in him to go through a full summer of training and the energy to prepared for a long season.
In addition, he says it has to be a family decision. While his four boys love coming to the rink and watching the games it does place a burden on his wife.
Many speculated that next year's Sochi Olympics could have an impact on Alfredsson’s decision, but when asked if that were the case, he replied, "Not really."
There's no question his teammates want him back.
"We’re definitely going to pressure (Alfredsson) to help his decision along," said star forward Jason Spezza. "He’s going to need a bit of time, but we’re hoping he’s going to come back for sure."
"The way he plays he’s one of our best players," winger Chris Neil said of Alfredsson. "He’s still got it in him. As far as I’m concerned he still has a couple of years left not just one."
Meanwhile, Spezza admitted that he suffered a setback during his rehabilitation from back surgery this season. About three weeks after surgery and returning to the ice, he experienced a bit of a flare up which set him back slightly. But more significant was the fact he tore the meniscus in his knee late in his rehab process.
"It’s nothing serious and something I will get fixed, but it set me back and was more of a pain than anything," said Spezza, who missed most of the regular season following the back surgery.
Spezza, who expects to have his knee scoped in the next week and hopes to have it fully healed in two to three weeks, was only able to play in the Senators' last three games against the Penguins.
Like Spezza, star defenceman Erik Karlsson was also recovering from injury when he rejoined the team and was far from 100 per cent. Karlsson missed 29 games with a partially torn Achilles tendon.
"It doesn’t feel very good and I’m just going to go home and rehab it and give it some more time and hopefully by the start of next year it will be back to where we were," said Karlsson. "I just need time to heal. It’s not comfortable and I can’t really do anything that I normally can so I’m just going to give it some more time."
While most of the Senators remain under contract, management will need to make some personnel decisions.
Sergei Gonchar becomes an unrestricted free agent and said his preference is to stay in Ottawa. The 39-year-old defenceman had three goals and 27 points through the regular season and picked up six assists in the team’s 10 playoff games.
Gonchar says money isn't the biggest factor, but he would be seeking the right fit and a two-year deal.
"I would like to stay here," said Gonchar. "I like this group of guys. I like the direction the club is going so definitely it would be a pleasure for me to stay here…but as we know it’s a business and we’ll see what’s going to happen the next couple of weeks."
In addition to Gonchar, forwards Guillaume Latendresse and Peter Regin and defencemen Mike Lundin and Andre Benoit are all set to become unrestricted free agents. Other than potentially Benoit, it’s unlikely the Senators will attempt to re-sign any of them.
Benoit was on a two-way contract, but spent the season with the Senators and played in 33 games, recording three goals and seven assists.
"I think I’ve proven to myself that I can play in this league and now it’s left to be seen if I’ve proved it to other people," said Benoit.
Forwards Mike Hoffman and Erik Condra are the only two restricted free agents and it’s likely they will be re-signed.
Notes: Milan Michalek will be seeing a specialist in Germany to consider what options he might have for his chronic knee problem.