DETROIT – Nicklas Lidstrom insisted he doesn’t know whether he’s returning to the Detroit Red Wings for a 20th season or retiring at the age of 41.
He has, however, set a deadline to give the Red Wings his decision.
“Before July 1,” he said Saturday, two days after the San Jose Sharks eliminated Detroit in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal.
Lidstrom’s teammates and coaches hope he returns.
“If I was Nick, I’d come back and I’d keep coming back,” said Mike Modano, who is leaning toward retirement. “If he gets the Norris, he has a chance at history of catching Bobby Orr.”
Lidstrom is a Norris Trophy finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. If Lidstrom wins his seventh award for being the NHL’s top defenceman in June, he will match Doug Harvey’s total and trail Orr’s record by only one.
He signed a US$6.2-million, one-year deal June 1, 2010, and likely would come back with similar contract terms if he chooses to continue his career.
“You take everything into account,” Lidstrom said. “How you feel. Motivation. Family situation.”
Lidstrom’s oldest son enrolled in a Swedish school last fall, a part in his decision-making process.
“I think he’ll come back,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a good player and he’s on a team that has good opportunity.”
Babcock said Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are in the prime of their careers.
“If our team was no good, I think Nick wouldn’t consider coming back,” Babcock said.
Teammate and fellow Swede Niklas Kronwall said he guesses Lidstrom will put retirement on hold.
“Maybe it’s because I hope he does so much,” Kronwall said.
The 40-year-old Modano, who leads U.S.-born NHL players in goals and points, had been hoping to cap his stellar career on a good note and failed. He signed a one-year deal with his hometown Red Wings after the Dallas Stars didn’t want him back as a player, then a wrist injury hurt his chances of having success in Detroit.
Modano said there’s a 75 per cent chance he’s going to retire.
“It’s been tough the last couple of years,” he said. “I’ve been grasping at something that maybe isn’t there.”
Fellow free agents Kris Draper, who is 39, and Chris Osgood, who is 38, want to play next season for the Red Wings. They might not be welcomed back when they meet soon with general manager Ken Holland.
If Detroit doesn’t want to re-sign Draper and Osgood, both may decide to put their families first by staying in the area in retirement instead of signing with another team.
“This is home,” said Draper, who has played for the Red Wings since 1993. “That’s what make it that much tougher. That’s all my kids know.”
Osgood said spending time with his three children will be a factor if he has a decision to make.
“They play 20 soccer games, I see maybe two or three of them,” Osgood said. “You don’t get a chance to see them and all of a sudden they’re 10 and seven.”