Honda NHL SuperSkills

Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t expected to retire after this season

While we cannot enter the heads of professional athletes, it’s interesting to follow the likelihood of Mike Modano’s retirement and the opposite expectations for Nicklas Lidstrom. After all, they’re about the same age; Lidstrom recently turned 41 while Modano will reach that age in June.

Yet their on-ice effectiveness explains the distinction. Modano just doesn’t have the same finishing touch or blazing speed while Lidstrom’s intelligent defensive game translates well to advanced age.

I’ve noted several times that I think the Norris Trophy race should come down to Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber*, but the fact that Lidstrom is even in the discussion is amazing. His 62 points ranked second among NHL defenseman behind Anaheim Ducks blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky’s 68.

It’s no guarantee that Lidstrom will be back. He might look at Modano and other players who stayed too long and decide that he wants to retire while his elite game is still more or less intact.

No one would begrudge him for staying for another year (or two?) though, especially not the Red Wing organization. USA Today’s Kevin Allen ranks among the many who believe that Lidstrom will stay, giving five reasons to match Lidstrom’s No. 5 jersey. Here are a few excerpts from that column.

The relationship between Lidstrom and the Red Wings is probably as close to perfect as you could get. Lidstrom says he enjoys what he terms “fireside chats” with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland at the end of the season about the direction the team is heading. Essentially, the way contract negotiations between Lidstrom and the Red Wings work is Holland explains the Red Wings’ salary cap situation, and they ask Lidstrom what number he can live with.


Seems like it would be difficult to walk away from the level of salary Lidstrom still commands. He’s making $6.2 million this season, and it would seem as if the Red Wings wouldn’t ask him to go below that because defenseman Brian Rafalski will make $6 million next season.


He’s not just hanging on. He’s excelling. The Red Wings would be significantly harmed by his retirement. Lidstrom is simply playing too well to retire.

Ultimately, though, it will come down to whether or not Lidstrom feels healthy and driven enough to keep playing. His cerebral game keeps him from taking many hits, but he’s played a ton of hockey in his outstanding career. I would expect him to be back – again, he’s still one of the best players in the entire NHL – but would admire his choice either way.

In a statement that probably echoes the theme of his great career: he really can’t lose either way.

* – That’s another discussion for another time, but in a nutshell, Chara and Weber played much more minutes and more crucial roles for their teams than Lidstrom did in Detroit.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.