One of the bigger X-factors surrounding the Detroit Red Wings is a player that isn’t even on their roster.
Daniel Alfredsson turned some heads last summer when the long-time Ottawa Senators captain decided to sign a one-year deal with Detroit. Although he was once a star player, the Red Wings were well aware that at the age of 40 (he turned 41 in December), he would be more of a complimentary forward.
In that role, Alfredsson performed largely as advertised, scoring 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games and helped the team squeak into the playoffs even as the Red Wings coped with a number of major injuries to key forwards.
Now an unrestricted free agent again, Alfredsson’s future with the team remains uncertain. He has some interest in returning to Detroit, but only if he feels he can contribute. With training camp just a few weeks away, it sounds like he still hasn’t found the answer he’s looking for.
“I haven’t talked to him in about a month,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “He’s training hard. He’s training to play. He does want to play. When I last talked to him, he said he felt good — he wanted to feel great. He would love to play another year. He wants to play for us. He only wants to play if he feels he can contribute. The best test for him is to skate a couple weeks prior to training camp.
“I’ll talk to him next week. We’ll wait 10-12 days. Do we sign him to a contract? Does he just want to come to camp? I’m lobbing everything out there.”
Of course, it takes two sides to reach an agreement and even if Alfredsson wants to come back, it’s debatable whether or not the Red Wings should sign him. Alfredsson would provide the team with veteran leadership and additional scoring depth, which might prove particularly valuable if Detroit’s sickbay fills up again this season.
At the same time, he’ll be 42 before the campaign ends so it’s fair to wonder if he has enough left in the tank. Additionally, if they sign him, he will be taking ice time away from one of the Red Wings’ young players and that might slow their rebuilding efforts.
As Holland noted, it’s entirely possible that Alfredsson might join the Red Wings as a training camp invite to provide both sides with more time to evaluate the situation and decide what is in everyone’s best interests.