Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said this season may be his last in the NHL. The thirty-seven-year-old will enter the final season of a seven-year contract extension he signed in 2011, with an NHL salary cap charge of $4.75 million. Kronwall said there has been no discussion of an extension.
"If this happens to be the end of the road, I would be more than happy with the journey that I've had and more than thankful to the Ilitch family and (general manager) Kenny Holland for giving me the opportunity that I have for being able to be with the same team for my entire career," Kronwall, a fourteen NHL season veteran, said during the NHL European Player Media Tour. "We'll see what happens.
"I've been fortunate enough to play in Detroit all these years and I have a tough time seeing myself in a different jersey," he added.
This could be the last hurrah for Niklas Kronwall. https://t.co/uVkbitJfJV— NHL (@NHL) August 19, 2018
Kronwall, who was selected by the Red Wings in the first round of the 2000 NHL Draft, has scored 405 points, including 80 goals and 325 assists in 874 NHL games with Detroit. Among Red Wings players, he ranks thirteenth in the number of games played, as well as eleventh in assists and twentieth in points. The defenseman had 27 points, including four goals and 23 assists in 79 games last season. He said despite a chronic knee issue, he expects to perform well this season, but beyond that, he is not sure what the future will bring.
"I love the game. I can't say enough good things about it. But at the same time you have to be realistic,” he said. "I know where I'm at right now. A year from now I don't know where I'll be at. I'd love to sign [for] another year but let's face it. The team's getting younger. I'm getting older. The game's getting faster. I'm not the same player I was ten years ago. But I'm going to do what I can this year both on the ice and off the ice. And just try to be as efficient as I possibly can."
The Red Wings reached the playoffs in Kronwall's first 12 seasons but haven’t managed to qualify in the last two seasons. The player helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 2008.
"There's no doubt it's been tough times recently," he said. "A few of us have been around awhile and you get used to playing playoff hockey. You take it for granted. You get spoiled. It's not until now that you realize how hard it really is.
"We had some years where we pretty much were in the playoffs by January. Now it's just you're trying every single night. The parity in the League with the cap makes it so hard to stay up there on a continuous basis,” he added. "We've done everything we possibly can but it hasn't been good enough. We need to get back there."
Kronwall has hope that the ongoing development of players like center Dylan Larkin, 22, and forward Anthony Mantha, 23, will put the Red Wings back on top.
"We should be right there. I thought last year we should be right there with the team that we had. I know people on the outside are seeing things differently but within the team, within the locker room, we believe in the team that we have,” he said. "Some of these guys can be difference makers. And it's time for them to push forward. The organization needs that."