Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency file photo)
OTTAWA - Nicklas Lidstrom, the greatest Swedish player of all time, officially hung up his skates Thursday.
Now, all eyes are on another Swedish star ó the Senatorsí Daniel Alfredsson.
Itís not surprising the 42-year-old Lidstrom opted not to return to the Red Wings. While he said the tank wasnít entirely empty, he decided he could no longer dedicate himself to what it takes to keep on playing.
Lidstromís decision is similar to the one Alfredsson, 39, has to make in the next few weeks. The Senators captain is back in Ottawa after playing for Sweden at the world championship and will be here until his kids finish school later this month.
Alfredsson, who has one year left on his contract (for $1 million), indicated at the worlds he might have played his last game. If he does retire, thereís a role for him in the Senatorsí front office.
The biggest difference between the Swedish stars is Lidstrom has done it all, while Alfredsson has never won the big one.
A seven-time Norris Trophy winner who has four Stanley Cup rings, Lidstrom ó like Alfredsson ó is a father of four. Two of his sons are committed to playing junior hockey in Sweden next year. For Lidstrom, itís time to spend time with family.
Alfredsson has had a long and storied career with the Senators, but one of the factors in his decision will be his comfort in deciding to retire without having won a Cup.
Can he be satisfied with a trip to the final in 2007?
The Senators surprised everybody this season by getting up off the mat and returning to the playoffs after a wretched 2011 campaign. They were one goal away from getting to OT against the Rangers in Game 7 of the first round of the post-season.
If anything, this spring has proved the Senators may be as close to winning a Stanley Cup as anybody else in the league. There are no favourites any more. Who predicted a Kings-Devils final?
The Kings were ranked No. 8 in the Western Conference, while the Devils finished No. 6 in the East.
Los Angeles has made it look easy. New Jersey sent the archrival Rangers packing and Iím certain Ottawa players are thinking they could have done the same.
If Alfredsson is watching the Cup final closely, part of him has to be thinking if the Senators can improve next year, they have a chance of getting to the final. The path is difficult in the playoffs, but the task isnít impossible.
There is no question the Senators need an answer from Alfredsson before the NHL draft is held June 22 in Pittsburgh. He told the Team 1200 last week he wouldnít hold out on letting GM Bryan Murray know.
Alfredsson should take as much time as he needs because he has to be sure he is doing whatís right for him and his family. He has resumed working out daily and will increase the intensity in the next few weeks.
Lidstromís decision is going to leave plenty of speculation on Alfredssonís front.
The belief is he is leaning toward playing. The fact he even wanted to return to the gym after a long season is nothing but good news for the Senators.
Ottawa fans can only hope Alfredsson doesnít decide to follow Lidstrom into retirement.