OTTAWA - The heart and soul of the Senators will keep beating.
Thirty-nine-year-old captain Daniel Alfredsson stopped the speculation Tuesday and confirmed he won’t be hanging up his skates. Instead, he’ll put on his No. 11 sweater and return for his 17th season with the Senators.
Alfredsson confirmed an Ottawa Sun report last week that he's been talking about an extension with GM Bryan Murray, but said he will play out the final year of his deal at his $1 million salary. That will make him one of the NHL’s best bargains.
“It was a gradual awareness for sure, and motivation,” said Alfredsson in a conference call from Sweden. “I pushed myself in training and it was important to stay healthy while doing it.
“I had the intention of playing from the beginning, but had to go through the process to really know. (The last few years) with my back problems I haven’t been able to work out the way I would have liked and not able to get proper training, I wasn’t sure where I stood physically and mentally. It took some time.
"Training has been going well. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m really happy I feel this way and I’m in the process of getting ready for another camp.”
Alfredsson said he made the decision last week and his wife Bibbi along with his four kids are fully supportive.
“I had a really good week of training. I felt strong and that’s the biggest thing: If I have my strength I know I can play and contribute. That kind of sealed it. I’ve probably had that feeling for awhile. My intention was to continue but I wanted to make sure I could handle everything,” he said.
“It wasn’t like I woke up one morning and said, ‘Today I’m going to decide.’ It’s kind of been a gradual process. I’ve been with touch with (Murray) a fair bit. They’ve been patient as well. My kids have wanted me to play the whole time. They would have been really disappointed if I didn’t play. My wife and I, we feel our family situation will be easier this year than it was last year with a newborn.”
Alfredsson said he’ll finish out this season and then decide what happens after 2012-13.
“I don’t fear (retirement) at all,” said Alfredsson, who has an off-ice job waiting for him in the Senators front office. “Once that day comes I will look forward to that challenge, no question. When I feel as healthy as I do, I still love to play games. I love to be in the competition, especially in the best league in the world.
“Talking to a lot of people, if you retire too early ... you look back and say, ‘Maybe I should have played another year or two.’ I had issues with my back the last two years and now that I feel healthy again I want to come back to see how good I can be. I feel I can get better, especially with the health issues I’ve had.”
He wasn’t getting any pressure from his teammates. He has been working out with the Swedish league’s Frolunda Indians.
Alfredsson has also spent time with teammate Erik Karlsson and trainer Peter Froberg.
“They left me alone,” said Alfredsson. “I talked to quite a few of them towards the end of the season and after the season. They knew where I stood and how I felt. They also knew I didn’t need to feel encouraged. It was more my body that needed to make that decision than anything.”