June 01, 2010
Ansar Khan of MLive.com reported Tuesday morning that Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) "has decided to return for another season" and that the Detroit Red Wings will "finalize a one-year contract extension this week" with their captain for what might amount to a last hurrah/victory tour for the six-time Norris winner.
With that, Wings fans exhale. Some of them had a creeping suspicion that Lidstrom would retire, although Khan noted that his teammates and coaches all believed that Lidstrom had more hockey to play:
Lidstrom, for only the second time in 12 seasons, was not a Norris Trophy finalist in 2009-10. That was because of a slow start. He was one of the top defensemen in the league the second half of the season. He finished tied for eighth in points among defensemen (49) and tied for seventh among defensemen in plus-minus rating (plus-22).
That's all the more impressive considering the team surrounding him wasn't nearly as strong the first three-quarters of the season due to a plethora of injuries.
Lidstrom, 40, had a rather hefty cap hit of $7.45 million last season, with a base salary to match. Cap Geek has the Red Wings with 15 players under contract for 2010-11 and $12.6 million in cap room (with Tomas Holmstrom(notes) and Andreas Lilja(notes) both free agents as well). How low will Lidstrom go? Nightmare on Helm Street opined:
Rumor has it that Holland is trying to negotiate to get Lidstrom's salary to roughly $6,000,000 - the same amount we're paying Brian Rafalski(notes). This would be a $1.45 million pay-cut. But if King Lidas wants his $7.45 million, who's to argue that he doesn't deserve it?
The Detroit News confirmed that $6 million projection. (UPDATE: TSN has the contract worth just over $6 million.) It's one thing to deserve the money, but it's another thing to do what's best for the Red Wings in building a winner again. Look at Martin Brodeur's salary history with the Devils: He's never been a $6 million player, because he knows that it's for the betterment of the franchise to have the cap room available. Lidstrom's sacrifice of salary means more wiggle room for Ken Holland to fill out the depth on his roster.
Lids wasn't superhuman in the playoffs, but there's no question his presence makes Detroit a contender again next season. Plus, he'll got a Norris nomination as a tribute, and he deserves a victory lap so we can celebrate one of the best defensemen in NHL history.
Assuming, you know, this is actually the end for the ageless wonder, and that "Lidstrom" isn't actually Swedish for "Chelios."