OTTAWA – The future remains uncertain for the captain of the Ottawa Senators.
Daniel Alfredsson spoke to media Monday regarding his future, and whether the 40-year-old would return for an 18th NHL season.
"There are no thoughts as of now, actually," Alfredsson said. "There's always an empty feeling once you lose out in the playoffs. Now it's [about] enjoying some family time and probably allow myself at least a week to even think about it."
Alfredsson's Senators were eliminated Friday by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who closed the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with a 6-2 win in Game 5 in Pittsburgh.
It brought to an end a roller-coaster season for Ottawa, one marred by injuries to key pieces, center Jason Spezza (back), defenseman Erik Karlsson (Achilles), left wing Milan Michalek (knee) and goaltender Craig Anderson (ankle). Through it all, Alfredsson remained remarkably healthy and provided leadership to the young and battered club. In the process, he helped turn a potential write-off season into a successful one that saw the team win its first playoff series since 2007.
Asked if he had anything left to prove, the captain was succinct.
"Win a Stanley Cup," he said.
Alfredsson can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he's spent his entire career with the Senators since the team picked him in the sixth round of the 1994 NHL Draft. He shot down the idea of moving to a club with better odds for a championship.
"Not that I can see now, no," Alfredsson said of the chance he'd play with another team. "I thought I was OK [this season]. When you play on a team that worked as hard as we did, you get a lot of great play from a lot of great players … it makes everybody look better. In the playoffs, I felt I was able to improve on that a bit and play better than I did in the regular season."
Alfredsson's teammates said the team will be stronger with him as their captain and are hoping he decides to return. But all were forced to guess as to what his eventual decision might be.
"I don't know where he's at," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "He's the type of guy who could come to the rink [Tuesday] and have a press conference, and it could go either way. Hopefully he decides to come back, and we'll definitely talk. I don't know if anything I say will convince him [to stay], but I'll do my best. We have a lot of fun together. He still brings a lot to this team. We'd love to see him back."
A veteran of 15 seasons playing alongside Alfredsson, Philips has developed quite a rapport with the Ottawa captain. The Senators' younger players all shared the sentiments of the defenseman.
"I think he knows and everyone else knows that it's obvious he could play another year," center Kyle Turris said. "He could probably play four or five more years. But that's his decision and we're all just praying that he comes back. Guys ask him about it [in the locker room] every now and again, but you have to respect his [wishes].
"He's the heart and soul of this team. I've had the past year-and-a-half to learn from him, to see him every day and what kind of person he is. He's a role model that everyone looks up to. It's been a privilege to learn from him. Hopefully [he'll be here] so I can learn more."
Last season Alfredsson spoke to some of his peers about their respective decisions to either continue playing or leave the game. Whether or not he returns next season, the final decision ultimately will be his to make alone.
"This year, it's more how I feel than anything else," Alfredsson said. "Once you make that decision, there's no going back. That's another reason why I'll give it some time and make sure it's something I'll be comfortable with. If I play, it's to come back and play for the Stanley Cup."