OTTAWA -- Daniel Alfredsson's remarkable NHL career will come full circle when he takes his final laps on the ice at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.
Alfredsson, who was Senators captain for 13 of his 17 seasons in Ottawa, signed a ceremonial agreement Thursday morning and announced he will retire as a Senator.
He will wear the jersey he wore for his last home game as a Senator in 2013 and participate in the warm-up before the Senators play the New York Islanders.
Alfredsson left the Senators to sign a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2013-14 season, but recurring back problems led to his decision to retire.
"It's going to be really cool. I'm looking forward to it and it's going to be a great experience," Alfredsson said of skating as a Senator one last time. "Being out there with the boys again is going to be a special feeling. I'm going to try to not fall down."
Alfredsson was picked by the Senators in the sixth round (No. 133) of the 1994 NHL Draft and was an unheralded rookie when he arrived for his first training camp in the fall of 1995.
Through a tumultuous first season which saw the Senators go through three coaches, two general managers and move from the Ottawa Civic Centre to what now is known as Canadian Tire Centre, Alfredsson was a bright spot and won the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie.
He played 1,178 games for the Senators and had 426 goals, 682 assists and 1,108 points, all Ottawa records.
He led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, scoring 14 goals in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games that spring.
"Without question Daniel has been the greatest player that this city has ever seen in many, many different ways," Senators owner, governor and chairman Eugene Melnyk said. "As a player on the ice, as a leader on the ice. As someone who interacted with the fans any time. He was always available. For any charitable work, he was always available. For media, he was always there. That's a rare commodity to have in an organization like ours. Being the longest-serving captain in what is really an infant franchise is phenomenal, for 13 years being our captain."
Alfredsson said if he had been able to play this season it would have been with the Red Wings, but each time he tried to increase his workouts his back gave him problems.
"I worked hard to rehab my back this summer so I could play another year. However, about three weeks ago I realized it's time to retire," he said. "It's another hard decision."
After having a talk with Senators general manager Bryan Murray during a drive around the Detroit area when the Senators were visiting the Red Wings on Nov. 23, the wheels were put in motion for Alfredsson to retire as a Senator.
After talking it over with his wife, Bibbi, Alfredsson said he decided to accept the Senators' offer.
"I was taken aback by this offer," Alfredsson said. "I never believed that my career entitled me to any special treatment. However, Bibbi and I both agreed this was the right thing to do and it would give us a chance to say thank you to the people and the fans of Ottawa. So here we are."
Alfredsson's departure for the Red Wings was a controversial turn of events for Senators fans.
"Whatever happened happened, and everybody grew from it and learned from it and got better, in a way," said Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, Ottawa's current captain.
"We're just happy to have him back. It always felt like the right decision to retire him as a Senator. I know that's what he's always wanted and that was his plan for a very long time. He left for one year and that's the way it was. He had a lot of fun and we had a lot of fun, and now we're here together again. Unfortunately he's going to hang them up."
Murray said his personal Alfredsson highlight on the ice was Alfredsson's overtime series-clinching goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2007 Eastern Conference Final in 2007, sending the Senators to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Murray said he admired Alfredsson's toughness and work ethic, which served as an example to his teammates.
"I've been fortunate over my career to be involved with many great players, several who are now in the Hall of Fame, and I can assure that near the top of the list is Daniel Alfredsson," Murray said.
"I remember after practice I'd say to him, ‘Why don't you get the hell off the ice and rest?' And he'd say, 'This is the fun part, Bryan. This when you get a chance to play keepaway.' I think the message was much stronger than that. It was maybe if you stayed out on the ice and worked harder, practiced your skill level, you'd be better players. Daniel continually did that.
"It's a tough day for hockey. It's a tough day for all of us in the NHL that Daniel Alfredsson is retiring. He is going to be missed. He is going to be remembered. Certainly one of the great players that I have been associated with, and I'm proud he's here today retiring as an Ottawa Senator."
Alfredsson said it's too early to decide what he will do now. Melnyk said the door is open for him to join the Senators in a front-office capacity.
"I've spent the last few months or since the summer just trying to make it work to play another season. I've come to this decision to retire. What's going to happen next, we haven't gotten into that and I don't really know," Alfredsson said.
"I'm going to try to take a step back and evaluate what the next chapter is going to be. I don't have a good answer for that right now."
For now, there will be one last skate around Canadian Tire Centre and a chance for Alfredsson and Senators fans to say thank you.