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Nieuwendyk closes door on Modano's return to Stars

by Dan Rosen
Mike Modano's days as a player in Dallas are no longer numbered. They are officially done.

The Dallas Stars announced Tuesday that they will not be offering Modano, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, a contract for next season. Modano was a 21-year member of the organization dating back to its days in Minnesota and is the Stars' all-time leading scorer as well as the all-time leading scorer among American-born NHL players.

"We have the utmost respect for Mike Modano," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said in an article published on the team's Web site. "He will always be a huge part of this hockey club. He is a great teammate and a great person. Mike is the face of this franchise. That's what makes this decision so hard."

The decision by the Stars is not all that surprising and Modano, who turns 41 on June 7, expected it as well. He has been saying publicly for weeks that his days in Dallas as a player are finished, but he's still not 100 percent certain if he's going to retire or try to play again next season with a different club.

Modano, who debuted with the North Stars during the 1989 Stanley Cup Playoffs, has stated numerous times in various publications that he does think it would be strange to wear a different sweater after being a North Star and a Star for so long. He told the Dallas Morning News this past weekend that the chances of him playing again next season are "75 percent" and "it's been a bit of a tug-of-war."

Modano is the franchise leader in games played (1,459), goals (557), assists (802), points (1,359), power-play goals (156), shorthanded goals (29), game-winning goals (92) and shots (4,194). He also had the highest plus-minus rating for one season when he was plus-43 in 1996-97.

"I can't say that wouldn't happen, but for me to go to a different team, it has to be an organization that I'm very familiar with," added Modano, who had 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games this past season, his 20th. "That way I would feel comfortable."

Asked what teams he would feel comfortable with, Modano specifically stated Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix.

"I know what Mike is going through," Nieuwendyk said. "When you turn 40 and you face the end of your playing career, it is very hard to let go. I don't blame him for being undecided and possibly wanting to continue. But this is a hockey decision and we feel it is in the best interests of our roster. I stand by that and I believe that."

Nieuwendyk said the Stars chose to make the decision now, two days before free agency, because it gives Modano "the option to explore playing for other clubs on July 1 if he chooses."

"This is as tough a decision as a general manager can make, but it comes with the job," Nieuwendyk added. "I have to put the team first and do what I feel is in the best interest of the team. Again, I have the utmost respect for Mike. I spoke with him about this decision yesterday at length."

Nieuwendyk invited Modano to become involved in the Stars' front office. Modano told the Dallas Morning News that he hasn't "had any meetings with anybody about that, but it's something that I'm open to as well."

"I can tell you that we want Mike to be very involved, when he is ready," Nieuwendyk said. "If he goes on to play for another team, we want him to return to the Stars when he is finished and remain a large part of what we do."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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