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Red Wings, Lidstrom agree to one-year deal

by Brian Compton
Nicklas Lidstrom isn't ready to hang up his skates just yet.

The Red Wings received some good news last week when they were informed that the six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman will return for a 20th season.

Various media outlets are reporting Lidstrom's one-year contract will be worth $6.2 million -- the same amount he was paid in 2010-11. Lidstrom and Wings GM Ken Holland are in Las Vegas for Wednesday's NHL Award Show (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC), where Lidstrom once again is a finalist for the Norris Trophy. He is also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy and the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

Lidstrom is near the top of every career list in Red Wings franchise history. He is fourth all-time in games played (1,494), and likely will pass Steve Yzerman (1,514) and Alex Delvecchio (1,549) in that department next season. Lidstrom also is third all-time among Red Wings players in assists (855); fourth in points (1,108); and ninth in goals (253), which is 12 behind John Ogrodnick. He leads all active NHL players with a plus-429 rating.

"The reason for why it took it so long is I wanted to make sure I found the motivation and I was ready to commit to the workouts over the summer to be ready for next season," Lidstrom told reporters during a conference call Monday. "When Ken and I met after the playoffs, Kenny told me, 'You can take as long as you want up until July 1 at least to make your decision.'

"I've been talking to my family and I started working out a few weeks ago to make sure I still had the motivation and still had the commitment to go through everything to get ready for next season. I'm very happy to be back for my 20th season for the Wings."
-- Nicklas Lidstrom

"I've been talking to my family and I started working out a few weeks ago to make sure I still had the motivation and still had the commitment to go through everything to get ready for next season. I'm very happy to be back for my 20th season for the Wings."

Despite an excellent season (16 goals, 46 assists in 82 games), Lidstrom told the team in May that he would take some time during the offseason to mull his future. He told Holland he would have an answer prior to the 2011 Entry Draft, which begins Friday in St. Paul, Minn.

"Obviously it's a real important decision for our hockey team," Holland said. "Nick is coming off a tremendous season. He continues to be one of the elite defensemen in the game."

"Coming off (2009-10), I thought I could have played better, and going into the season we just finished, I wanted to prove to myself that I could still play at a high level," Lidstrom said. "I still felt that I could do that. Being nominated again (for the Norris Trophy), that's a great feeling as well. But just proving to myself that I could still be that top player was important."

Lidstrom's return is extremely important to the Red Wings, who lost Brian Rafalski to retirement May 25. One of the best offensive defensemen in the game, Rafalski had 4 goals and 44 assists in 63 games. But injuries took their toll on the 37-year-old, which prompted his retirement.

Rafalski's loss, however, means a gain in cap space for Holland, who will shop on the open market when the free-agency period begins July 1. Lidstrom said the fact that he would be returning to the always-competitive Red Wings made his decision to play again that much easier.

"I've never had any doubt in my mind that Kenny's trying to do everything he can to put the best product on the ice," Lidstrom said. "When I heard of Rafalski retiring, it came as a big surprise. I don't think anyone saw that coming. I think I took everything into account, but my motivation was, I think, the most important thing."

Holland told reporters that he and Wings coach Mike Babcock had a meeting with Lidstrom in Detroit to inform him of Rafalski's decision. Had the Red Wings lost Lidstrom, too, their chances of winning a Stanley Cup in 2012 would have been remote.

"If we had lost both, it would have been probably devastating," Holland said. "Nick's a finalist for the Norris and Raffy (Rafalski) had almost 50 points in 60 games. You're talking about two elite, puck-moving defensemen. We've got Raffy's cap space, but these guys are special players. It's a reason why you pay them the salary that you do. I'd rather have Brian Rafalski back, but Raffy has different priorities in his life."

Apparently, Lidstrom's priority is to win another Stanley Cup before he heads into the sunset. One of the best defensemen to ever play the game, Lidstrom already has won four NHL championships in his career.

One thing is certain, though -- when next season ends, Lidstrom once again will have to think long and hard about if he wants to continue playing.

"I'm just taking it year by year -- to make sure that I'm motivated and that I can play at that high level," Lidstrom said. "That's what I expect of myself."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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