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Kronwall says this season with Red Wings could be last in NHL

37-year-old defenseman has 'to be realistic' about future

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM -- Niklas Kronwall said this season could be his last in the NHL.

The Detroit Red Wings defenseman, 37, is entering the final season of a seven-year contract extension he signed Oct. 31, 2011, with an NHL salary cap charge of $4.75 million. He said there have been no talks with the Red Wings regarding an extension.

"If this happens to be the end of the road, I would be more than happy with the journey that I've had and more than thankful to the Ilitch family and (general manager) Kenny Holland for giving me the opportunity that I have for being able to be with the same team for my entire career," Kronwall, a veteran of 14 NHL seasons, said this week during the NHL European Player Media Tour. "We'll see what happens.

"I've been fortunate enough to play in Detroit all these years and I have a tough time seeing myself in a different jersey."

 

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Kronwall, selected by the Red Wings in the first round (No. 29) of the 2000 NHL Draft, has 405 points (80 goals, 325 assists) in 874 NHL games, all with Detroit. 

He is 13th in Red Wings history in games played, 11th in assists and 20th in points.Kronwall, who had 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 79 games last season, said he's confident he can overcome chronic knee issues to contribute this season but is uncertain of his future beyond that.

"I love the game," he said. "I can't say enough good things about it. But at the same time you have to be realistic.

"I know where I'm at right now. A year from now I don't know where I'll be at. I'd love to sign [for] another year but let's face it. The team's getting younger. I'm getting older. The game's getting faster. I'm not the same player I was 10 years ago. But I'm going to do what I can this year both on the ice and off the ice. And just try to be as efficient as I possibly can."

The Red Wings reached the playoffs in each of Kronwall's first 12 seasons but have failed to qualify the past two. He helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2008.

Video: PIT@DET: Kronwall nets 400th NHL point on one-timer

"There's no doubt it's been tough times recently," he said. "A few of us have been around awhile and you get used to playing playoff hockey. You take it for granted. You get spoiled. It's not until now that you realize how hard it really is.

"We had some years where we pretty much were in the playoffs by January. Now it's just you're trying every single night. The parity in the League with the cap makes it so hard to stay up there on a continuous basis.

"We've done everything we possibly can but it hasn't been good enough. We need to get back there."

Kronwall said the continued development of young players like center Dylan Larkin, 22, and forward Anthony Mantha, who turns 24 on Sept. 16, will help the Red Wings accomplish that.

"We should be right there," he said of Detroit, which finished 30-39-13, 24 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. "I thought last year we should be right there with the team that we had. I know people on the outside are seeing things differently but within the team, within the locker room, we believe in the team that we have.

"Some of these guys can be difference makers. And it's time for them to push forward. The organization needs that."

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