When Teemu Selanne
stops enjoying the game, when his passion runs out and the reservoir of fun runs dry, that's the day he'll announce his retirement for good.
He's saving that for another summer.
For now, Selanne hardly feels like a 40-year-old even though he is, and he definitely feels like someone who still can skate, pass, shoot and score with the best of them. That's why he'll be back for another season in Anaheim, his 18th in the NHL -- because he still has a blast playing this game in this League.
Monday, Selanne announced that he signed another one-year contract to play with the Ducks in 2010-11. The pact reportedly is worth $3.25 million and includes bonuses.
"He's still got it," Ducks General Manager Bob Murray
said. "He still can fly. He has the passion to play the game. He loves to score goals. You just know that the guy has still got it and can still play."
"I thought it would be easy to retire, but when you think you can still play and at a high level and you enjoy it, I don't understand why anyone should retire," Selanne said during a conference call he conducted from his home in Finland. "It would be easier to retire if you think you can't play the same way you've been playing for so many years or if you don't enjoy it that much. If you do both, that's the reason I'm still playing."
If things didn't go so well at the end of last season, he probably wouldn't be.
Selanne thought just prior to the Olympics that he was done. Only three games into his return from a 17-game absence due to a fractured hand, he broke his jaw and lost eight more games.
He played in only five of the Ducks' 30 games from Dec. 1 through Jan. 29.
"It was a message for me that it's about time to do something else," he said, "but what happened after the Olympics is I was healthy and we were playing well."
Selanne won a bronze medal in Vancouver and found his stride when the NHL season resumed, and he finished with 27 goals and 48 points in 54 games.
He scored his 600th goal (a number that now is at 606 and counting), and the Ducks won nine of their final 15 games. They fell short of the playoffs by six points and finished 12th in the Western Conference, but Selanne said moments after the season finale that the team was too good to finish out of the playoffs and the future was bright.
He needed time to figure out if he was going to be a part of that future, but to do that Selanne also had to know Murray wasn't going to tear the team apart and re-build. He had to be assured the plan was to win now, so Murray showed him his cards before he dealt them.
"I was talking to Bob every couple of weeks and he gave me a good picture and told me his plans," Selanne said. "He said, 'Just wait, be patient and I think you're going to like what I'm going to do.' We have always had an open relationship and it was nice to know his plans before he did them. He did a good job there. He wants to win next year."
As sad as he was to see Scott Niedermayer
retire (Selanne said he knew after a golfing trip just before Niedermayer announced his retirement that there was no convincing him otherwise), Selanne was thrilled to see fellow countryman Saku Koivu
Koivu was Selanne's center for most of last season, and his re-signing played a big role in his ultimate decision to return.
"Saku's decision for sure affected me," Selanne said. "We were talking to Bob Murray
earlier and I said if I decide to come back I hope there will be a team that has a chance to win. I really believe Saku is going to be a big part of that."
"I thought it would be easy to retire, but when you think you can still play and at a high level and you enjoy it, I don't understand why anyone should retire." -- Teemu Selanne
Selanne also mentioned that it was tough to see James Wisniewski
traded to the Islanders for a draft pick ("a business decision," he called it), but is thrilled Murray was able to re-work the defense by signing Andy Sutton
and another Finn, Toni Lydman
Those moves and his own motivation were enough to convince Selanne to play another season. He said he's sticking to the "one more year" route because it helps motivate him throughout the season "to leave everything out there."
"There is nothing better than playing hockey at this level," Selanne said, "and when you really enjoy that you have the passion to do it more and more."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl