– Since they both joined the Red Wings in 1993, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood have played a significant role in the resurgence of Hockeytown.
But as the duo enter a summer in which they will become free agents, both they and team management have decisions to make about the future of two Detroit hockey icons.
“I think every athlete doesn’t want to be faced with that choice,” Draper said. “But you know that it’s always going to end. It’s going to come to an end. I know that I’m closing in on that. I just want to do what’s right.”
Both Draper and Osgood said that their decision will hinge on family as much as their ability to play. The recent addition to the Osgood family – he and wife Jenna welcomed their first son in March – means that both are fathers of three.
“I still want to play, I would miss it if I didn’t,” said the 38-year-old Osgood. “It’s a lot of things. You get older. I have three kids now; I have other things going on besides hockey. I still love playing, but like I said, there will be lots of things that will go into my decision. Right now, first off is to talk to Kenny and figure out what they want to do, and what I want to do.”
Wings general manager Ken Holland will be looking at impressive resumes when he sits down with both this summer. But the what-have-you-done doesn’t necessarily play into the cap world that Holland and other GMs around the league must deal with.
Draper is one of four players to be a member of all four Stanley Cup championships during the Wings’ 20 consecutive playoff appearances. He has spent all but 20 of his 1,157 NHL games in a Detroit uniform, and he has compiled 161 goals and 203 assists with a plus-74 rating in over 20 seasons.
Osgood captured Stanley Cup rings with Detroit in 1997, 1998, and 2008. He has played 565 games for the Wings, and 744 total NHL games because of stints with the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues. This season, Osgood became just the 10th goal all-time to reach the 400-win mark. He holds a career .905 save percentage, and 2.49 goals-against average. His numbers are even more impressive in the playoffs; Osgood has 74 wins, a .916 save percentage, and 2.09 goals-against in 129 postseason games.
Both players said that the connection they feel with the city makes their decision that much more difficult.
“This is home,” Draper said. “That’s the one thing that probably makes it that much tougher, for the fact that I’ve been here so long, this is all my kids know, a lot of people, when they get to this point in their career, they’ve been to different places, they’ve gone to different schools, they’ve had different friends, and they’ve moved on. For me, that’s not the case, for being here as long as I have. All of those things are certainly going to come into play, and that’s why I say I want to do what’s best for my family first, I mean that.
“I want to do what’s best for them. I don’t want to be selfish at all. All the sacrifices that my wife’s made, my kids have made for me - the travel, the road trips, me missing ice shows, stuff going on at the school, Christmas concerts, you name it. Usually it’s just Julie sitting there, and Dad’s not there. And that’s something why I have to do what’s right by them, and that will all come over within, I’ll know a lot more when I meet with Kenny, and then we’ll go from there. But that’s kind of the way I’m thinking right now, is that I want to put them first, and they deserve it, at this point in my career, and at this point in their lives.”
Yet both Draper and Osgood believe that when it comes down to their productivity on the ice, they can still contribute to the Wings’ roster.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of me thinking I can’t play,” Osgood said. “I know I can still play, and that’s something that will definitely go into it too. That would be a ‘Yeah, I’m going to come back’, because I know I can still play. But there are a lot of other things that go into it too. It will take me a while, but there will definitely be a day where I’m going to have to decide, and it will probably be sooner than later.”
Decisions will be made later this summer, after both players meet with Holland – a busy man at this time of the year. Draper and Osgood are just two of nine free agents from the Wings’ every-day roster that Holland will have to make decisions on.
However, Wings coach Mike Babcock said it is going to be tough for his boss to decide on the two veteran players, because they mean much more to the team than just their on-ice abilities.
“It’s uncertain every year when you get to a certain age,” Babcock said. “Drapes was fantastic for us this year. Ozzie obviously had a tough year, just injury-wise. But those are special people in that they are invested in the company. How we perform each and every day matters to those guys. Their role with Jimmy Howard
and their role with (Darren) Helm and (Justin) Abdelkader are things we can’t measure, but we know we can’t do.
“We’re not in this locker room. We’re not in the weight room, we’re not managing those things. They are. And that’s what has made their legacy as players here in Detroit even bigger and stronger because of what they’re willing to do for the company. To me, that’s why you win for long periods of time. So those guys are valuable, valuable resources to us as coaches and management, and to the players. Those are hard decisions for them, and hard decisions for us.”
Neither player would reveal which way he is leaning at this point. When Osgood was asked what his gut feeling is, he didn’t even answer about hockey.
“It tells me I’m going to the baseball game today,” Osgood said, holding up tickets to Saturday evening’s Detroit Tigers game. “That’s all I know right now.”Follow Michael Caples on Twitter: @MichaelCaples