Kronwall says this season will likely be his last
Veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall: “If this happens to be the end of the road, I would be more than happy with the journey that I've had.”
If 2018-19 is his last NHL season, Niklas Kronwall will be satisfied.
The 37-year-old defenseman, whose 14 NHL seasons have benn all with the Red Wings, will be in the last year of a seven-year- contract (cap hit $4.75 million) during the upcoming season. And there have been no talks with Detroit 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 told NHL.com this past 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.”
Kronwall has dealt with chronic knee issues over the past few seasons and has to carefully manage his practice time, rest and treatment during the season. He had four goals and 23 assists for 27 points in 79 games last season and is confident he can continue to be effective in 2018-19.
Selected by the Wings in the first round (29th overall pick) of the 2000 NHL Draft, Kronwall has 405 points (80 goals, 325 assists) in 874 NHL games.
“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.
“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.”
Kronwall said the continued development of young players like center Dylan Larkin, 22, who recently signed a five-year, $30.5-million contract, and forward Anthony Mantha, who turns 24 on Sept. 16, will help the Red Wings become a playoff team again.
“We should be right there,” Kronwall said of Detroit. “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.”