DETROIT – As the Wings await word on whether defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will return for a 20th season, another major piece along their blue line may have decided to call it quits.
A pair of Canadian websites, TSN and Sportsnet, reported Monday that Brian Rafalski has decided to retire with one year remaining on his deal, which was set to pay him $6 million.
A source told The Macomb Daily late Monday night that Rafalski is expected to announce his decision Wednesday during a news conference at Joe Louis Arena.
Wings general manager Ken Holland would not confirm the reports.
“I haven’t talked to him in more than a week,” Holland said. “I’m not confirming that he’s retiring.
“I think (retirement) is an option for him,” Holland added. “I met with him a week ago. He wanted to take some time. We planned to talk this week.”
Neither Rafalski, who is from Dearborn, nor his agent, Bill Zito, could be reached for comment.
Because Rafalski was not 35 when he signed his five-year, $30 million free-agent contract with Detroit in 2007, the final year of the deal will not count against the cap, if he retires.
With that kind of salary cap space, the Wings may turn their interest in Nashville restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber.
But Weber told the Tennessean after the season that a deal with the Predators was going to get done.
“Obviously, this is a place I love to play, and you saw how close we were this year to getting to the conference finals, and possibly further,” he told the paper. “This is a place I want to be, and it’s going to be a matter of time before something gets done.”
Nashville has until July 1 before Weber can get offers from other teams for his services.
Injuries have plagued Rafalski, 37, over the last three seasons.
He had back surgery last summer.
He missed 10 games in October after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. He also sat out eight games due to back spasms.
During the playoffs, he was bothered by a sore knee, which prevented him from skating on most off-days.
“I think Rafi’s health (issue) is more over time,” Holland said. “Whatever injuries Rafi had this year were wear and tear of his career.”
Rafalski, who has spent the last four seasons in Detroit, had four goals and 44 assists in 63 games this season and was plus-11. In 11 playoff games, he had two goals and an assist.
In his 11-year career, he has 79 goals and 436 assists in 833.
Rafalski, who is a three-time Olympian and has won a silver medal twice with Team USA, has won three Stanley Cups, two of which came with the New Jersey Devils and one with the Wings (2008).