DETROIT — The Wings’ organization got the news they had hoped for.
Nicklas Lidstrom will return for his 20th season along the blue line for the team that drafted him 53rd overall in 1989.
“It’s obviously a real important decision for our hockey team,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Nick is coming off a tremendous season.”
Lidstrom will make $6.2 million this season, which is the same amount he made last season.
Holland and Lidstrom are both out in Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, where the Wings’ captain is one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy.
“He continues to be one of the elite defensemen in the game,” Holland said.
Lidstrom was told by the team, like he was last season, to take as long as he needed to decide. He told them he would inform them prior to the start of free agency, which begins on July 1.
“I wanted to make sure I found the motivation and I was ready to commit to workouts over the summer for next season,” Lidstrom said.
“I started working out here a few weeks ago just to make sure I still had the motivation and still have the commitment to go through everything to get ready for the next season,” Lidstrom added. “That’s why it took so long. I wanted to make sure I was ready and prepared. I’m very happy to be back for my 20th season with the Wings.”
Lidstrom, who turned 41 in April, finished second amongst defensemen with 62 points this season.
He is the only Wing to play all 82 games each of the past two seasons.
Getting Lidstrom to return for at least one more season was key for the Wings with the unexpected news they got when Brian Rafalski walked away from the final year of his contract.
“This was certainly the news our entire organization was hoping to hear that Nick was coming back for one more year,” Holland said.
The Wings now have four defensemen under contract – Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall and Jakub Kindl.
Holland is continuing contract talks with Jonathan Ericsson, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Holland also said they will make a decision on veteran Ruslan Salei in the next 10 days. It doesn’t appear he will return.
Top blue-line prospect Brendan Smith will be given every chance to make the team next season, while Doug Janik, who has a one-way contract for next season, could provide depth on defense.
“Teams know we have a need on defense and we have cap space,” Holland said. “I’ve received a few calls on teams looking to move players.
“We’re going to explore everything, either on the trade front or free agency,” Holland added. “We’re opened minded going in.”
Lidstrom is fourth on the Wings’ career list for points (1,108), ninth in goals (253), third in assists (855) and fourth in games played (1,494).
“At my age I need to be motivated to play,” Lidstrom said. “I have been motivated. When I’m motivated I’m having fun playing.
“If I drop off and I can’t keep playing up to that level, or I was a sixth or seventh defenseman I probably wouldn’t be playing,” Lidstrom added. “I admire (Chris) Chelios for what he did. His ice time dropped and he accepted that. If that happened to me I probably wouldn’t be having much fun playing.”