When I spoke with Mike Modano in April, he didn't know what the future held -- if he would be retiring following the season, if he'd move into ownership or if he'd come back and play one final season with the Stars or, God forbid, someone else. But he was clear about one thing: He wanted the decision to be his, not someone else's: "Ultimately, you'd like to have it your own -- when I'm going to be gone, how I'm going to be finishing."
But this morning, Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk has made the decision for Modano: He will not be returning to Dallas next season, not even on a one-year contract. Says Nieuwendyk on the Stars' Web site in advance of a noontime press conference to make it official:
"Mike is unclear on whether he will retire or not, and still may decide to play next season. After assessing our roster and where we need to go as a hockey team, we have decided to not offer Mike a contract and allow him to explore free agency on July 1. If Mike decides that he would like to play with another team, we support his wishes. That's part of the reason behind the timing of this announcement; we wanted to be up-front with Mike and give him the option to explore playing for other clubs on July 1 if he chooses. ...
"I truly understand how the fans feel about Mike and we all appreciate what he has done for this franchise. But all players have to face this day; Emmitt Smith is a perfect example, as is Joe Montana, Troy Aikman or Ray Bourque. I know what Mike is going through. When you turn 40 and you face the end of your playing career, it is very hard to let go. I don't blame him for being undecided and possibly wanting to continue. But this is a hockey decision and we feel it is in the best interests of our roster. I stand by that and I believe that."