Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google
Social Networks

Nieuwendyk makes the tough call

Tuesday, 06.29.2010 / 2:05 PM / News
By Bob Matuszak
Share with your Friends

Nieuwendyk makes the tough call

It's hard to cut ties with a player that has done so much for your team and franchise over an amazing career. It makes it doubly tough when that player is a friend and former teammate.

That's the dilemma that Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk was facing before he ultimately -- and painstakingly -- chose not to offer future Hall of Famer Mike Modano a contract extension for the upcoming season.

  Nieuwendyk Video (RAW)
"It was something that I've been talking to Mike about for quite some time," Nieuwendyk said on Tuesday. "It's a difficult decision for our fans, and it's a difficult decision for our organization. But from my standpoint, I feel it's necessary for us to move forward under these trying times. It's a tough decision, but we're going to move on without him on the ice. My primary focus is making the Dallas Stars a contender again. You're not going to replace Mike Modano, but like all great players, at some point you have to turn the page. The strength of our team is our youth, and we have some great young players that will push to the next level."

Still, Nieuwendyk, who spoke with the franchise's all-time scorer for 30 minutes on Monday night, hardly closed the book on the Mike Modano era. In fact, he spoke openly about the team's all-time best player someday returning to the club in some sort of off-ice capacity when Modano finally decides to hang up his skates.

Modano, who becomes a free agent July 1, has yet to determine his playing future.

"I'll be the first guy knocking on our new owner's door in order to have Mike part of this organization, and I don't think anybody would have an issue with that," Nieuwendyk said. "I've said to Mike repeatedly that he has to know what direction he wants to go with this. Mike has to decide which area he wants to get into, and I think we'll make a fit in whatever he wants to do. If and when he decides to stop playing, the door will always be open for him here."

It was an agonizing process over time for Nieuwendyk, and easily the hardest decision he's had to make since being named to his post a year ago. But Nieuwendyk knew it was time to move forward without Modano, the highest-scoring American-born player that, along with Nieuwendyk, formed a potent 1-2 pivot combination during the Stars' amazing three-year run in the late 90's that saw the team capture its first Stanley Cup championship, advance to the Western Conference finals three times, and make it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice.

So if Modano decides to return to the ice for his 22nd NHL season and signs with another team for another crack at the Cup, he'll have the full support of his buddy.

"I respect that, and I've indicated that to him," Nieuwendyk said. "If he wants to pursue that, much like Ray Bourque did by going to Colorado, that is certainly his prerogative. He's one of the best players I ever played with. I know what he's going through because I've been there. He's certainly capable of playing. He's a talent."

Modano becomes the second veteran to be let go by the Stars this offseason. In May, Nieuwendyk announced that goalie Marty Turco wasn't going to return to a team that now needs its youngsters to take off the training wheels and pedal full-steam ahead.

"We have young players that I believe have to be put in the position where they can be successful," Nieuwendyk said. "The depth of our team is at the center ice position. I didn't anticipate Mike's role going forward as he would have liked from a fourth-line position, and in fact, we need to incorporate a different look there as well."

Modano burst onto the season like no other player in Minnesota/Dallas history. The No. 1 overall pick in 1988, the then 18-year-old Modano evolved both as a man and hockey player on the NHL stage.

In 1991, he helped lead the North Stars to their second-ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and was an integral part in upsetting the heavily favored Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.

In 1993, Modano was a natural to become the team's ambassador for the new hockey fans of North Texas when the North Stars migrated to Dallas.

He eventually became the most prolific U.S.-born offensive player in the NHL by scoring 557 goals and 1.359 points, and the 40-year-old leaves as the all-time franchise leader in 15 different regular season statistical categories as well as 11 postseason categories.

Modano's production, however, had been slipping over the past two seasons, and his ice-time dwindled. Last year he was able to muster just 30 points, the fewest total in a career that began in 1989 (he had 29 points in a 1994-95 season that was shortened to 48 games due to a lockout).

With Modano gone, veteran Jere Lehtinen becomes the oldest forward at 37, while captain Brenden Morrow (31) and Toby Petersen (31) are the only players north of the age of 30.

The core of the team that is looking to get back into the postseason after a two-year hiatus now includes Loui Eriksson (24), James Neal (22), Steve Ott (27), and a pair of 30-year-olds in leading scorer Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro.

"We haven't made the playoffs for two years, and we're facing challenges right now that most NHL teams are not facing," Nieuwendyk said. "I feel confident about our young players and where they are viewed as compared to the rest of the league. I think everyone would agree that we have good, young players."

Still, it was an exhausting process for Nieuwendyk, who knows full well what Modano meant to the Stars and the city of Dallas…and vice-versa. 

"From a fan's perspective it's going to be tough no matter what because Mike has been such an important part of this franchise ever since we came to Dallas. It's going to be difficult for fans to understand," he said. "Looking back, I'm sure it was very difficult for Cowboys fans to see Emmitt Smith move on. But you ask people today, and Emmitt Smith is always a Dallas Cowboy, and Mike Modano will always be a Dallas Star."




1 NSH 62 41 14 7 188 147 89
2 ANA 62 38 17 7 182 174 83
3 STL 61 39 18 4 190 152 82
4 CHI 62 37 20 5 183 146 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 61 32 22 7 173 160 71
8 LAK 60 29 19 12 162 153 70
9 CGY 61 33 24 4 174 158 70
10 SJS 62 30 24 8 173 177 68
11 DAL 61 27 25 9 191 202 63
12 COL 61 26 24 11 161 175 63
13 ARI 62 20 35 7 137 210 47
14 EDM 62 18 34 10 142 206 46


J. Benn 61 23 37 -1 60
T. Seguin 55 29 30 0 59
J. Spezza 61 14 37 -3 51
E. Cole 56 18 14 4 32
J. Klingberg 47 10 22 4 32
T. Daley 58 16 15 -11 31
A. Hemsky 55 9 17 -7 26
A. Goligoski 61 2 24 4 26
C. Eakin 58 12 13 -3 25
A. Roussel 59 11 11 -11 22
K. Lehtonen 25 13 9 .906 2.96
J. Enroth 13 24 2 .900 3.31
#LONESTARSSTATE GAMEDAY FAN is the official Web site of DSE Hockey Club, L.P.  The Stars name and logos are registered trademarks of the NHL and the Stars. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 DSE Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

Corporate Partnerships | Contact UsPrivacy Policy | AdChoices | Job Opportunities | Terms of Use | Site Map | Find us on Google+