Nieuwendyk Might Be Warning Modano About the Dangers of an Extended Career

DALLAS - APRIL 08: Center Mike Modano #9 of the Dallas Stars celebrate after scoring a goal during a shootout against the Anaheim Ducks at American Airlines Center on April 8, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Mike Modano semi-retirement story keeps getting stranger.

As you may recall, first Modano announced this would be his last season.

But then, as he reconsidered that, the Stars announced they weren’t re-signing Modano.

Yesterday, Modano held a press conference to discuss his disappointment in the Stars’ lack of interest in re-signing him.

People in Dallas are upset the Stars are turning their back on a hero. There’s a lot of backlash when you publicly announce you’re severing ties with a beloved player who might want to play another season or so.

If I had to guess what’s going down in Dallas, I would say this is GM Joe Nieuwendyk trying to do right by a former teammate. This isn’t about salary, although that’s certainly a consideration. But mostly Nieuwendyk is a guy who kept his career going a little too long and it really feels like he’s trying to prevent Modano from making the same mistake.

It sounds like Nieuwendyk has been subtly trying to drop hints to Modano that he’s simply too old to play the game. Like by reminding Modano the age gap between him and his teammates grows greater each new season: “We even talked about how it’s tough to find things in common with the young guys,” Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Morning News.

Nieuwendyk has been classy in saying the Stars aren’t re-signing Modano because the role they would give him is smaller than the role he wants.

But Nieuwendyk knows no team would offer Modano more than fourth-line minutes, perhaps with some special team work thrown in. I’m not sure what kind of role Modano sees for himself, but I can’t imagine even the most desperate of NHL teams making him a top-six center. And while Modano’s defensive game seems to improve every season, I’m not sure he has the stamina to be a regular third-line center.

Modano had a great Stars career. It’s sad to see it go out on a note like this, with his former team turning its back on him as Modano waits to see if anyone else in the NHL wants to give him a job.

Last season, we watched Brendan Shanahan end his career right before the season started, when he and the Devils realized Shanahan wasn’t a great fit for the Devils.

It was an incredible NHL career ending at least two seasons too late on a anticlimactic note.

Nieuwendyk’s career ended due to back pain, and so, not 100% under his own steam. But his final two NHL seasons (in Florida) saw a once-great player playing at a pedestrian level for an awful team.

It seems he’s trying to prevent Modano’s career from ending in a similar manner.

The big issue seems to be if Modano understands the subtle public signals Nieuwendyk is sending, consciously or otherwise.

And if Nieuwendyk needs to send a more explicit message in a more private setting, assuming he hasn’t already done so.