Modano unsure about next year

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS — Mike Modano is in no hurry to decide whether he’ll come back for another season with the Dallas Stars.

And he’s apparently not in the mood to talk about it, either.

Modano avoided reporters waiting outside the locker-room Monday, knowing the main question would be whether the top U.S.-born scorer in NHL history is planning on returning for a 20th season. He’s already under contract for US$2.25 million in 2009-10, but also would get $750,000 if he walks away.

In recent weeks, Modano talked about going to a beach and unwinding before making a decision. He acknowledged he was likely to return, but also mentioned wanting a clearly defined role from coach Dave Tippett and the front office, co-general managers Brett Hull and Les Jackson.

"Mike Modano is the Dallas Stars," Hull said Monday. "Les and I say it all the time: He’s our boss. He’s been a part of this team for so long and the face of the franchise. We want to do what’s best for him and he wants what’s best for us."

A few months shy of 39, the only thing Modano needs to decide on his desire. No one questions his ability.

"To skate like he does plus have the intelligence he has, he can play as long as he wants," Hull said. "The thing is, how long do you want to play? … He’s got a new wife and maybe wants to start a family. It’s all his idea of where he wants to take his life. That’s where we’re at right now."

After reaching the Western Conference finals in 2008, there were high expectations for this season. But a slow start and extended injuries to captain Brenden Morrow, forward Jere Lehtinen, defenceman Sergei Zubov and then to top-line centre Brad Richards were just too much to overcome. The Stars missed the playoffs for only the third time since moving to Dallas in 1993.

"I don’t think any of us want him to go out the way we did this year," Morrow said. "I think there’s still some gas left in the tank. He’s going to be a big part of our team next year, hopefully."

Modano had 15 goals and 31 assists in 80 games. His 543 goals, 786 assists and 1,329 points are all tops for U.S. natives. He holds every significant franchise scoring mark and has led the club to three Stanley Cup finals, winning the title in 1999.

.He’s also been part of the last three U.S. Olympic teams. Aiming for a fourth in Vancouver might be another reason to keep playing.

Defenceman Trevor Daley laughed at the idea of Modano retiring.

"I don’t think he’s retiring," Daley said. "What does he have to retire for? He still looks good, he can still fly. He doesn’t have any kids. So what’s the point of retiring? What’s he going to do?"

He’ll soon be playing lots of golf, including plenty of tee times with goaltender Marty Turco.

"As well as he played and looked this year, we could use him," Turco said. "To have No. 9 on your side is a good thing."