Veteran Red Wings defender Kronwall could retire after 2018-19 season

Watch as Niklas Kronwall makes Reilly Smith pay after a suicide pass.

Fifteen years after his 2003 NHL debut for the Detroit Red Wings, veteran blueliner Niklas Kronwall appears to be approaching the end of his run wearing the winged wheel on his chest.

With one final year remaining on his current deal, and no talk of an extension having taken place yet, the 37-year-old said Saturday he’s ready to move on if the 2018-19 campaign winds up being his last.

“If this happens to be the end of the road, I would be more than happy with the journey that I’ve had,” Kronwall told NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger. “And more than thankful to the Ilitch family and (general manager) Kenny Holland for giving me the opportunity that I have for being able to be with the same team for my entire career.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play in Detroit all these years and I have a tough time seeing myself in a different jersey.”

Breaking into the big leagues on a Red Wings team bursting at the seams with Hall of Fame talent — the club’s top six scorers during Kronwall’s first go-round: Pavel Datsyuk, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Mathieu Schneider, Henrik Zetterberg — the heavy-hitting Swede earned his name via his penchant for open-ice checks, laying out opponents in bone-shaking fashion on the regular.

Fourteen seasons later, he and fellow countryman Zetterberg are the only remaining holdovers from that golden generation in Detroit. And with the latter’s health uncertain and Kronwall’s own career appearing to be near the end, it seems the keys will soon be officially handed over to the young guns.

“I love the game. I can’t say enough good things about it. But at the same time, you have to be realistic,” Kronwall told Zeisberger. “I know where I’m at right now. A year from now, I don’t know where I’ll be at. I’d love to sign [for] another year but let’s face it, the team’s getting younger, I’m getting older, the game’s getting faster.

“I’m not the same player I was 10 years ago. But I’m going to do what I can this year, both on the ice and off the ice, and just try to be as efficient as I possibly can.”

Kronwall heads into the 2018-19 season with career totals of 80 goals and 405 points through 874 career appearances. He earned a Stanley Cup ring in his fourth NHL campaign, posting 15 points through 22 post-season games en route to Detroit’s 2008 championship.

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