In recent days as many as five former NHL players have made their desire to make a possible return to the NHL known. Forward PJ Axelsson, Forward Mike Modano, Goalie Dominik Hasek, Winger Sergei Samsonov and Enforcer Georges Laraque have all stated in one way or another that they are “intrigued” by the thought of playing in the NHL again. Of the five, Axelsson and Modano are reportedly receiving the most interest from NHL teams. Hasek is 47 years old and has already been turned down by the Buffalo Sabres; Laraque isn’t much outside of a 35 year old goon and is potentially facing fraud charges; while the undersized playmaking Samsonov is only 33 years old (I know, “only” 33 years old) but hasn’t played hockey in over a year since taking last season off from the KHL. For now it appears Axelsson and Modano have the inside track on the NHL.
PJ Axelsson, who is 37 years old, last played for the Boston Bruins in the 2008-09 campaign where he amassed 6-24-30 totals in 75 games before spending the last two seasons in Sweden where he was around a point per game player. Axelsson has never been mistaken for an offensive powerhouse during his career but he is a veteran leader who can kill penalties better than most and would help any team looking to add a defensive forward. His longtime agent, Neil Abbott, confirmed he’s been talking to NHL teams about Axelsson and has stated that as many as two teams are interested in the Swedes’ services (although Abbott would not disclose the two teams). Axelsson could make a return to the Bruins who have said they’re looking to add a veteran top-9 forward, or he may land on a team with a younger core in need of some leadership and penalty killing ability like the Edmonton Oilers.
After playing his entire career for the Minnesota/Dallas Stars organization, the 42 year old Mike Modano spent the last 40 games of his NHL career playing for the Detroit Red Wings in 2010-11 where his production slid until his season was lost to a wrist injury. He then signed an honorary one day contract with the Dallas Stars and retired from the game. Not exactly the way the all time points and goals leader amongst American-born NHL players and future hall of famer wants to go out. So, once Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild, Modano tweeted, “Can I come back and play for the Wild too?” and ever since has been fielding calls about whether or not he would in fact ever make a return to the NHL. Would Modano seriously make a return to the NHL? From the Buffalo News:
“If the phone ever rang, if there was somebody who inquired, I would give it serious thought about playing … I just feel the way my season ended in Detroit, because of the injury, affected me playing the rest of the year. Everything was just starting to fall into place. I was playing catch-up the rest of the year… There’s a sour taste in my mouth with the way [my career] ended. I thought it could be more of a fairytale departure. I don’t know if I’m still looking for that or what, but I’m not totally pulling that option off the table.”
Does this mean Modano will make a return to the NHL? I’m not sure. What I can tell you is if I’m the general manager of the Minnesota Wild I’d be kicking the tires on Modano right now if I haven’t already.
Can Axelsson or Modano make returns to the NHL or could it be one of the long shots like Hasek, Samsonov and Laraque? If they do come back will it be a train wreck or a good, heart warming come back story we tell our kids and grand kids about? All good questions that will only be answered in time but for now at least we have a few more interesting names, if not older ones, on the 2012 NHL free agent list.
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