Veteran winger Teemu Selanne said after his Ducks exit interview Tuesday… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
Teemu Selanne will go home to Finland this summer, play some golf, rest, reflect and again determine whether he wants to return for a 21st season of professional hockey.
The Ducks right wing emerged from exit interviews Tuesday at Honda Center and quickly said he needed more time to decide if he’ll come back to a team for which he contributed 12 goals and 12 assists on the No. 2 line during the regular season.
Selanne, an unrestricted free agent, said that until he hears differently from Ducks officials, starting with General Manager Bob Murray, he’s under the assumption the team will let him decide whether he wants a roster spot in what would be his 15th season as a Duck.
“That sense of respect has been the case and hopefully that’s the case in the future,” Selanne said.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he'll yield to whatever decision Murray makes on Selanne, adding he “loves” the veteran.
Murray defended Selanne when asked about the 42-year-old player’s reduced minutes and production (three goals in the final 16 games) during the latter stages of a lockout-shortened season that featured a compressed schedule.
“It was a hard season for an older guy, really rough,” Murray said. “It’s not fair to say if it’s gone or not. I saw spots in the playoffs that were pretty good.”
The Ducks were beaten by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs, losing in Game 7 Sunday night.
Selanne said the demanding schedule coincided with the injury loss of Ducks center Nick Bonino to diminish his contributions in the second half. He said he felt discouraged “energy wise,” but never felt resigned to the idea this would be his final season.
“The expectations for myself are so high, I don’t feel I reached those expectations,” said Selanne, who netted at least 26 goals in each of the four seasons before this one. “The workload was way higher. Next year, we don’t have to play seven nights in 10 days, with every night like a playoff game.
“I know it’s going to be easier. I don’t have to play. I only play because I want to play. That’s why I take time off. I want to feel, ‘Do I really want to start pushing myself again?’ ”
Although Boudreau said Tuesday he foresees the Ducks improving because younger players will step up in some cases to assume the roles of older veterans, Selanne said he’s not concerned by the potential of a lessened role on the team next season.
“We all know where we are,” Selanne said. “It’s just, do we do it again?”
The coach later qualified his comments to note he was “not saying that will ever happen,” but added that if Selanne and fellow Finnish veteran Saku Koivu walk away, captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are strongly positioned to assume more prominent leadership positions as they begin new eight-year contracts valued at a combined $135 million.
“These guys are ready to take on whatever role is necessary to take on,” Boudreau said.
A 2013-14 campaign would include a break to play in the Winter Olympics and the anticipated Ducks-Kings outdoor game at Dodger Stadium.
“Things make this next season special, but you’ve got to be ‘there,’ mentally and physically,” Selanne said. “You have to do things right. The dedication in this age has to be 100%.”
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