There is no denying Daniel Alfredsson is the face of the Ottawa Senators, but at age 40 the team's captain might not be playing that role for much longer.
Alfredsson is entering his 17th season with the Senators and has already hinted that retirement has crossed his mind. He's in the final year of his contract and can't confirm or deny whether this is his last season.
"That's a good question," Alfredsson said. "Sometimes I feel like I should make a decision earlier, but as long as I enjoy playing, enjoy coming to the rink I don't see why I can't continue if the desire's there."
Some wonder whether he can physically handle the rigours of a shortened 48-game season at 40, but he says he has no concerns.
"I don't think (being 40) is that big a deal," Alfredsson said. "I totally understand it because it's not until the last few years where people really considered playing this late. I understand the skepticism and is it worth it and what not, but I think as you see people are taking more and more care of themselves off the ice that this is not going to be the rarity it's going to be the norm."
Alfredsson chose to remain at home during the lockout and skate with some of his teammates rather than pursue playing opportunities overseas. A big part of his decision had to do with wanting to spend more time with his wife and four young sons and he admits that his desire to have more normalcy in his life could be what ultimately decides his future.
The time at home during the lockout made him realize how much he misses his family during the hockey season.
"I would love for them to be old enough that they can remember me playing in the National Hockey League, but at the same time does that really matter?," he asked. "Am I better off being more at home with them than spending this much time playing in the NHL? I battle with that question myself."
Alfredsson is expected to start the season playing with newly acquired Guillaume Latendresse, a 25-year-old looking to re-ignite his career after two injury riddled seasons, and 22-year-old Kyle Turris.
Turris considers himself extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to play with Alfredsson.
"He's unbelievable," Turris said. "He makes me a lot better. I learn from him everyday in practice and watching the little things that he does in games or game-like situations and I'm just trying to learn as much as I can."
Last season Alfredsson had 27 goals and 32 assists through 75 games while averaging 18 minutes 56 seconds of ice time per game, fourth highest on the team. The 27 goals was his best since the 2007-2008 season when he scored 40.
"I don't have any expectations as far as goals or points for me individually," Alfredsson said. "I'm just, as always, trying to go in and do my best in every game and usually it adds up at the end."
The Senators see no reason why Alfredsson wouldn't be able to contribute as much as he has in the past.
"He looks like he's able to play whatever amount the coach needs him to play," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray after watching Alfredsson through two days of training camp. "Age is a state of mind, that's really what it is. He's going to play well for us.
"I don't think he's lost a step, we may see it over a period of time and maybe he's not as sharp every single night as he might be, but he's such a good player and well conditioned player that I just think he can play as many minutes as (coach Paul MacLean) needs him to play."
As for his teammates they rarely take his age into consideration, unless it's for a good laugh at his expense.
"That's the great thing about hockey," said 29-year-old Jason Spezza. "He probably feels about ten years younger than he is and to us we respect him for the experience he has, but you don't really think of him as 40.
"That's not to say we don't get a few digs in here and there though."
Notes: MacLean says any roster moves will likely be made following Thursday's practice. a The Senators have already sold in excess of 16,000 tickets for its home opener Monday night against the Florida Panthers and will open Scotiabank Place to fans Saturday afternoon to watch the season opener against the Winnipeg Jets.