The Dallas Stars aren't sure they want the greatest player in franchise history back for a 21st season. Modano considers that a clear sign he should start wondering how he'll look in a new sweater.
"Just the fact it has kind of dragged on this long — there's no conclusion to it — I figured there possibly could be a chance I'm not coming back," Modano told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "You have to put into the equation what their future is and what they're going to do, what their game plan is moving forward the next couple of years and that possibly doesn't include me. ... I'm still trying to come to grips with that scenario."
The Stars have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since moving to Texas in 1993. Cutting ties with Modano, tough as it might be, would show their devotion to a fresh start and would open playing time for a forward who could one day chase his records. Modano holds every significant offensive mark in club history and the Michigan native is the top American-born scorer in NHL history.
Modano has been the face of the Minnesota North Stars-Dallas Stars franchise pretty much since being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1988. He helped Minnesota make a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1991, then his personality and performance went a long way toward Texans embracing the NHL when the club moved south. He was a big reason they won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and returned to the finals in 2000.
He almost left as a free agent following the lockout, but was persuaded to stay by owner Tom Hicks. He'll be a free agent again July 1.
"There's been a lot of loyalty shown both ways," Modano said. "I can't really be too upset or disappointed. I've had my share of positive situations here. But it's difficult to see that it could come down to (the club not wanting him back)."
Modano talks often with Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, his former teammate and good friend. Modano expects things to get sorted out next week, after the draft and before the start of free agency.
He believes he still can be effective. He had 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games last season, missing a chunk of time with a cracked rib then struggling to regain his form once he returned. In an emotional home finale, he scored the tying goal then scored again during a shootout, helping Dallas pull out a win.
"I've kind of gone through my same routine as every summer, in case I do come back, so I'm not behind workout-wise," Modano said. "If I go somewhere else, there certainly would be a lot of motivation to really have a great year and finish on a good note."
Modano added that he's "still on the fence" about coming back in general.
"Ultimately, it comes down to playing the game, being competitive, having fun and feeling you're benefiting the situation rather than being a liability," he said.
There's another intriguing layer to this. Modano also is part of a group that's trying to buy the Stars.
"We're still one of the three major contenders," Modano said.
The bidding process is moving slowly, which could be a problem because Modano can't be an owner and a player — for any team, even Dallas.
Asked whether he'd rather play for the Stars or own them, Modano picked ownership.
"I hope to fix the situation here and get it back on track, do some right moves to put us back in the upper echelon of teams," he said. "I hope I could start making some of the tough decisions."
Modano will be playing a different sport this weekend — baseball — as he and other sports celebrities play a game benefiting the Mike Modano Foundation (abused children) and The Heroes Foundation (cancer). The event has raised more than $1.5 million over its first eight years.