Teemu Selanne agreed to a one-year deal worth US$4 million to return to the Ducks on Thursday after the 41-year-old right-winger decided his surgically repaired knee will hold up for a 19th NHL season.
Selanne shows few signs of slowing down after nearly two decades as an elite NHL scorer. He finished eighth in the league last season with 80 points, the third-best season in league history for a player past his 40th birthday.
"I really feel like I can still play at the same level I played at in the past," Selanne said. "If you can't do that, you can't enjoy the game as much, and there would be no way I'd come back. The main factor for me is that I can be healthy, my knee is OK to play at this level, and I can use my speed and play at my level."
Few players have ever been faster than Selanne, the 27th-leading scorer in NHL history with 1,340 points. He ranks 14th in goals with 637, and he's also the Ducks' career scoring leader after spending parts of 12 seasons with Anaheim.
The Ducks were cautiously confident Selanne would return after his outstanding season, but spent the summer debating his future after knee surgery in early July. A slow recovery worried him, but Selanne has been skating daily in Anaheim in recent weeks, building strength and endurance.
He has debated retirement each summer for the past four years since the Ducks won the Stanley Cup, but the debate changed this summer after his dynamic season and the Ducks' impressive rally from a slow start to the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
"Last year was so much fun," Selanne said. "In the past summers, I've been thinking about whether I still wanted to play hockey. This summer it was clear that I wanted to play hockey, but the question was whether I could. We have a good team, and I've been so lucky to play with great players. I've enjoyed hockey so much, especially since the lockout. The passion for the game is still here, and I'm still excited."
Selanne's decision to return is a huge boost to the Ducks, who open training camp on Saturday. Anaheim opens the season with a European tour that includes a game in the Helsinki area against Jokerit, Selanne's former club -- a scheduling twist that many Ducks suggested was a sneaky way to force Selanne to come back.
League MVP Corey Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf also are back with the Ducks along with goalie Jonas Hiller, who believes he has beaten an apparent case of vertigo that sidelined him for much of last season.
The Ducks know they'll be much better with Selanne as the scoring engine on the Ducks' second line alongside Saku Koivu, his centre and fellow Finn.
"As he showed again last season, Teemu still has the drive, determination, and skill to play at an elite level," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. "Most importantly for us, his passion comes from not just playing, but playing for the Ducks."
Selanne was among 15 players to average better than a point per game last season, and he finished third in the NHL with 16 power-play goals. He was clutch, too: Selanne became the first player in NHL history to score four game-tying goals in the final three minutes of a third period in the same season.
Selanne is the Ducks' career leader in goals, assists, power-play points, game-winning goals and games played.
Before leaving for his summer break in Finland, Selanne said he wouldn't consider moving his family to another city for another season -- not even Winnipeg, where he broke into the NHL by scoring 76 goals as a 22-year-old rookie in his jaw-dropping 1992-93 campaign.
Selanne said his agent still got a call from the Jets, however.
"When you have four kids and a couple of dogs and a couple of horses and stuff, so many things to move, there is no way I can move anymore," said Selanne, who lives in an exclusive coastal community in Orange County. "But like I said, Winnipeg has been a special place for me, and I'm very excited to go back and play there again."
The Ducks visit Winnipeg on Dec. 17.
Selanne realizes Anaheim fans will immediately wonder if their beloved Finn is finally finished after this one-year deal. After all, the Honda Center crowd started chanting "One more year!" at him just a few games into last season.
"I think so, (but) I know I've said that the last five years," Selanne said. "But you've got to stop somewhere, and I've always approached this whole thing by saying it's my last year. I think that's really worked well for me."