Helene St. James reports that recurring back problems have kept the 41-year-old winger off the ice for the past 10 days, and that it's unlikely he'll be able to attend the team's training camp.
"The setback is a little bigger than Alfie thought," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said on Monday. "I know he still wants to give himself every opportunity to see if his body will allow him to play.”
Holland said that the Wings are willing to give Alfredsson the time he needs to make a decision about his future without forcing his hand. The deadline for signing unrestricted free agents is Dec. 1, so it's conceivable that Alfie Watch '14 could extend for another couple of months.
"I think I owe him the class and dignity to allow him to get to a point where we sit down and make a decision about his future," Holland said of Alfredsson, who played out a one-year deal with the Wings last season. "Whether we sign him to a contract or not will be based on feedback from his body. Before we even get there, we have to see if Alfie's body is going to allow him to play."
It's a tough break for a Detroit team that was counting on Alfredsson's leadership and offensive punch. He tied for the team lead in scoring last season with 49 points in 68 games, and he was considered a lock for a top-six role this year. But every door closed is a window opened, and Alfredsson's uncertain status gives top prospect Anthony Mantha an opportunity to seize a roster spot. Mantha, the CHL Player of the Year last season (57 goals, 120 points for Val d'Or), has scored three goals through the Red Wings' first two games of the Traverse City rookie tournament. "I don't see how they won't keep him," one scout said of Mantha's chances to stick with the team.
Alfredsson's struggles also put the contract of RFA defenseman Danny DeKeyser on the front burner where it belongs. He and the team are said to be closing in on a deal that could have the blueliner signed in time for the opening of camp. Once Holland is done with DeKeyser, he will know just what he has to work with under the cap if/when Alfredsson declares himself fit for duty.