DETROIT - Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios will be back for another season after the team said yesterday it had signed the 45-year-old to a one-year contract.
Barring injury, next season will mark Chelios' 24th in the NHL and ninth with Detroit.
Despite his age, Chelios has played a key role for the Red Wings after Jiri Fischer was sidelined with a heart ailment during the 2005-06 season and Niklas Kronwall suffered a fractured hip late last season. He logged more than 20 minutes a game over the last seven games of the playoffs after Mathieu Schneider broke his wrist in Game 5 of the second round against the San Jose Sharks.
Chelios is coming off a league-record 22nd postseason appearance. Detroit was eliminated in six games from the Western Conference finals by the Anaheim Ducks, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Given his accomplishments, few could begrudge the NHL's oldest player for opting instead to retire. The three-time Norris Trophy winner won Stanley Cup trophies with Detroit in 2002 and the Montreal Canadiens in 1986. He has played in 11 All-Star games and played for the United States in the 1984, 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.
Chelios said yesterday he couldn't be happier to be back for another run at the Stanley Cup.
"We were pretty close again to being back in the finals and having a chance of winning that cup," Chelios said. "One bounce, one game and I thought we were as good as any team, we just didn't capitalize on our opportunities. Anaheim did.
"We're coming back with basically the same group of guys next year, we'll be able to take a run at the Cup again and that's what it's all about and that's what I'm looking forward to."
Chelios said the new contract was identical to last year's deal, which paid him $850,000.
Chelios appeared in 71 games last season, finishing with no goals and 11 assists for 11 points to go with 34 penalty minutes. During the playoffs, he led the team's defense with a plus-seven rating and ranked fifth among all defensemen, collecting one goal and six assists for seven points in 18 games.
He would need just two more playoff appearances to surpass Patrick Roy for the most career postseason games in the NHL.
"He has taken conditioning to a new level and has set the standard for how today's professional athlete trains year-round in order to compete at an elite level," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a statement. "In addition to his high level of play, Chris' experience and leadership are second to none."
Chelios, who played nine seasons for the Blackhawks in his native Chicago, also owns the popular Cheli's Chili Bar, which has locations in downtown Detroit and in Dearborn.