- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2011

DETROIT (AP) - Nicklas Lidstrom proved to himself he is still one of the NHL’s best defenseman last season and that is good news for Detroit fans.

The 41-year-old Lidstrom will return for a 20th season with the Red Wings.

“Coming off this season, helped me to make this decision,” Lidstrom said after agreeing to a one-year deal worth $6.2 million, same as last year.

Lidstrom is a Norris Trophy finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. If he wins the award for being the league’s top defenseman _ it would be his seventh _ on Wednesday, he will match Doug Harvey’s total and trail Bobby Orr’s record by only one.

“Nick had a tremendous year and continues to be one of the elite defenseman in the game,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.

Lidstrom is also a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The soft-spoken Swede leads with his actions.

He had 62 points last season _ surpassing his production from each of the previous two years _ to rank second among NHL blue-liners and to become the first 40-year-old defenseman with 60-plus points in an NHL season.

“If I would’ve taken a step back, it could’ve been a different situation and it could’ve been a different decision” Lidstrom said.

Lidstrom’s 6-foot-2, 190-pound body is chiseled thanks to a year-round workout that includes exercise before practice and after games along with a sensible diet that includes only occasional slices of pizza and fast food.

He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP.

The four-time Stanley Cup champion decided last summer to put retirement on hold, pausing only because his oldest son started school in Sweden last autumn.

Next season, he will lead a defensive corps that includes Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart and a roster that should give the team a shot to earn a spot in a 21st straight postseason _ a streak that started the year before Lidstrom was a rookie.

The Red Wings will attempt to acquire a standout defenseman this offseason with at least some of the $6 million freed up when Brian Rafalski retired last month with a year left on his contract.

“We’ve got Raffy’s cap space, but these guys are special players,” Holland said. “I’d rather have Brian Rafalski back.”

Holland, though, is relieved Lidstrom chose to come back.

“I don’t even want to think about the Detroit Red Wings without Nick Lidstrom,” he said.

Following an exit in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year, Lidstrom took more than a month to decide to play at least another season.

“The reason why it took so long was that I wanted to make sure I found the motivation,” Lidstrom said, “and that I was ready to commit to the workouts over the summer to be ready for next season.”

(This version corrects that Red Wings are vying for 21st postseason next year.)