In June, when Henrik and Daniel Sedin received honorary doctorate degrees from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the Vancouver suburbs, the twin brothers had getting older on their minds.
Speaking to a crowd of young graduates, Henrik Sedin joked that he and his brother were now asked all the time by hockey journalists about their age. Daniel joked he would insist that Vancouver Canucks rookies formally address the brothers as "doctor."
Aging well in hockey is hard to do. Last season, there were only 29 players 35 and older who played at least 70 games. Age is the story of the Sedins as the 2017-18 hockey calendar begins. They turn 37 at the end of September and enter the last year of their contracts. On Monday, attempting to head off questions of their future, the Sedins declared their loyalty to Vancouver in an article on The Players' Tribune, saying their intention is to retire as Canucks, doubling down on remarks they have made before.
The unanswered questions are what they can do on the ice, after their worst seasons in more than a decade and how much longer they will play.
A solid season this winter will likely lead to at least one more.
"It's not a farewell tour," said Henrik of the coming season, talking on Tuesday at the start of Canucks training camp.
Last season, when the Canucks were mired at the bottom of the NHL, Henrik produced 50 points, down from 55 the season before, while Daniel had 44 points, down from 61. Bo Horvat led the team in scoring with 52, the first time a Sedin hasn't topped the Canucks since 2005-06.
The Sedins predict personal gains and see the 50-to-60 point window as viable.
"That's going to be a number we should be able to reach," Henrik said.
Henrik also said he is more excited about the team's depth, after management signed players such as Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner.
"We're further ahead than I thought we would be," Henrik said of Vancouver's rebuild. Daniel said: "We're on the way up again."
If the Sedins are successful, the next question is a new contract.
The Sedins plan to sit down with Canucks management after the season. They are finishing four-year deals that pay them $7-million (U.S.) a year each on matching contracts, as they have had through their careers.
In gauging what's next, there aren't many comparable players, but Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are close, in age and ability.
Both Thornton and Marleau were 37 last season, on the last year of their contracts, like the Sedins.
Marleau scored 48 points at 36 and then 46 points at 37. Thornton, at 36, produced 82 points and at 37 saw his output fall considerably to 50 points.
The results still produced huge new paydays.
As free agency opened last summer, Thornton stayed on with the San Jose Sharks, signing a one-year deal for $8-million. Marleau took a three-year deal in Toronto for a total of $18.75-million that will pay $8.5-million this coming season.
The $8-million mark seems high for the Canucks and the Sedins. Some observers of the team have suggested the Sedins could be resigned for as little as $3-million each, which seems low. The ballpark of $5-million may be the best fit for both sides – and the number jibes with several contracts in recent years, those of Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla, at about the same age and production.
What the Sedins are giving up is one last shot at a Stanley Cup, as they widely broadcast their intention to remain in Vancouver. Canucks management, too, reiterated its position that the Sedins will not be traded, such as at the next trade deadline for draft picks or prospects. The Sedins, born and raised in Sweden, have chosen to stay in a place that has become their home.
"Winning somewhere else, it wouldn't be the same," Daniel said. "This city has meant so much to us, and this organization, too."