DETROIT - MAY 6: Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings lays a third period hit on Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals. The 12-year veteran is expected to announce his retirement in the coming days. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Rafalski, who signed a five-year, $30-million contract with the Detroit Red Wings after the 2007 season, will forgo the final year of his deal. That will free up $6 million in cap space for the Red Wings, who await word on the future plans of franchise cornerstone Nicklas Lidstrom.
After going undrafted out of the University of Wisconsin, Rafalski played in Europe for four seasons. The Devils signed him to a contract before the 1999 season, and Rafalski immediately made an impact. He finished third among defenseman with 32 points during the regular season. He averaged over 21 minutes of ice time in the playoffs, helping the team clinch its second Stanley Cup championship.
The Michigan native became an important piece of a deeply talented Devils defensive corps. He led all defenseman in scoring in five of his seven years with the organization, recording a career-high 55 points during the 2006-07 season. He led the Devils to yet another championship in 2003, his second and final with the team.
Four years after leaving New Jersey, the Devils have still struggled to replace his offensive production. When he left, he opened a void for a true offensive defenseman. Several players, from David Hale to Paul Martin to Andy Greene, have yet to fill that void.
Rafalski, who turned 38 this season, played with an injured ACL for most of the playoffs. His announcement is expected as early as Wednesday.