Mike Modano, seen in 2006, helped the Dallas Stars win their only Stanley Cup. ((Donna McWilliam/Associated Press))

Mike Modano said the thought of retiring from the NHL had built up over the last three or four seasons, officially closing the book Friday on an illustrious two-decade career in the league.

The 41-year-old signed a symbolic contract with Dallas on Thursday to retire with the franchise he helped put on the map.

"I think there were times [in recent years] I found it difficult to play, certainly motivation, trying to gear up to play every year in the summer," said Modano, who teared up during the news conference.

Drafted first overall in the 1988 NHL entry draft by the Minnesota North Stars, he followed the franchise when it moved to Dallas ahead of the 1993-94 season.

He stayed with the Stars until before the 2010-11 season, joining the Detroit Red Wings for his final NHL season.

Modano said the prospect of playing near his birthplace of Livonia, Mich., revitalized him, but he endured an injury-plagued campaign.

Just the second American player ever taken first in the NHL draft, he won gold for his country at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and silver at the 2002 Olympics.

Modano hit the 50-goal mark in 1993-94, and scored over 30 on nine separate occasions. All told, he tallied 561 goals and 813 assists for 1,374 points in 1,499 career regular season games.

He ranks 23rd in goals and 22nd in points all-time. He is the highest scoring American NHL player ever, achieving that distinction early in the 2007-08 season.

Modano didn't shrink under pressure, producing consecutive 23-point playoffs as the Stars won the Cup in 1999 and lost in the final the following season.

"Certainly an unbelievable experience the playoffs have been and those two runs to the final certainly made a buzz here in town in Dallas about hockey and how exciting playoff hockey can be," Modano said.

Modano, the captain of the team for three seasons beginning in 2003, said Friday he didn't want to commit yet to any concrete future plans until he knows what the future holds for the franchise.

The Stars are up for sale through bankruptcy court proceedings.