Since most fans cheer for teams, and normally not players, they have a tendency to be biased towards the teams point of view and can forget to look at any situation from a players point of view (And I am certainly among those who do this quite often). It's why fans, and media, can rip a player for wanting more money but not be critical of an organization. I'd like to lay out the options for Sakic
Option 1 Retire He could simply call it a career and wait for his first-ballot no brainer Hall of Fame selection (likely going in with Peter Forsberg since he's likely retiring this season)
Option 2 Come back, at similar salary
Sakic could demand/ask for the option to come back at a similar salary as the one he had last season. This option would hinder the Avs offseason plans more than anything else he could do. If they decide he is unlikely to return they may not even have the money available to meet his option. He would need to communicate this desire to the team before July 1.
Option 3 Return at a reduced salary
Having made more money than he'll ever need. He'll have a job with the franchise, if he wants it, pretty much for the rest of his life when he decides to hang the skates up so he has financial security. (And he'll never have to pay for a meal, hotel, or really anything in Colorado or Canada for the rest of his life either). If he decides to come back he may decide it's worth it to him to take a smaller salary (maybe with the *wink *wink agreement of a future stake in the ownership of the team) so the Avs can land a free agent or two needed to get them over the hump and make them a contender this season.
Personally I think this scenario (well parts of it) are likely. Sakic likely realizes that by delaying his decision he puts the team in an unenviable decision. If he needs more time to make his decision (and he obviously does need more time) but doesn't want to leave the team hanging he could politely ask that the Avs leave a small modest pot of money for him, but to dip into it if needed to land a big free agent.
I think this is the most amiable solution for both parties. The Avs could leave a $6.5M emergency fund that they only dip into if they need a little extra oomph for a free agent. If Sakic returns he would probably get a 1-year deal worth $3-4M and if not the Avs have some cushion to go get a Free Agent at the trade deadline.
Option 4: Sign somewhere else
First if Sakic decided to do this, I wouldn't be mad at all. I know it would come as a surprise and a lot of people (most of all the Avs organization) would feel betrayed, but everyone needs to understand that despite all the emotion put into everything this is still a business and Sakic needs to do what he feels is best for him and his family. We all make those decisions everyday, and to expect less from any player would be hypocritical and selfish on our parts. So in saying that, I don't think he will even talk with another team for a number of reasons.
He does have loyalty to the Avs. He seriously flirted with the Rangers many years ago, but on the other side of the coin the Avs were playing hardball with him in the negotiating room. Loyalty is a two-way street and the Avs weren't showing him any. Last season the Avs wouldn't offer any free agent more than what Sakic made based on a respect for Sakic, even if it meant losing out on Drury or Briere. There is obviously mutual respect there and I think it would take a lot to break that loyalty. So I think the only team that has even a remote chance of doing this would be the Canucks. But their finish last season (and their lack of offensive depth) would seem to suggest that they aren't real contenders next season. Maybe a team on the verge of a cup could do it, but the verge of a cup is no guarantee, and the avs have just a good as a chance right now as any team outside Detroit or Pittsburgh, and maybe San Jose.
Many of the media close to the Avs, especially Terri Frei, have said comments along the lines of
He also isn't enamored of the prospect of playing curtailed minutes or in a diminished role, as the banged-up Steve Yzerman did in his final season with the Red Wings two years ago. If we're not going to see Sakic within hailing distance of his prime-season capabilities, we won't see him.
Joe Sakic is obviously humble, but proud. If he stays with the Avs, has an off season he may be mad at himself, but everyone remembers him as a proud warrior who gave everything he had to the game for as long as he could. If he goes to another team and has even an average season (40-50 points) his final season will be looked at in the same way as Willie Mays with the Mets, Joe Namath with the Chargers, or Jerry Rice with the Broncos, Seahawks or whatever team he tried to be on after the Raiders. If there were even the most remote possibility that he would be remebered that way I think he would hang them up.
Many people are worried that Joe's decision is hurting the Avs, by causing some uncertainty in their free agent pool. I think this is certainly valid, but I think he's really hurting himself (financially) more than anyone else. And if he's willing to make that sacrifice in oder to decide what's best for him in the long run, then that's his decision.