The NHL offseason is in full swing. Players both old and young are constantly trading places as the general managers of the league's 31 franchises scramble to either build their club into a Stanley Cup contender or lift their team from obscurity.
Lost in the madness are the feelings of the players being moved. Not all NHL marriages end amicably. Even when a long-time player leaves a team towards the end of his career to go play for a Cup contender (Ray Bourque, Daniel Alfredsson, etc.) the fans are generally forgiving and the story ends with a jersey retirement ceremony. Sometimes, players will do things to rub their teams the wrong way, or a team will break even one promise leading to the eventual departure of said player, causing legitimate animosity to linger.
Here are the 15 most notable cases of current NHL players who hate their former team.
15 Mikhail Grabovski
Mikhail Grabovski is one of league's low-key controversial players. Now a member of the New York Islanders, Grabovski's best days are very likely behind him. During his tumultuous run with the Toronto Maple Leafs, "Grabo" put up two 50-point seasons but controversy followed him. Grabovski has voluntarily left his team in the middle of a season, been involved in multiple street fights and to better illustrate his strange on-ice behavior, look no further than when he took a big bite out of Max Pacioretty's left hand during a scrum against the boards back in 2013.
His hatred of the Maples Leafs' organization stems from a feud with then-coach Randy Carlyle over playing time which led to his eventual buy out in 2013. Grabovski produced at a near point-per-game pace in the KHL at the start of the lockout-shortened 2013 season but struggled with the Leafs and registered just 18 points in 48 games with the Leafs in a bottom-six role. "I play in the [expletive] Russian KHL, I make lots of [expletive] points and what’s going to happen? He make me [expletive] play on the fourth line and he put me in the playoffs on the fourth line and third line again," Grabovski told TSN.ca reporter Jonas Siegel. "I don’t feel any support from this [expletive] idiot.”
14 Jimmy Vesey
New York Rangers youngster Jimmy Vesey's NHL career may have just begun but he has already made an enemy of the Buffalo Sabres, one of his two former teams but not the team that drafted him. Originally selected by the Nashville Predators in 2012, Vesey made it known he did not wish to sign with the team and would opt for free agency upon completing his senior season at Harvard in 2016. Looking to recoup value, the Preds sent Vesey's rights to the Sabres in exchange for a third round pick. The Sabres thought the allure of playing with fellow Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel would be enough to entice Vesey to sign, but they were wrong.
Vesey went on to hit free agency anyway and signed with the Rangers, meaning the Sabres lost a third round pick for nothing, enraging the fan base. "I might have pissed some people off, I guess, but that wasn’t my intention," Vesey said. "I couldn’t be happier with my decision." Vesey may be ready to move on, but the Sabres fan base might have some more grieving to do. They booed Vesey nearly every time he touched the puck in the Rangers' lone visit to Buffalo last season. Hockey fans don't tend to forget, so expect more of the same in seasons to come.
13 Ryan O'Reilly
Speaking of the Sabres, centreman Ryan O'Reilly may have a home with the Sabres now but struggled to find his footing from an emotional and business standpoint in Colorado. Much like the case of Mikhail Grabovski, things started going south for O'Reilly and the Avalanche after the 2013 NHL Lockout. While most players came back to their pre-lockout deals, O'Reilly lacked a contract and held out for nearly a month before signing a two-year, $10 million offer sheet with the Calgary Flames, which the Avalanche matched out of necessity.
For whatever reason, the Avalanche refused to commit to O'Reilly, a homegrown player of theirs on a long-term deal. It is easy to forget he is still just 26 and still as steady of a two-way player as the Sabres have. The "will they, won't they" game the Avalanche played with O'Reilly during negotiations damaged their relationship with the player and ultimately had to trade him when they could have turned him into a franchise cornerstone. "Since Day 1, we just always had our [business] issues," O'Reilly said. "But I think the thing is, I did want a bigger role there, and in Buffalo, that's what I got. I have a bigger role here, a bigger voice, which is nice to have. I'm happy with the change." Now happy in Buffalo, the Avalanche are playing a similar game with the two-year ongoing Matt Duchene trade negotiations.
12 Alexander Radulov
Sometimes, the fault in a broken relationship between team and player falls on the player and Alexander Radulov's situation with the Predators back in 2012 is a great example of this. The origins of the Russian's feud with the Preds dates back to 2008 when Radulov signed a contract to play in Russia while also still under contract with the Predators simply because he felt like it. Radulov utilized some legal loopholes and made his wish to play overseas come true, but the Predators suspended him without pay indefinitely. When his contract ended in 2012, Radulov simply returned to the Predators, but the contractual dispute four years prior planted the seeds for what was yet to come.
Not long into his return to the league, Radulov and teammate Andrei Kostitsyn were spotted at a Scottsdale, Ariz. bar at 5 a.m. the morning of their team's Game 2 clash with the Phoenix Coyotes. Both players were suspended for Game 3 and the incident sealed Radulov's fate with the team. The Predators opted not to renew his contract and he went back to Russia for four more years before joining the Canadiens last year. Several conclusions can be drawn from Radulov's erratic behavior. Perhaps he acted out of immaturity? Or perhaps he wanted out of Nashville for good and acted out to ensure his exit? Either way, it's safe to say Radulov won't be taking up residency in Nashville any time soon.
11 Roberto Luongo
In 2011, the Vancouver Canucks had two of the top 10 goaltenders in the league in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Luongo, the elder statesman, led the Canucks through the majority of their run to the Stanley Cup finals. Though he was the more proven option, Luongo was and always has been prone to his blowups, prompting then-head coach Alain Vigneault to give young upstart Cory Schneider an expanded role between the pipes. He too performed well but as soon as he would need a maintenance day, Luongo always seemed to rise to the occasion and afford himself a longer leash.
The saying goes that if a team has two starting goalies, they have none. Hence why the Canucks front office decided they would move forward with Luongo as their goalie of preference when they shipped Schneider out to New Jersey. The problem? Shortly into life without Schneider, General Manager Mike Gillis realized his team lacked the talent up front to compete for the Cup again and sent Luongo back to Florida at the 2014 trade deadline, where he is still going strong today at age 38. The Canucks' decision to go with Luongo and not Schneider, the younger player and greater trade chip, is puzzling especially after Luongo outed himself in a 2012 interview. "I would never say never, you never know, but I think we all know what's going on," Luongo said of possibly returning. "We've all seen what's developed. At the end of the day, I think it's time to move on and I'm OK with that."
10 Cory Schneider
There is no precedent for the way Vancouver's goalie conundrum played out. While many, including Roberto Luongo himself thought the Canucks would ultimately go with Cory Schneider as the team's net minder of the future, the team went from controversy to nothingness in just eight months. In fairness, Luongo's 12-year contract made him the harder player of the two to trade, but the Canucks found a way to pull it off anyway.
As far as skill is concerned, Schneider's numbers in Vancouver tell the story. He averaged just under two goals per game in 2011-2012 and posted similar numbers in his first season with the Devils. Now 31, Schneider had a down year with the Devils this past season but should fare better with a revamped offense in front of him. As pertaining to the Canucks, their refusal to commit to either one goalie with both goalies under contract left both frustrated by the antics, though while their relationship with the Canucks may be damaged, their own relationship has is as strong as ever. "We laugh about it sometimes," Schneider said of their time together in Vancouver. “That’s the fun part about hockey. You develop relationships and you just never know when you’re going to see guys together again. You come to an event like this and you’re old friends."
9 Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall, a teammate of Schneider's had been the subject of trade rumors ever since phenom Connor McDavid joined the fray. The discrepancy between the skill at forward and defense as prevalent as ever, Hall became pretty close to expendable in the Oilers' attempt to add some substance to the back end. When news broke that Hall had been traded to the Devils for Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson nobody was more surprised... or crushed than Hall, who loved playing in Edmonton. "I was there for six seasons, so you develop a relationship with the team, the city and the fans," Hall said. "I'm disappointed that I'm not going to be able to see that through, but I'm excited that I'm going to play for a team that wants me."
Hall's feelings towards the organization have been dynamic since arriving in New Jersey. While he seemed to be willing to let bygones by bygones prior to facing off with his former team during the regular season, the bitterness returned just in time for the playoffs. "If they win the Cup, I’ll be choked," Hall said in a podcast interview. "I think like the first 15 or 20 games they played this year, every game I’d be on my phone waiting to see how they did. Now I don’t really care as much." At the time of the deal, the Oilers could have moved a number of offensive pieces to improve on the back end, so it is fair to see why Hall considers the trade an indictment of himself. Still, this might be a trade that works out for both parties in the long run.
8 Ilya Kovalchuk
While it was just recently announced that Ilya Kovalchuk's long-awaited NHL return will have to wait until next year, the story behind the rift between Kovalchuk and the Devils is one that tends to resurface this time of year. Kovalchuk inked an unprecented 15-year deal with the Devils in 2010 that was met with its fair share of controversy. Few thought Kovalchuk would spend all 15 of those years as a Devil, however even fewer thought the contract would come to an end after just three years.
That's right. In 2013, Kovalchuk walked away from $77 million dollars in favor of "retirement," which actually meant bolting to the KHL in an attempt to make even more money, since the tax rates in Russia at the time were significantly lower. After the ruble crashed at the end of 2014, however, Kovalchuk would have made more money by this point had he just stuck out his contract with the Devils. Now his relationship with the team is marred by his deceitfulness after the team stuck his neck out and even went to court for him to ensure his albatross contract would be compliant with the collective bargaining agreement. Safe to say when Kovalchuk does decide to return the league, it will not be with the Devils.
7 Shane Doan
There is really little reason for there to be a rift between Shane Doan and the Arizona Coyotes at this stage in the game. Doan, 40, is the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer and has spent his entire career with the team, surviving three relocations. He is about as tenured of a player as there is in the entire league (with apologies to Jaromir Jagr) as the only remaining active player from the original Winnipeg Jets. So why the hate?
The Coyotes recently decided they would not be bringing Doan back for his age-41 season and the ever outspoken Doan believes the decision came straight from owner Andrew Barroway. Doan has been openly critical of the team's decision to move towards a rebuild with his career waning, but has also insisted the team trade him to a contender if that is the desired direction. While Doan understands the team's approach, he has admitted to feeling sadness and anger over the decision. Regardless, he now has a chance to catch on with a Stanley Cup contender, perhaps a team like the Capitals, Rangers or Blackhawks and possibly even hoist the Cup one time before calling it a career. If he can get over his hurt feelings over the Coyotes situation, however he may have a job waiting for him with the organization upon retirement.
6 Tyler Seguin
Four years removed from trading Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, the Boston Bruins officially have nothing left to show for it. Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser have all moved on from the team as the Stars pulled off one of the league's greatest trade heists in the last decade. But how did we arrive here?
Seguin had a rough go of things when the Bruins returned from the lockout in 2013, producing at a rate behind the pace he set in the previous season. For some reason, the Bruins front office declared him to be a lost cause at just 21 years old. The proof is in a video the Bruins released from a behind-the-scenes web series called, "Behind the B," where the team's decision makers characterized him as a highly skilled player who lacked "toughness" and had too many red flags off the ice to warrant keeping him. The Bruins' criticism hit Seguin where it hurt, but he used it as motivation and has since made the Bruins look foolish for cutting bait so early. "Do I think the Bruins gave up on me too early? Yes, I 100 percent believe that," Seguin said in his Players' Tribune article. "I had hoped to stay in Boston for a long time. I even put a deposit down on a house there just months before I was traded. I never got to move in."
5 Nail Yakupov
Before there was Connor McDavid, there was Nail Yakupov. Really, there still is Nail Yakupov but the extent of his abilities are currently shrouded in doubt. A former No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Oilers, Yakupov entered the league a talented winger and an eccentric personality, but his ability to take instructions from coaches and handle criticism often came into question. He just signed a one-year deal "prove it" deal with the Avalanche this week but most players taken at the top of the draft would have blossomed into franchise cornerstones by this point.
It may be fair to place the blame on both the player and the team for Yakupov's lack of development and falling out with the Oilers' coaching staff. The Blues were never going to be a great fit as they play a demanding two-way style that Yakupov is not accustomed to. That said, Yakupov came off as narrow minded when it came to changing his hockey mindset. His worth to the team was entirely contingent on scoring goals, so when the goals stopped falling pressure began to mount. That said, the Oilers failed to protect Yakupov, their purported franchise guy at the time, a mistake they haven't made twice with Connor McDavid. Then-coach Dallas Eakinshad a quick trigger finger with benching Yakupov, thus not affording him the minutes he needed to hone his skills. While Yakupov was openly thankful for his time in Edmonton, the resentment and blame figures to grow if he cannot right the ship in Colorado.
4 Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin, similar to Yakupov, was a highly heralded, highly skilled player taken towards the top of his draft in 2013. An NHL-ready playmaker on the wing, it made perfect sense for the Lightning to couple him with franchise player Steven Stamkos and create one of the league's most potent duos. Flash forward to the present day, however, and Drouin will be playing hockey in Montreal next year where he will be looking for his first season with 55 or more points.
The Drouin-Lightning relationship was a soap opera that dragged for over three years before finally ending in trade. Drouin's agent, Allan Walsh, has gone public over the years and has been candid about Drouin's relationship with the organization, at one point calling it an "untenable situation," likely stemming from Drouin's lack of ice time with the Lightning. Head coach Jon Cooper, meanwhile is a known critic of Drouin's two-way game. "There is more than one net in a rink. There’s two. You have to be able to play in front of both," Cooper said. Drouin has had stints in the AHL as recently as last year and even though he made showed great progress last season, it speaks volumes that General Manager Steve Yzerman ended up granting Drouin and Walsh's wish after all.
3 Evander Kane
The Evander Kane split from the Winnipeg Jets got particularly messy following his trade to the Sabres in 2015. The talented Kane brings a rare blend of size and skill to the ice, yet the knock on him from Jets fans boiled down to a lack of effort. Well, Kane answered to those claims and took some serious parting shots at the Jets organization in a interview with Hockey News later that year.
In the interview, a very candid Kane revealed he had been playing with a torn labrum, broken hand and broken ankle all at the same time and felt criticisms over his lack of effort were unfounded. "I'm sacrificing my body playing through pain, doing everything I can to help that team win with the feeling knowing guys don't have my back," Kane said. "I feel the organization doesn't have my back, and you feel unappreciated." Kane added that he felt racism played a role in his public perception. Unappreciated or otherwise, Kane's defiance did him no favors in Winnipeg. It is said the final straw came when Kane showed up to a team meeting in a track suit, a dress-code violation. Kane's rebellious nature combined with his perceived lack of support from everyone within the Jets organization led to a natural exit from the team. He just wrapped up his second season in Buffalo, but even still has failed to live up to his namesake Patrick in Chicago.
2 P.K. Subban
Much has been made of the feud between former Habs coach Michel Therrien and current Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. Perhaps not as well known is the apparent feud between Subban and Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty. Subban's talent has always been evident, especially dating back to his days in Montreal but Therrien's dislike for the player often forced him down the pecking order. Therrien's dislike may have stemmed from Subban's light-hearted nature, tendency to miss curfew on occasion and occasional defensive lapse. He even went as far as to pin the blame of a loss on Subban. "The team worked hard. We deserved a better result," Therrien said. “It’s too bad an individual mistake cost us the game late in the game." Therrien met his demise in mid-season 2017.
As for Pacioretty, his jealousy may stem out from Subban's popularity among the fan base. While Pacioretty got the nod to become the Habs' captain in 2015, many thought Subban should have received the nod, perhaps planting a seed of doubt in Pacioretty that Subban could contribute to the team's success. The rumors further developed with Pacioretty reportedly playing a key role in turning the locker room against Subban. Both players have since denied the rumors, even hugging it out during exit interviews in 2016. Still, circumstances surrounding the trade sound shady, at best and Subban is still trying to figure out why the Canadiens dealt him in the first place. "I never took calculus but if it was a math equation, I’d still be doing the math on why I wasn’t still in Montreal," Subban said.
1 Joe Thornton
Often forgotten, though highly publicized at the time was Joe Thornton's messy exit from Beantown. The 2004-05 lockout created time for Thornton to grow disillusioned with the organization and likewise from the Bruins' standpoint. Then 26 years old, Thornton started to receive criticism for his role in Boston's early exit of the 2004 playoffs as well as criticism over his ability to lead a club. Thornton, meanwhile was reportedly unhappy with the state of the team and responded negatively to criticism over his perceived shortcomings, all of this just two seasons removed from a 101 point season.
The solution? A trade that would change the complexion of both the Bruins and Thornton's current team, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks acquired Thornton for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart. It ended up being a small price to pay for the Sharks to acquire Thornton, who in his first season with the team tallied a whopping 92 assists. While Sturm, Primeau and Stuart were all solid, yet unspectacular NHL players, none of them contributed to Boston's Cup run in 2011, yet then-General Manager Mike O'Connell has shown no regrets over the deal, further scrutinizing Thornton's character on and off the ice. Ultimately, the deal worked out for both parties as Thornton just re-upped with the Sharks on a one-year deal and could very well finish his career there. Still, one has to wonder what Thornton could have accomplished in Boston had he and O'Connell not gotten into a mud-slinging contest.
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