It used to be that when a high-profile National Hockey League (NHL) player - or even a third- or fourth-line scrub - left the league either through retirement or by going overseas there was considerable coverage to follow. However, in recent years, the league has experienced an uptick in player turnover, due to the game becoming faster and better suited to younger players with fresh legs. No longer are the 15-year veterans hanging around the league on name recognition alone; instead, their roster spot often goes to the unproven 20 year old with only a season or less of American Hockey League (AHL) experience under their belt.
For the most part, unless it's a player the caliber of Pavel Datsyuk or Teemu Selanne, the players leaving the league receive little to no fanfare, especially the ones who were bottom-six forwards or bottom-pairing defensemen. As a result, you might find yourself asking at some point in the upcoming season, "Whatever happened to... [insert player name here]?" The likely answer is that player either retired or joined an obscure European club in hopes of revitalizing his career or prolonging it one more season before being forced to get a real job. Below are 15 players you're probably going to ask that question about in 2017-18.
15 Shane Doan
We'll start with the most obvious, although, given he played his entire career in small market Winnipeg and Arizona (with the same franchise), there's a chance most of you reading this thought he had retired years ago. Yet, despite playing on irrelevant teams for the better part of his career, Shane Doan will be remembered as a solid, two-way forward with strong leadership skills. While he might not be a Hall of Famer, he's arguably the best player in Coyotes' franchise history; he's the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists, points, power-play goals, and game-winning goals.
14 Alexey Marchenko
From one great player to perhaps the most obscure player on this list (we promise the others are well-known), Alexey Marchenko is a once-promising 25 year old Russian defenseman who has played a combined 121 career games with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. He was picked up by the Maple Leafs on waivers last season and had one more year left on his contract, but with the team set to usher in a new crop of young talent on defense, Marchenko's contract was bought out and he was subsequently signed to a three-year contract by CSKA Moscow.
13 Brian Campbell
Unlike Marchenko, who was a step behind the fast pace of today's game, Brian Campbell can probably still keep up, despite being 38 years old. The veteran of 1,082 career games was best known for his skating and offensive ability - the defenseman recorded a career-high 53 points in 2011-12 with the Florida Panthers and has topped the 40-point plateau five times in his career. He wasn't opposed to playing a physical brand of hockey, either; his hit on R.J. Umberger in Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs remains one of the all-time great hits.
12 Tyler Kennedy
It wasn't too long ago that Tyler Kennedy was a budding two-way winger who was thought of as a potential replacement for Chris Kunitz on Sidney Crosby's line in Pittsburgh. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native scored at a 30-plus point pace in four consecutive seasons, including in 2010-11, when he reached a career high 45 points. However, fast forward a few years down the line and Kunitz continues to play, while Kennedy, who is just 31 years old, is officially retired.
11 Matt Carle
Like Kennedy above, Matt Carle was once a valued player in the league, but retired before his 33rd birthday. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Carle was selected in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks and spent three years at the University of Denver, where he developed his game as an offensive defenseman, recording 53 points in his final season with the team. In his rookie season in the NHL, Carle recorded an impressive 42 points with the Sharks and appeared poised to become a top offensive defenseman in the league.
10 Simon Despres
Another once-promising defenseman, Simon Despres is a former first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins who was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks in 2015 for Ben Lovejoy. Though he had the physical tools at 6-foot-4 and 218-pounds, Despres took awhile to develop his defensive instincts and awareness, bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL in his first three professional seasons. He appeared to be finding his way prior to the Ducks trade and he finished that season with a career-high 23 points 75 games.
9 Steve Ott
A pesky forward from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Steve Ott annoyed everyone but his teammates for 14 seasons in the NHL. A first-round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2000 NHL Draft, Ott topped 150 penalty minutes five times in his career, but he was also a decent scorer at times. Though he scored just 10 goals through his first 200 games in the league, he broke through offensively with 11 goals in 73 games in 2007-08 and followed that up with seasons of 19 and 22 goals respectively.
8 Dwight King
The Montreal Canadiens are famous for building the career of legends back in the 20th century, particularly in the 1960s through the 1980s; however, given the two recent entries on our list, you could make the case the organization has become career killers. The Canadiens acquired both Steve Ott and Dwight King at last year's trade deadline in an attempt to add an element of physicality to its playoff roster. The moves obviously didn't work as the team was defeated in six games in the first round by the New York Rangers. Ott announced his retirement shortly after, while King waited for an NHL offer that wouldn't come.
7 Kevin Klein
Perhaps the most surprising player on this list, given his age and recent productivity, is defenseman Kevin Klein. The 32 year old native of Kitchener, Ontario is a veteran of 627 regular season games, in which he has 154 career points. A former second-round pick of the Nashville Predators, it took him a few seasons to find his footing in the NHL, but he eventually become a valued member of the Predators' defensive core, before being dealt to the New York Rangers.
6 Rene Bourque
It's pretty sad when even the Colorado Avalanche won't have you back. That's the case with Rene Bourque, a 35 year old winger whose 12 goals last year ranked fifth on the historically-bad team. Yet, instead of offering him a one-year contract to provide veteran depth, the team opted to let him test free agency, where no other NHL team sought after his services. Instead, the winger signed a one-year deal with Djugarden of the Swedish Elite League.
5 Mike Ribeiro
Though he's still quite talented at 37 years old, it's not surprising that no NHL team opted to take a chance on Mike Ribeiro in free agency. The consistent point producer has battled numerous off-ice issues, including allegations of sexual assault against his family's former nanny as well as alcoholism. He spent last season with the Nashville Predators and recorded 25 points in 46 games before being demoted to the AHL, where he posted 26 points in 28 games with the Milwaukee Admirals.
4 Bryan Bickell
A former second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bryan Bickell played an integral role in two of the team's three Stanley Cup wins over the past seven seasons. In the 2013 playoffs, after posting 23 points in the regular season, the 6-foot-4, 223-pound winger scored nine goals and added eight assists for 17 points in 23 games. He played parts of nine seasons with the Blackhawks and remained a valued member of the team in spite of its constant roster upheaval.
3 Jaromir Jagr
Don't get too worried yet. Jaromir Jagr isn't officially retired nor has he ruled out plans of playing in the NHL in 2017-18; in fact, like everyone else in the hockey world, we're hopeful a team signs the 45 year old winger to a one-year contract, but it appears unlikely at this point, with training camp a little over a week away. Hopefully, however, his inclusion here works as a reverse jinx.
2 Mike Fisher
Following the end of the Nashville Predators miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the team's captain, Mike Fisher, said he wasn't going to think too much about retirement; instead, he said he would wait for a sign from God. Apparently, by early August, God had spoken to Fisher and told him to hang up the skates.
1 Andrei Markov
Andrei Markov's absence in the NHL for the 2017-18 season is the most puzzling on this list. Though the 38 year old Russian has lost a step in recent years, he had still been one of the premier defenseman on the Montreal Canadiens, while advanced metrics proved the team was exponentially better when he was on the ice. He's one of the smartest defenseman in the game and has played his entire career with the Canadiens.
Yet, instead of giving in to his reported two-year contract demands, the Canadiens decided to let Markov walk, and he later decided to play in Russia instead of signing with another team. Had he stayed in the NHL, he would have certainly received several contract offers, but the possibility of playing in the Olympics had to be attractive. The worst part of the matter is that Markov was just 10 games away from playing 1,000 games in the league.
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