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.
Doan scored just six goals last season and the Coyotes finally decided to part ways with the 40 year old veteran. There was rumblings that another team might sign him to a one-year deal, but he officially announced his retirement on August 30th.
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.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound rearguard spent the first four years of his career with CSKA and enjoyed a breakthrough campaign with the club in 2012-13, recording nine points in 44 games. He has the physical tools to be an effective NHL player, but it became quite noticeable he lacked the foot speed required to keep up.
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.
Campbell won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2012 and, two years prior, won his first and only Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. He returned to Chicago in 2016-17 after five seasons with the Panthers and announced his retirement following the team's four-game sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators.
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.
The former fourth-round selection of the Penguins had a disastrous 2012-13 campaign, but rebounded with a decent playoff performance. Yet, he was dealt the following summer to the San Jose Sharks and was never able to find his comfort zone with the franchise. He later played for the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, but missed the entire 2016-17 season due to a back injury and announced his retirement in January of last year.
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.
Unfortunately, that was the most points he would ever record in a single season, although he maintained his status as a solid top-four defenseman for the better part of a decade with the Sharks, Tampa Bay Lighting, and Philadelphia Flyers. His drop in play was quite drastic from 2014-15 to 2015-16, and, after signing a one-year deal with the Nashville Predators prior to last season, it became apparent quite quickly his career was over. Carle played just six games with the Predators before announcing his retirement.
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.
He was even valued enough by the Ducks that they gave him a five-year extension, but after just one game last season, he was forced to sit out the remainder of the year due to concussion issues. The Ducks bought out his contract in June and he signed with Bratislava Slovan of the KHL. At 26 years old, Despres still has plenty of hockey left in him so here's to hoping the concussion concerns are behind him.
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.
In the last three seasons, however, Ott only scored a combined six goals and was becoming less of a two-way force. He announced his retirement on May 25th of this year and was subsequently named an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues, a team with which he spent parts of three seasons.
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.
In August, the 6-foot-4, 232-pound 28 year old winger signed a two-year with Yekaterinburg Automobilist of the KHL, a team that includes fellow NHL alumni Taylor Beck and Nikita Tryamkin.
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.
In his first full year with the Rangers, Klein posted a career-high 26 points in only 65 games. He replicated that total again in 2015-16 and, although his offensive output dropped to 14 points last year, he had an impressive plus-five rating in a shutdown role. He had one more year on his contract with the Rangers, but opted to retire in the offseason due to back spasms.
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.
To be fair to Bourque, he has had a fairly productive career in the league. He went undrafted out of junior hockey, but parlayed an impressive four-year career at the University of Wisconsin into a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005. He has since played in 725 career regular season games and recorded 316 points.
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.
Yet, up until the end of August, there had been no news of Ribeiro seeking another contract. He hasn't officially announced his retirement, but his agent, Bob Perno, said as much to a Montreal newspaper: "He doesn't train anymore and he doesn't go out on the ice anymore. He's going to retire. There's not one NHL team or a team in Europe that has reached out to me to ask about him. The way his career is going to end is really disappointing."
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.
Yet, after the team's third Stanley Cup win in 2016 (Bickell played in the minors that season), he was dealt along with Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes. In November of 2016, just a few games into his stint with the team, the 31 year old was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In an emotional scene, Bickell rejoined the team at the end of the regular season and scored a game-winning shootout goal in the final game of the regular season.
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.
Even with his advanced age, it's slightly surprising no team has taken a gamble on Jagr as he recorded 46 points last season with the Florida Panthers and added 66 the year prior. It's understandable that the Panthers might want to get faster up front after a brutal season last year, but they had one of their best regular seasons in franchise history in 2015-16 with Jagr playing on the first line. Recent reports have suggested he's willing to wait for an NHL deal, but it appears that, worst case scenario, he'll play for the Czech Republic at the 2018 Olympics if he doesn't get one.
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.
He wrote a heartfelt goodbye to the fans of Nashville that was published in The Tennessean newspaper: "I don't believe it came in a single instance or some aha moment, but as time passed, I gradually became certain that it was right for me to retire. I believe God gave me the ability to play hockey, and I was helped by dozens of individuals along the way, so it's not just up to me on when it's time to say goodbye." As much as God might have had impacted the decision, it was probably made a lot easier given the fact his wife is Carrie Underwood.
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.