Many NHL teams have doubts heading into the 2016/17 season and one of those doubts pertains to players and how they might fair this season. Some clubs might be better off partying ways with certain players while some teams might have no choice because of the salary cap restrictions. Many thought that would be the case with Steven Stamkos, but Steve Yzerman proved once again that he's one of the best GMs in the game today.
Other teams are looking at the other side of the coin and perhaps looking at youth more than over-paying for veterans. Pittsburgh are a prime example of this, as you will see throughout this article.
We saw it this offseason, more so than any other recent one, that everything and anything is possible. I think we’d all have a good laugh if someone told us back in May that P.K. Subban would be wearing a Preds jersey while Taylor Hall would be sporting black and red colors.
Those situations were unlikely, but these ones actually seem more likely to happen and on some pretty harsh terms. Without further ado, let’s begin! Here are 15 NHL players that will leave their team on bad terms, enjoy!
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15 Dustin Brown
After an early first round exit last season, the LA Kings are well aware that changes need to be made. A rebuild doesn’t seem to be needed with an already established core of great players, but the team is looking at a re-tool. One of those changes took place in the offseason, when the team decided to take the captaincy away from long time leader Dustin Brown. Unlike other instances, this one really didn’t surprise too many people, as Brown’s contributions have dropped quite substantially over the last couple of seasons.
With Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar being the faces of the franchise, some are speculating that the next move may see Brown get shipped out of town. After only scoring 22 combined goals over the last two seasons, along with an annual cap hit of $5.875 million set to last until 2021-22, Brown looks like a liability more than anything else at this point. If things don’t pick up quickly for the veteran, look for a brutal dismissal.
14 Jimmy Howard
Adding to the intrigue coming into this season, Jimmy Howard is another story brewing in Motown. Jimmy’s made it clear that he wants to play. However, the Wings showed their cards this offseason when they signed young goaltender Petr Mrazek to a two year deal worth $4 million per season. At the age of 24, Mrazek certainly has a lot more upside and the Wings are leaning his way.
With this being said, Howard’s days in Detroit seem to be numbered. His cap hit certainly doesn’t help his cause either, as he has an annual cap hit of $5.3 million until the 2018-19 season. This factor has made it difficult for the Wings to deal the veteran away. There were teams interested like the Flames, but ultimately nothing went down.
It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out this year. Wings fans find it impossible to believe that Jimmy will be kept for the entire season and Detroit might be inclined to perhaps waive the seasoned veteran in hopes that a team will pick him up. With injuries likely to occur to starting goalies around the league this year, look for Howard to leave sooner rather than later and not on the best of terms.
13 Marc-Andre Fleury
Sticking with goalies, Marc-Andre Fleury finds himself in a similar situation to Jimmy Howard's. A 22 year old goaltender by the name of Matt Murray came out of nowhere last season and took the job away from the veteran, who held that position for more than a decade dating back to the 05-06 season where he played the bulk of the year. Injuries and some recent playoff hardships caused the Pens to explore other options and Murray absolutely thrived, leading his team to a Stanley Cup victory.
To Fleury’s credit, he was a tremendous teammate and accepted his role, though, he made it very clear during the summer that he wants his starting job back. The Pens have said they plan on riding both goalies, but as we’ve seen time and time again, that doesn’t always work. Factor in a cap hit of $5.75 million and you can’t help but think that the Pens might feel more inclined to spend that money on other pieces. His terrific run with the team looks like it might be coming to an end and not on the greatest of terms.
12 Nail Yakupov
Heading into the final year of a $2.5 million per year deal, Nail Yakupov’s future remains in serious doubt. Some believe he might flourish with another team, while others think he might head back home to Russia following the expiration of his deal. The third possibility, and one that not many people are discussing, is Nail experiencing a resurgence and sticking with the Oilers.
The third scenario seems high unlikely for various reasons, particularly when you look at his contributions, which have dropped considerably since his rookie year. He’s only 22 years old and he should be growing, not slowing down.
There's still time for him to turn things around, but a bitter ending between both sides seems likely as of the writing of this piece.
11 Joffrey Lupul
Joffrey Lupul has made it clear that he wants to stay un Toronto, but at this point, it might be out of his hands. Toronto fans love the veteran, as he works hard and can score goals. In the 2011-2012 campaign, he showed his true brilliance, hitting the 25 goal mark and almost cracking 70 points. He had another great showing during the 2013-14 campaign, scoring 22 goals. However, injuries would catch up to him and he’s barely scored 20 goals in the last two years combined. Last season was one of his worst, as he only played in 46 games.
With a cap hit of $5.25 million over the next two seasons, a buyout seemed like a layup this summer, especially considering the Leafs have less than 500,000 in current cap space, but it hasn't happened yet. With his health still in doubt, look for Lupul to probably leave the team sooner rather than later.
10 Ryan Kesler
With an annual cap hit of almost $7 million per season ($6.875 annual cap hit) until the 2021-22 campaign, you can’t help but think that Kesler’s contributions will be magnified in Anaheim. At the time of his signing, fans marvelled at the depth created by the Ducks down the middle. Though, two seasons after his signing, the Ducks have failed to win a Stanley Cup, which recently led to dismissal of Bruce Boudreau.
At the age of 31, Kesler is in the prime of his career, but some believe things might go down from here. Offensively, he is not a powerful force by any means, scoring 20 and 21 over his last two seasons with the team. With an infusion of young players, if things don’t pan out fast in Anaheim, Kesler might find himself as the odd man out because of a sizable contract for a player that might be heading past his prime.
9 Ryan Miller
The Ryan Miller experiment is tanking pretty badly heading into the final season of a deal that was worth $18 million over three years. He got off to a promising start, but regressed badly last season, winning only 17 decisions out of 51 games played. It was one of the worst campaigns of his long career.
At the age of 36, the Canucks used young backup Jacob Markstrom for the bulk of the second half. With a rebuild in place, look for Vancouver to follow this trend, which will likely lead to an eventual exit for the American goaltender. Waving him might be an option, though the Canucks’ will likely try to trade him away at the deadline to a possible Cup contender. Miller may not have much playing time left in him, as his play is declining and he'll shortly be entering his 40s. An exit from Vancouver seems pretty clear at this point and it only seems like a matter of when.
8 Evander Kane
Jets’ fans are probably smiling at this entry. There's no doubting the 25 year old's talent and intensity, which make him a valuable top-six forward, but it’s off-ice antics that keep getting him into serious trouble. The Buffalo Sabres are a no-nonsense NHL team, so Kane’s behavior is going to be looked at very closely. Time and time again, Kane has failed to show his maturity, making headlines for all the wrong reasons. At this point, it’s hard to believe he’ll ever change.
With an annual cap hit of $5.25 million, Buffalo does have the option to waive him, though the teams has lots of cap space. That's perhaps the reason why the team will give him another chance despite his terrible decisions away from the rink. However, with such a young and talented core, maybe they'll want to cut their losses. His future is 50/50 at this point.
7 Jaroslav Halak
Since his Montreal days, poor Jaro Halak has struggled to find consistent success. His last two seasons are another example of this coming to fruition, as he thrived in his first year on the Island, picking up 38 wins. However, he struggled last year because of ill timed injuries. He only played in 36 games, which saw the netminder win only 18 games.
Once again a backup shined in his place, as long-time NHL backup Thomas Greiss finally got the opportunity to prove his worth and he ran with it. The German started 41 games and ended the year with a 23-11-3 record, along with a solid 2.36 GAA. This gave the team an indication that maybe Halak isn’t as needed as they thought and, with a cap hit of $4.5 million for the next two years, the team might be better off moving Halak. Look for Jaro to be possible trade bait once again. If he's traded, it would be his fourth different franchise in the last five seasons.
6 Tomas Plekanec
It would not be right if there was no mention of a player possibly leaving Montreal on bad terms. Poor Tomas Plekanec who plays the game the right way has been linked to leaving the team for years now. Last season, the doubters were somehwat silenced when Plekanec signed a hefty contract extension of two years worth $6 million per season. However, the term on the deal doesn’t necessarily mean he’s staying long term and it still does leave a trade as a big time possibility. As we saw with P.K. Subban, anything is possible in Montreal.
He hit a career low in goals last season, scoring 14, though he does so much more than that. At the age of 33, if things go south for the Habs again, look for Plekanec’s name to be the first amongst possible players leaving Montreal. After years of solid contributions, he might bring a lot to the organization, which might incline them to part ways sooner rather than later.
5 Bobby Ryan
Ottawa is calls it a re-tool, but it pretty much looks like a rebuild, as the Sens are looking to get younger and create an entire new identity based around younger faces. With this in mind, the older guys have turned into possible trade bait. When looking at returns, Bobby Ryan probably would generate the most interest on the team, in terms of their veteran forwards.
When looking at his last season and salary, things certainly do not match. Fans scratched their heads when they saw that Ryan was given a whopping $7.25 million per year deal, which lasts until the 2021-22 campaign. The deal isn’t off to the greatest of starts, as Ryan barely cracked 20 goals last season and was a defensive nightmare, with a subpar -9 rating. If this continue, look for the team to jump on a deal in order to get rid of his contract, though you’d expect that they'll have to retain some salary on such a hefty long term deal.
4 Ben Bishop
Most of the free agent frenzy talk was based around where Steve Stamkos would end up. Ultimately, the captain decided to stay on board with Steve Yzerman and the crew, inking a long term deal.
The signing did have repercussions for several players on the team, which includes the club's superstar goaltender, Ben Bishop, who has cemented himself as one of the better goalies in the NHL. With that in mind, it really doesn’t help the Lightning that his deal is set to expire at the end of the year. Keeping Bishop seems impossible at this point and with their young prospect, Andrei Vasilevskiy, recently signing a three-year extension (worth $3.5 million per year), it seems like things are coming to a bitter end for Bishop and his run in Tampa.
3 Tyler Johnson
This is the side of the Steven Stamkos deal that Tampa fans generally don't want to hear about, as with Stamkos signing, a big player or two might be on their way out. Great hockey minds thought Steven would definitely leave the team, especially because of the numerous stars on the franchise that were approaching free agency. Once of them, who still hasn’t signed a new deal, is Tyler Johnson.
Johnson was once again an absolute force in the playoffs, lighting it up alongside Nikita Kucherov, so he’s surely in line for a hefty raise. He's currently only making a mere $3.3 million per season, but he currently in his final year of that deal and is set to become an RFA.
A big raise requires some cap space and that’s something Tampa really doesn’t have at this point. Johnson might end up being the odd man out, even if the team doesn’t want to let him go. Things might get even messier in Tampa.
2 Matt Duchene
Close your eyes Colorado fans, as you might not want to read this entry. Things in Colorado seem to be at a standstill right now, as they have plenty of young talent up front, but a defensive pool that is still quite lackluster. With an impatient owner, the team might be forced to make a big power move and it will probably be at the expense of a great young player like Matt Duchene.
With Nathan MacKinnon practically untouchable and Gabriel Landeskog as the leader of the team, Duchene looks to be the possible odd man out if something big were to happen. Similar to what we saw during the summer with the Oilers, sometimes you have to pay a huge price for a defenseman. Edmonton was forced to hand over one of their best offensive talents in Taylor Hall for a young defenceman who seems to be anything but a sure bet at this point. Look for Colorado to possibly explore a similar route with Duchene being the one to be sacrificed.
1 Evgeni Malkin
For a while now, the rumor mill has been buzzing with Gino’s name all over it, pertaining to a possible exit. During the Pens Stanley Cup run, we learned that the team is clearly led by Sidney Crosby and that they can more than hold their own when Gino is not in the lineup. The likes of Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel showed that throughout the post season.
With his stats declining and Gino hitting his 30s, now might be the best time for the Pens to part ways, considering his annual cap hit of $9.5 million all the way until the 2021-22 season.
If Malkin gets hurt or the team gets off to a bad start, look for his name to quickly surface in regards to an exit from the team and it’ll be a bitter one to say the least. Anyone else hear possible KHL bells?
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