In the ever-evolving sport of hockey, players are forced to change their playing styles and adjust accordingly. Surely, not all hockey players are fortunate enough to play their entire professional careers in the NHL. In fact, some of them have a difficult time just getting signed by an NHL team, let alone getting ice-time.
As the clock ticks and the years go by, older players are bound to get beaten to roster spots by effervescent youngsters with immense talent and speed. Younger players are constantly being injected into lineups and favored over veterans because of the rapid fast-paced style of hockey. It's simply the cycle of hockey; new youthful stars emerge into the limelight, while veterans eventually become sequestered into obscurity.
As the new generation of hockey players progressively become integrated into their respective team's roster, older players will get beaten out of their job. The following includes notable names that may soon find themselves vacant of an NHL profession.
15 Ladislav Smid
The 30-year-old defenseman is heading into the last year of his contract and his recent performances have not justified his cap hit. The Calgary Flames' back end depth is loaded with talented defenseman like Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie; just to name a few. With their defense as strong as it is, it leaves Smid with limited ice-time and a lesser, subsidiary role in Calgary. His $3.5 million cap hit leaves the Flames little wiggle room to work with, with less than $10,000 in cap space remaining.
For the veteran defenseman, his age is certainly catching up to him as his points total continues to decline and his struggles with injuries become more severe and frequent. He is expected to be placed on the LTIR soon because of a lingering neck ailment. As his window of opportunity narrows, he might be out of an NHL job when his contract expires next July, although a bolt to Europe may well be a feasible option.
14 Jakub Kindl
The former 1st-round draft pick has considerably failed expectations after getting beat out of his NHL job, traded and demoted to the AHL. After signing a four-year deal with Detroit in the summer of 2013, he was successful and defensively reliable for about two seasons, and then started declining. With youngsters such as Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul emerging in Detroit, they had no room for him so they dealt him to Florida during the 2015-16 season.
As a 29-year-old defenseman, his career seems as if it's coming to a rapid close. After hoping to revitalize his career in Florida but ultimately failed, his demotion to the AHL quite possibly denotes the end of his short NHL career. When next July comes around, he may get lucky to be signed to a PTO contract at most with an NHL club. Otherwise, he is going have to light the lamps down in the AHL this season.
13 Tanner Glass
Since his infamous whiff in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals with the Vancouver Canucks, he has been quietly getting NHL jobs with a number of NHL teams, including the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins and his current team, the New York Rangers. Standing at 6-foot-1, the tough 32-year-old left winger has had recent struggles trying to compete at the NHL level. After being waived two seasons in a row, his chances at sticking in the big leagues is overwhelmingly slim.
He once was a big body that energized his team through fighting, but with the NHL shifting their focus to speed and skill, it's becoming increasingly difficult for enforcers like Tanner Glass to maintain his NHL job. However, he may get lucky next off-season if a certain team runs short on enforcers and decides to sign him to a contract.
12 Zbynek Michalek
After signing a lucrative five-year deal worth $20 million with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010, the defensively steady defenseman was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2012, where his point totals started to plummet. Although he is not widely known for his offensive abilities, his age has been quickly catching up to him, attributing to his demotion to the AHL. Once known for his veteran presence, he has struggled sustaining his role in the NHL and got beaten by youngsters such as the newly drafted Jakob Chychrun.
With the Coyotes shifting their focus to developing their younger defenseman, Michalek's time in Arizona as well as the NHL may soon come to a close. As a staple of Czech Republic's national men's hockey team over the years, the 33-year-old veteran defenseman is in the last year of his contract and may be forced in play in Europe if no NHL teams require his service come next July.
11 Rob Scuderi
The New York native was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 1998 and has had the blessing of a lengthy career. Definitely at the top of his list of accomplishments are his two Stanley Cup championship victories, once with the Penguins in 2009 and once with the L.A. Kings in 2012. On both Stanley Cup winning teams, his veteran presence and defensive steadfastness were evident and crucial to their success, even though he did not contribute offensively.
Although he has proved to be a sturdy, reliable defenseman in the past, his age has quickly caught up to him and his defensive abilities have begun to decline. This past year, Scuderi has been waived two times and has struggled to maintain his previous quality of play. I would be surprised if he doesn't retire within a few months given his recent demotions to the AHL.
10 Gregory Campbell
Famously known as NHL Executive Colin Campbell's son, the former third-round draft pick in 2002 has had recent struggles playing as a fourth line plug in the NHL. Though he has retained his physical presence on the ice, his point totals have steadily declined since the 2013-14 season. With more and more talented youngsters cracking NHL rosters, the competition for roster spots has been overwhelmingly fierce.
Campbell has since been demoted to the AHL after spending one full season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had previously won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Boston Bruins, where he consistently and successfully played in a bottom-6 role. After his recent failure to report to Columbus' farm team, his future is unquestionably in doubt if he does not show a willingness to fight for a rightful NHL roster spot.
9 Bryan Bickell
Standing at 6-foot-4, the robust power-forward is notoriously known for his 2013 Stanley Cup playoff heroics with the acclaimed and victorious Chicago Blackhawks. In the ensuing off-season, he inked a lucrative five-year-deal worth $20 million, which was a somewhat justifiable dollar amount considering his aforementioned clutch playoff performance.
However, in the following seasons, he failed to emulate his 2013 playoff-self and received immense criticism for his declining point totals. Carrying a $4 million cap hit on an exceedingly cap-tight team, the Blackhawks ultimately decided to trade him to the Carolina Hurricanes. Though it is a new fresh start for Bickell, his past NHL seasons have denoted that his playoff heroics were merely a fluke, and that his NHL career may well be coming to a pitiful close.
8 Michal Rozsival
The 38-year-old veteran defenseman is inevitably nearing the end of his successful NHL career. The two-time Stanley Cup champion in 2013 and 2015 has been a staple of the deep Chicago Blackhawks roster. Though he is not as well-known as Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook, he possesses proficient puck mobility skills and an incredible hockey vision. He has also hit the 30-point plateau four times in his career.
As he nears the age of retirement, it is most fitting that the Chicago Blackhawks recruited him for one final year to act as a mentor to the young guns on the team. After this season, he probably will strongly contemplate retirement because of the gradual injection of youth around the league. Even if he does receive an NHL contract offer, I would be surprised if another team signed him for more than his extensive experience in the NHL.
7 Vernon Fiddler
After being originally undrafted, he was signed by the Nashville Predators in 2002, where he played with their farm team for a couple of seasons. Fiddler then solidified his role in the NHL and became a regular. For the most of his career, he has been a consistent 20-points player, even reaching the 30-point plateau twice. Although he does not have many accolades to show for his NHL career, he won the Calder Cup in 2004 and has proved to be an important secondary scorer for the teams he has played for.
As a veteran of 36 years of age, his body is bound to slow down and lack the ability to keep up with the fast pace of the ever-evolving sport of hockey. His versatility has gradually decreased ever since his dominant years and it seems like he is on the verge of retirement. Although I wouldn't be surprised if he was offered a PTO contract next season, it looks as if he might have to call it quits if an offer is not presented to him.
6 Ondrej Pavelec
The once starting goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets is now playing with the farm team. After going unclaimed on waivers this past month, it seems as if no team has interest in acquiring his goaltending services, even for free. His $3.9 million cap hit does not seem like much of a hindrance, and even if it was, Pavelec has proven in the past that he is a proficient starting goaltender. His past struggles have been outlined by the fact that he was playing for the mediocre Winnipeg Jets.
It's hard to ignore the fact that he's only 29, the prime of his career, and got demoted to the AHL in favour of youngsters Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. The 29-year-old netminder recently admitted that the demotion didn't come as a "total surprise" and that he was "unsure" of what's in store in the future. Whatever happens though, it seems like his time in Winnipeg is coming to an end after getting beaten to his job.
5 Brooks Laich
Like many of the other players on this list, he once possessed an integral role on his former NHL team, in this case the Washington Capitals. Before his declination, Laich was once a consistent 40-to-5o point player with the Capitals in his prime. His longtime teammate Alexander Ovechkin was a dear friend of his throughout his career, even after he got sadly traded to the Maple Leafs.
His demise furthered when he failed to contribute offensively with his new team in Toronto, attributing to his subsequent limited on-ice minutes under coach Babcock. Laich is a prime example of a quickly declined veteran who cannot adjust to the changing dynamics of hockey. His recent demotion to the AHL denotes that his glory days are behind him and he may have to settle for either a PTO contract or a trip to Europe.
4 Alex Burrows
Famously known as the "Dragon Slayer" and his 2011 playoff heroics with the Vancouver Canucks, Burrows has since struggled to continue his high quality of play. He is well-known for recently adopting a leadership role with the Canucks and mentoring their young stars like Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen. The feisty 6-foot-1 right winger was initially undrafted before signing with the Canucks in 2005.
After signing a well-deserved four-year-deal worth $18 million in 2012, he has steadily declined ever since, proving that his aging body cannot sustain his physical style of hockey. Instead, he has embraced the idea of a mentorship role. Since the Canucks have expressed an unwillingness to buy-out his $4.5 million AAV contract, I wouldn't be surprised if they signed him to a cheap deal come next July. But other than that scenario, I have a hard time envisioning another team citing interest in him.
3 Brian Gionta
The Rochester native has definitely had an illustrious career replete with sky-rocket point totals. Gionta has found success wherever he has played, including the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and current team Buffalo Sabres. He has proved to be a superior and prolific scorer, holding the Devils' record for most goals scored in a single season with 48 back in 2005-06.
His list of achievements is topped with a Stanley Cup championship in 2003 with the Devils. His best season came with the Devils in 2005-06 when he recorded a whopping 89 points. He has went on to serve as captains of both the Canadiens and the Sabres. As current captain of the Sabres, he provides a veteran presence to young stars like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Although he has consistently produced offensively, his time in the NHL is clearly coming to an end as Buffalo prepares to switch their captaincy next season when Gionta's contract expires.
2 Brian Campbell
The talented offensive defenseman has had one heck of a career, surpassing 50 points three times. After signing remunerative eight-year-deal worth roughly $57 million with Chicago in 2008, he has proved his dollar value by contributing offensively and being a dominant force on the back-end. Although he was traded to the Florida Panthers halfway into his contract, he did not let the adjustment hinder his offensive production.
Campbell, the recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2012, became a Stanley Cup Champion in 2010 with the Blackhawks when they defeated the Flyers in 6 games. Though his name has been majorly obscured by the names of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, his offensive upside and aptitude should not go unnoticed. This past off-season, the Blackhawks decided to round off his successful career by signing him to a one-year contract worth $2 million. With younger defensemen waiting in line for their turn to emerge into the NHL, it looks like retirement is near for the 37-year-old veteran.
1 Jarome Iginla
Last but not least, we conclude our list with arguably one of the greatest of his time, Jarome Iginla himself. The prominent right winger was initially drafted in the first round of the 1995 draft, and was infamously involved in a trade that sent him to the Calgary Flames, where he would become one of their most successful captains, if not the most. The six-time NHL All-Star leads the Flames in all-time goals, points and games played. He is also one of the seven players in NHL history to record 30 goals in 11 consecutive seasons.
Throughout his illustrious career, he has won numerous gold medals with Canada and culminated over 1,200 points. By the end of his contract with the Colorado Avalanche, he will be 40-years-old, and with the young guns taking charge in Colorado, the optimal scenario would be to call it a career while consistently producing over 40 points a season.