As the game we love continues to evolve, so does the average age of players. With speed and skill being the primary factors of today’s game, it’s all about the young men of the league. With that in mind, several players have gone jobless earlier than expected. Nowadays, simply entering your 30s makes you considered old.
This article features a variety of former NHLers that recently got released by a club because of a failed PTO during the offseason. Whether it be because of age or skill, it’s quite obvious teams have changed their way of thinking nowadays, opting to go with the younger and cheaper option instead of the experienced 30 year old veteran. Back in the early 2000s, this was not the mindset, but times have changed today.
Those included in the article are still relatively young, meaning they likely didn’t stop playing the game they love just yet. Some on this list chose to retire while others are either employed overseas or playing with an AHL affiliate. Whatever the case might be, you have to respect these players for not giving up and continuing on their journeys. These are the 15 recently released NHL players and what they’re up to today. Enjoy the article and let us know your favorite where are they now story!
15 Paul Bissonnette: AHL - Ontario Reign
Known for his off-ice antics, Paul Bissonnette is remembered for his party life style, along with some of the funnier tweets we’ve seen in recent memory from a hockey player. The only negative is the fact that his on-ice game wasn’t all that great and, at the age of 31, Paul is no longer actively playing in the NHL.
The 2013-14 campaign would end up being his final season in the league, suiting up for the Coyotes. After Arizona was against re-signing the enforcer, Paul give it one last kick at the can with a tryout as a member of the St. Louis Blues. He didn’t make the team and was forced to join the AHL. Today, Paul continues to bounce around the American Hockey League. After leaving the Manchester Monarchs, Bissonnette inked a new deal with the Ontario Reign, where he continues to play. The stats column has not changed a lot for him in the AHL, as he hasn’t scored in 16 games this year, but has put up 31 PIMs.
14 Chris Higgins: Free Agent
Chris Higgins is another example on how the league has become a young man’s game. He’s also an example of how player age expectancy is on the decline. At the age of 33, it already seems like Chris is too old for the league. Now, more so than ever before, your mid to early 30s is considered old in the new NHL and Higgins has been directly affected by that.
His release came about in the summer of 2016, when the Canucks put Higgins on waivers with the intent of buying out the rest of his deal. He signed a PTO with the Flames in the recent offseason, only to see his dreams come crashing down as he failed to make the team. Chris is currently a free agent and it looks like his playing days might be done.
13 Jonas Hiller: National League A - EHC Biel
Remember when Jonas Hiller was the talk of the town in Anaheim? At one point in time, the team thought they found their goalie of the future in Hiller, who put up some decent numbers during his long stint with the team. He was eventually left un-signed, before making his way to Calgary, where his play declined and he saw his NHL career come to an end.
The Flames rotated three goalies at one point as Hiller, Joni Ortio, and Kari Ramo took care of the net for the Flames. Calgary finally opted to end the madness this past offseason by letting both those goalies walk away and signing Brian Elliot to a deal. With teams looking to get younger in the net, the 34 year old Hiller was forced to look for work overseas. He ended up signing a deal with EHC Biel in the Swiss league. Hiller is happily back home and was signed to a three year deal with the club, likely ending his NHL career.
12 Marc-Andre Bergeron: AHL – Cleveland Monsters
Let’s give some love to the former Hab, Marc-Andre Bergeron, who is still going strong today at the age of 36. He had a decent run in the NHL, using his booming shot from the point to get work as a power play specialist for a bunch of teams. However, aside from that, he proved to be a liability on the defensive end, having trouble containing the bigger players standing at only 5’9" (which is being generous). His puck moving abilities weren’t enough to keep him relevant in the league and he was let go by the Canes’ once his contract expired in 2013.
Marc-Andre would spend the next three seasons overseas in Switzerland, putting up some fine numbers in the league overseas with Zurich SC. He recently returned to North America trying out for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He didn’t make the club on his PTO, but was inked to a deal with the team’s AHL affiliate down in Cleveland.
11 Daniel Cleary: Hockey School Owner, AHL – Grand Rapids Griffins
Early on in his career, Dan Cleary looked like he was a huge draft bust. After getting selected 13th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, Cleary failed to replicate his play as a member of the Belleville Bulls once he made it to the NHL.
He flipped and flopped, but would play in the NHL way into his 30s as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. Cleary was a heart and soul type of player who meshed in quite well with the skills sets of both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. He profited big time from playing with the two, putting up 26 goals in 68 games during the 2010-11 campaign. Shockingly, he would even get a team Canada tryout because of the season.
As we said, it’s a young man’s game today and even the Red Wings have been forced to ship away some veteran faces like Danny. Cleary is now in his second season with the team’s affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. He's also the proud owner of a hockey school camp that Henrik Zetterberg proudly advertises for during post game interviews by dawning the school’s hat.
10 Sean Bergenheim: Swedish Hockey League – Frolunda HC
He didn’t put up great offensive numbers during his career, however, Sean Bergenheim did all the little things right and was a great defensive player during his NHL career. His most formidable season came as a member of the Lightning, powering the team’s offense with nine goals in 16 playoff games. In that season, back in 2011, the team would fall one win short of making the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the eventual champs, the Boston Bruins.
He bounced around the league until his final pit stop with the Wild in the 2014-15 season. Going unsigned the next year, Sean would play abroad in the Swiss league, joining former coach Guy Boucher. The team would win the championship and Bergenheim would return to the NHL, joining the Ducks on a PTO. He didn’t make the team and once again left the league, as he now plays overseas with Frolunda HC of the Swedish league.
9 David Booth: KHL – Avangard Omsk
A Michigan boy with blazing speed, David Booth looked like he had a promising future in the NHL. Putting up 22 and 31 goals during his second and third years, it seemed like Booth was destined to be a star, but that wasn’t the case as constant injuries destroyed his potential to be a true breakout player in the NHL.
His final NHL run came with the Leafs, who were starving for any talent during the 2014-15 season. Once again, injuries destroyed his season and he would end up leaving the league for the KHL. He attempted a comeback this past offseason, joining the Ducks on a PTO. His tryout was unsuccessful, causing Booth to head back to the KHL, joining Avangard Omsk in November.
8 Tom Kostopoulos: AHL – Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins
At the age of 37, former Hab Tom Kostopoulos is still going strong, playing in the AHL. The guy is remembered for having some big time heart and trying to play the role of an enforcer. During the final stages of his NHL career, Tom get his bell rang one too many times, which caused teams to look the other way.
After his final season with the Devils in 2012-13, Tom would play the rest of his career in the AHL with the Pens minor league affiliate in Scranton (is he friends with Michael Scott?). Much to everyone’s surprise, it seems like Tom has traded in his fighting mitts for some soft hands. The former NHLer has put up some respectable numbers, scoring 16 and 19 goals in the last two seasons, along with 22 goals and 25 assists in the 2013-14 season. This year, Tom is continuing his fine work, notching 27 points in 40 games. Imagine Tom with Sid the Kid? Yeah, I guess not.
7 Ryan Carter: Free Agent
Going undrafted, Ryan Carter defied the odds and made it to the NHL despite a rocky run in the league which saw him in and out of lineups frequently. He enjoyed his finest run as a member of the Devils, becoming a reliable two-way player for the club on their checking lines. This was pretty much the story of his career, as he never put up good numbers offensively, but was a definite positive as a defensive player.
His final season came last year with the Wild, putting up a career high seven goals with the team. With Bruce Boudreau currently at the helm in Minnie, one can only imagine his offensive style was not suited for Carter’s abilities. The club chose to let him walk and he’s currently a free agent at the age of 33.
6 Christian Ehrhoff: DEL – Cologne Sharks
Early on in his career, Christian Ehrhoff was a valued d-man for his former NHL club, the San Jose Sharks. He was trusted with some big minutes and it paid off for the German defender, who put up some decent numbers. His success would continue with the Canucks, putting up back to back 14 goal campaigns, along with 45+ point seasons.
After he left Canuckville, things got rocky for him, as he failed to secure a consistent spot on a team. He was shipped off to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Chicago, before his NHL career would end. Following the World Cup of Hockey, Ehrhoff joined the Bruins on a PTO, but eventually decided to head back to his native land in Germany, joining the DEL League as a member of the Cologne Sharks. At the age of 34, it seems like he’ll end his playing days back home.
5 Eric Nystrom: Free Agent
A product of the University of Michigan, Nystrom was selected tenth overall in the 2002 NHL Draft. Looking at his body of work throughout the years, most NHL fans that followed Eric’s career are well aware that he was not worthy of a top ten pick. Nystrom failed to make an impact and was instead relegated to a role as a two-way checking line center, typically playing on the third or fourth line. It got him through many seasons, until the Preds finally sent him down to the AHL last season.
Following his buyout from Nashville, Eric attempted to join the Blues on a PTO this recent offseason. With a new emphasis on speed and skill, the Blues opted against bringing in Nystrom to the team. At the age of 33, he remains teamless at this point.
4 Tomas Fleischmann: Free Agent
"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get, Forrest Gump."
This iconic quote from the inspirational Forrest Gump basically sums up the career of Tomas Fleischmann. You never knew what you were going to get with the forward.
The Wings drafted him after his impressive stint in junior with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He wouldn’t play a single game for Detroit, getting shipped off to Washington. From that point on, his career was a rollercoaster, which included a random 27 goal season in 2011-12 campaign as a member of the Panthers. He was decent with the Habs last year and that led to a deal to the Hawks, where he was far from impressive. At the age of 32, teams decided to look past the veteran forward as he remains a free agent.
3 James Wisniewski: Swiss League – HC Lugano
An American born d-man out of Michigan, James Wisniewski made a name for himself for his booming shot from the point. He wasn’t the best defensive defenseman, but his power play presence made up for that big time throughout his career.
The bulk of his NHL run was spent with the Blue Jackets, putting up some impressive seasons which saw the blue-liner put up 44 assists in the 2013-14 season. Despite his great offensive numbers late in his career, injuries would derail his progress. James joined the Lightning on a PTO, but was released just days before the start of the season. He ended up joining the KHL for a brief amount of time and later left the team, joining HC Lugano in the Spengler Cup.
2 Raffi Torres: Retired
Standing at six feet, Raffi Torres was a ball of energy throughout his NHL career. He was a serviceable energy guy that could deliver some crunching hits, but ultimately, that very factor cut his career short.
With concussion related issues at the forefront of the NHL's to-do list, players like Torres were too dangerous for the game. Receiving separate 21 and 41 game suspensions, Torres became extinct in the league for his reckless style of play which endangered those on the ice. He gave it one last try this recent offseason joining the Canes on a PTO. Just before the season began, Torres was one of the final cuts made by the team. At the age of 35, Raffi opted out of playing overseas and decided to call it a career in November.
1 Brandon Prust: DEL – Nuermberg Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers
Goal scoring wasn’t his thing, but playing with heart truly was. Brandon Prust built himself a solid NHL foundation with the Rangers and that carried over as a member of the Habs. While in the Mecca of hockey, Prust became a fan favorite amongst the masses in Montreal for giving his all every night.
He would up getting traded for Zack Kassian, which turned out to be an awful move for the Habs. Prust didn’t fare any better for Vancouver, as he was sent down to the AHL playing with the Utica Comets. Brandon gave the NHL once last shot in 2016, joining his hometown Leafs on a PTO. He didn’t make the team and signed overseas in November with the German team Nuermberg Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers. At the age of 32, it’s very likely we won’t see Prust suit up in the NHL again.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!