The NHL is full of talent and potential that can be seen by fans across the league. There has been a lot of talent that has flourished since the day they entered the league. Connor McDavid is a great example of this. He has talent that is unparalleled to most, hence why he was anointed ‘the next one’. Auston Matthews was another can’t miss prospect who came in with a lot of hype during the 2016 draft. The Toronto Maple Leafs bought into the hype, drafted him number one overall, and haven’t regretted it since. Of course where there are the players that have all the talent in the world and make themselves known in the NHL, there are also the players that teams really regret certain players to a point where they wish they could send them away.
These guys are lucky that they are currently on an NHL roster, let alone playing for their respective teams. This list takes a look at individual players that could be seeing their way out of the NHL because of their recent lack of production on the ice. Plus, NHL franchises can use that money to buy younger talent to help them win a Stanley Cup. Some players might even be wondering where they will be playing next season already. Let’s take a look at 15 NHL players that could be potentially playing in Europe next season.
15. Alexandre Burrows
The next man that could be considering taking his talents to Europe is a right winger that has put in his time. He is in his 14th season in the league, second with the Ottawa Senators. He spent his first twelve seasons playing alongside the Sedin brothers while ultimately pursuing a Stanley Cup championship. But now, he is looking to help Ottawa make a run at the Cup as his time is running short.
Burrows made his debut during the 2005-06 season with the Canucks. His best season came during the 2009-10 season when he had 35 goals, 32 assists, which combined for 67 total points. He never had that good of a season again and seems to be on the decline of his career. He has one more year left on his contract with the Senators after this season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
However if the Sens want to keep the recently acquired Matt Duchene beyond his current contract, they’l have to shed some salary. Should they buyout Burrow, he could decide to take his talents to Europe. It would be a win for all sides. Burrows continues his professional career and the Senators free up money to re-sign Duchene.
14. Zdeno Chara
The first man to be considered for potentially playing overseas next season is someone with a big frame and big slap shot. He once owned the NHL’s hardest slap shot, has won a Norris trophy, and has been a captain for the Boston Bruins for years now.
Chara has been a part of the Islanders, Senators, and Bruins organizations. He has nearly 200 career regular season goals, over 400 regular season assists and over 600 career regular season points. He also has a Stanley Cup title to his credit, so he has done a lot during the course of his career. Lately though, it seems like Chara has slowed down a lot. He is pushing 40 now and cannot put up the point totals now like he has in the past. The big thing to remember here is that he is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Rather than play for another organization, Chara may go the route of Markov and just return home. It’s unlikely Boston would want him back at a similar price, but Boston will never forget the impact Chara brought to the Bruins defense.
13. Matt Beleskey
We mentioned a Boston Bruin in the previous spot. Why not mention another one here? This current Bruins player cashed in a good contract in 2015 when he signed a five year, $19 million deal with them. So far he is seen as a bust and if his slump continues, he could very realistically be seeing himself suiting up in Europe next year.
Matt Beleskey has been around the league since he came in as a 20 year old kid during the 2008-09 season. His statistics never really popped off the page while in Anaheim. He never had more than 32 points in a regular season when he was with the Ducks, but Boston saw something in him apparently that we as fans did not see. Since he has been a Bruin, he has been injury prone and lacking when it comes to producing.
Boston seems to be going with a younger core at the moment. It’s unlikely someone will take on his contract, so the Bruins may have to buy him out. So unless Beleskey starts to produce and put pucks in the back of the net, he could see himself with a first-class ticket and bag packed to Europe; even if he will only be 30 years old.
12. Semyon Varlamov
We didn’t want to give the goal scorers all of the love. Sometimes, we have to recognize the people that stop the pucks from going in the net. Although, this particular goaltender probably does not want to be on this list because we are nominating him to probably be in Europe next year. This guy got his start in Washington, but has since been in Colorado.
Varlamov has had a decent career thus far since he arrived in the NHL in 2008-09. He even got an All-Star appearance in 2013-14. Varlamov has hit the skids a little bit in the last few years. He only had 23 starts last year, winning only six of them. Varlamov does also have another year on his contract after this season before Colorado can choose to re-sign him or get rid of him for good. Varlamov could however be released by Colorado if he continues to plunder downward and look for another place to play. Europe could be a nice destination if that were to happen.
11. Oscar Dansk
The Vegas Golden Knights are the newest franchise to the NHL, which is great for old and new players. For the older guys, it gives them a chance to be leaders and play a larger role than they would on most teams. For the new guys, it gives them a chance to accomplish success in a new city with a new team and forever receive credit for helping get the team on the map. For this particular goalie, he is only 23 years old and seems to be doing a good job so far. But like with most expansion teams, his fall is sure to come any day now.
Oscar Dansk is a young goaltender looking to have a long and meaningful NHL career. Dansk will eventually lose his time when Fleury and Subban become fully healthy and resume their roles as number one and two starters, respectively. Europe could be a good option for Dansk to play for a few years and then try to come back as a starter in the NHL with more experience.
10. Maxime Lagace
Sticking with the Golden Knights, this goalie is down on the depth chart and could use a change of scenery. When the Golden Knights drafted their first ever team, they chose Marc-Andre Fleury and assumed he would be their primary goalie. Then, when Malcolm Subban was put on waivers by the Boston Bruins, Vegas picked him up and he was inserted into the backup role. Now with definitely two and maybe even three goalies ahead of him, this guy needs to find a place where he will actually play.
Maxime Lagace is only 24 years old. He has a one year contract worth about $650,000. It is hard to believe that Lagace will want to continue on with the Knights considering the playing time will be minimal. Earlier this year, he was playing in the AHL; so that could be an indicator that this is a short term signing until their goalies are fully healthy. Once they are, Lagace will probably find himself back in the AHL. But he can probably benefit more from playing in Europe just like Dansk could. It definitely isn’t a bad idea especially for a young kid like Lagace to see the world and keep playing at a professional level.
9. Chris Thorburn
Getting away from the goalies, this next player has definitely not shown the NHL that he can keep up with the likes of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby, etc. This man has played his home games in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization, and now the St. Louis Blues.
Chris Thorburn has had a lackluster career to say the least. In 12 seasons, he has never had a regular season where he had at least 20 points. It’s not like he has had limited opportunity, he has played in at least 70 games seven seasons. With St. Louis, he has a two year, $1.8 million deal in place. He can become a free agent in 2019 when he is 36 years old. If I’m Thorburn, I consider the Europe option because you could be a bigger factor and continue to play on professionally. He has shown he cannot produce at the NHL level, so a change of scenery could be strongly considered at this point of his career.
8. Scottie Upshall
Sticking with the St. Louis Blues, this guy might be feeling blue after the season is over and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He signed for a one year, $800,000 contract and is set to hit the free agency market in the offseason. He will be 35 and teams will be wondering if he has anything left. He might not draw a lot of interest, which is why he could be making a trip to Europe.
Scottie Upshall has made his way around the league. He has made pit stops in Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbus, Florida, and now St. Louis. He probably has some good souvenirs from travelling so much. Upshall has never been an NHL All-Star and his best season came when he registered 37 points with the Panthers in 2013-14. Upshall is getting older and his good years seem to be behind him, if they were really ever there to begin with. But with Upshall approaching arguably his final season in St. Louis, he will probably be playing in Europe next season to keep his career going.
7. Nate Thompson
We have picked on the St. Louis Blues enough, it is time to take a look at a team in Canada: the Ottawa Senators. This center has had a decade’s worth of experience in the league and he has only put up more than 25 points in a season only once. On a team where Erik Karlsson is the captain and featured player for fans, it might be time to change countries if he wants to make a significant impact.
Nate Thompson like some of our other participants, have traveled around significantly trying to find a long-term home. He has played for the Bruins, Islanders, Lightning, Ducks, and now with the Ottawa Senators. With players like Karlsson, Craig Anderson, Kyle Turris, and Bobby Ryan being the main guys on this Senators team; seems like Thompson won’t be putting up notable numbers. A change in Europe next season could probably help him out. He could be more of an impact player on a KHL team and get out of the shadows of the guys we listed above. Plus, wouldn’t it be cool to say he played in the NHL and overseas all before his career is over?
6. Deryk Engelland
This next defenseman has been the unluckiest man in the NHL. He wasn’t a player that stayed in one organization for his whole career, he was one year too late of winning a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he hasn’t ever registered a 20 point season in eight seasons so far. He was picked up by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft and has done alright so far. But his past history has indicated he will not be much of a factor even for a new team like Vegas.
Engelland had played for the Penguins and Flames organization before he ended up playing in the busy city of Las Vegas. He signed a one year, $ million contract with the Knights. He will be an unrestricted free agent next year, but he has a few things going against him. Besides the fact that he hasn’t registered a 20 point season, he will also be 36 years old. They say father time catches up with all athletes and it seems Engelland is not too far away from answering his call to the retirement team. Unless the Golden Knights decide to bring him back to keep him as an ambassador, Engelland will be seeing his game being taken to Europe to play for at least one more year.
5. Antoine Vermette
Antoine Vermette is a center who had a few bright and shining seasons, but now is having age catch up to him just a little bit. He has never been an NHL All-Star and he is really close to catching the next plane to Europe.
Vermette has certainly followed our trend of guys that have played for multiple organizations throughout the course of their careers. He has spent time in Ottawa, Columbus, Phoenix/Arizona, Chicago, and now Anaheim. Vermette is in the final year of his two year, $3.5 million deal with the Ducks before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He will be 36 when he hits free agency and you have to wonder what team will really want him. Another return to the Coyotes? Hop on the dominance of the Penguins championship runs? Maybe take his talents to Vegas? Yes, he did have a 65 point season in 2009-10 with the Blue Jackets; but he was never able to do that consistently or really ever again. His better days are behind him and Europe seems like the more realistic option if he wants to continue playing and start in a fresh environment.
4. Jaromir Jagr
It took until the week of the season starting for Jaromir Jagr to finally get signed, as he didn’t receive any calls all summer. The Flames eventually signed the 45-year-old to a one year, $1 million contract, but Jagr hasn’t quite looked like the ageless wonder this season. He was placed on IR in the first month of the season and has not produced the way he did in previous stops like Florida and New Jersey. This feels like it’s Jagr’s last season in the NHL. The future hall of famer has said he’s never really planned on retiring right now, so the only hope for him to continue playing hockey beyond this season seems to be in making a return back to Europe and finishing his career in his native Czech Republic or back in the KHL.
3. Alexei Emelin
Alexei Emelin had been with the Montreal Canadiens his entire career until this year. Now he is playing in the rocking and rolling city of Nashville. He is in the last year of his current four year contract and will be an unrestricted free agent at the age of 32. He is a defenseman looking to find a new long term home after this season that will appreciate him and maybe help him break out a big season or two.
Emelin has played six complete seasons and currently playing his seventh season. In his time in the NHL so far. He’s not a great puck mover and his lack of speed doesn’t seem to be a desirable trait in today’s NHL. Europe is a great option for Emelin. He can get a big contract to finish his career overseas or he can sign a short term deal, have a big season, and then look more marketable to NHL teams during the 2019-20 season.
2. Kevin Connauton
It is tough enough when you are playing for arguably the worst team in the NHL. It is even worse when you are not playing more than half a season and producing very little for that team. The Arizona Coyotes are a franchise that just seems completely lost. They are in serious rebuild and need a few instances of lightning in a bottle to turn their fortunes around. This player definitely hasn’t helped the cause and should just pack it in and head to Europe for a new start.
Kevin Connauton is a defenseman that is literally in a no win situation. He is playing for the struggling Coyotes, he is in the final year of his contract with the team, and he is only 27 years old. It isn’t like he is some of our other participants in this list where they are in their mid to late 30s and even early 40s. The Coyotes need to move on from Connauton and he needs a new start. Europe is a great option.
1. Jimmy Hayes
They say hockey players from Boston are tough, rugged, and have good fundamentals. But this Boston born hockey player has been anything but productive since he arrived in the league. He has spent time with Chicago, Florida, Boston, and now New Jersey and shows no signs of stardom.
Jimmy Hayes in a 6’5 right winger who came into the league as a big, strong wing that can help be a play maker for any team lucky to have his services. He has been anything but that. He had one season in Florida in 2014-15 where he scored 19 goals and had 16 assists to register for 35 points. He has not had anything higher before or since. Hayes is a bust and needs to find himself a new place to start over. He has a one year, $700,000 deal that expires after this year where he will be an unrestricted free agent. He will only be 29 years old and can maybe be the enforcing wing player that people thought he would be when he came into the NHL. Jimmy Hayes is the most realistic player in the NHL that could be playing overseas in Europe during the 2018-19 season.
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