The below list deals with 15 players who played in the NHL last season and for one reason or another shouldn’t be playing in the league next season. This isn’t to say these players never were or never will be useful NHL performers. It’s just that most of them shouldn’t be on an NHL roster when the 2017-18 campaign faces off next October. There are simply better, and in most cases younger players, waiting in the wings than these 15 at the moment.
A couple of them are just too old to keep up with the skills and speed of today’s game while others don’t do enough to make an impact on the game. We also have a borderline goon or two whose play is dangerous to others and we’ve also taken into consideration their contract status. In some cases, the player would be well advised to simply call it a day and hang up their skates. Some other players would simply be better off in the minors or in one of the European leagues.
They shouldn’t be taking up a roster spot and playing a few minutes a game in the NHL. It’s hard to justify three-minute players these days when there are so many skilled youngsters who can play the game better and often come cheaper. This is especially true when coaches are rolling four lines. Anyway, for all it’s worth, the league would be stronger and cleaner without these 15 players next season.
15 Ryan Reaves
Winger Ryan Reaves of St. Louis is 30 years old now and has made a decent living at the game with minimal skills. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season and that should really be it for his career. He’s not the cleanest guy around and has been fined a couple of times during his career and suspended once for three games. When your career year consists of 13 points in 80 games, as Reaves’ did this year, you should maybe start thinking about life after hockey. He didn’t help the Blues in this year’s playoffs either by going pointless in 11 games. With 51 career points and 695 penalty minutes we all know why Reaves is on the roster, but the NHL is now a game for young, skilled players.
14 Luke Gazdic
Left-winger Luke Gazdic has played 147 NHL games and has just eight points to his name and clicks in at a minus-20. New Jersey played him in just 11 contests this season so perhaps they’re trying to tell him something. The 6-foot-4-inch 225-pounder is 27 years old and has limited NHL skills. Gazdic isn’t the best skater around, lacks speed and doesn’t have any hands around the net. He can drop his gloves and throw bombs with the best of them though and that’s why he’s in the NHL. This isn’t to say that Gazdic doesn’t have a place in pro hockey, but it should be at the minor league level rather than in the world’s best league. Gazdic, an unrestricted free agent, simply doesn’t impact a game enough to earn a spot on an NHL roster.
13 Matt Martin
Hey, if you want to be a tough guy then be a tough guy with everybody, don’t just pick your spots. Toronto winger Matt Martin doesn’t play that way though. He’s got no problem trying to intimidate young rookies like Vancouver’s Troy Stecher, but when guys like Zdeno Chara come knocking Martin’s gone like a bat out of hell. They should call this guy Houdini for the way he disappears when bigger and tougher opponent come looking for him. The Leafs wasted $10 million on Martin for four years and should leave the 28-year-old unprotected for Vegas in the upcoming expansion draft. With Nikita Soshnikov and Kasperi Kapanen waiting in the wings, there’s no need for Martin and his five goals. In fact, there’s no need for him in the league.
12 Reto Berra
It looks like time’s almost up for 30-year-old Swiss goalie Reto Berra. He got into just seven games with Florida last season and didn’t win any of them. It’s no wonder with a goals-against average of 3.45 and an 87.6 save percentage. Berra’s won 19 of 71 NHL games, which is something Yogi Berra may have achieved. Looking at yearly stats it’s obvious that he’s in over his head at the NHL level and may be better suited for the AHL or a European league. In fact, word is Berra’s heading back to the Swiss league next season. Or perhaps he should shed the goalie equipment and play out since he’s got decent hands. Berra once scored a goal while playing for Lake Erie in the AHL and might simply be playing the wrong position.
11 Tanner Glass
Left-winger Tanner Glass has managed to play over 500 NHL games due to his heart and determination rather than his skills. He’s been a pretty good fourth-line over the years with five different teams, but when the Rangers called him up for this year’s playoffs he couldn’t help them get over the hump. It wasn’t for a lack of effort though as Glass chipped in with four points in seven games after gathering just two points in his previous 60 postseason outings. Glass sees limited ice time with the Rangers and it’s just time he stepped aside to make room for somebody younger and with a few more skills. He’s an unrestricted free agent who had a salary cap hit of $1.45 million over three last three years and it’s hard seeing the 33-year-old landing another deal.
10 Nick Cousins
Even though he’s just 23, the Philadelphia Flyers expected more out of centre Nick Cousins than six goals and 16 points in last season. He’s now totaled 27 points in 107 games and averages decent ice time at 12 minutes a game. Cousins plays a physical enough game for somebody just 5-foot-10 and could develop into a useful NHL player. But at the moment, it looks like he’d be better suited to the AHL where he’d be a productive player. In fact, he could even be a point-per game player down there with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Cousins is a restricted free agent this summer and it’s unclear what will happen especially since the Flyers scratched him when faced with a must-win game to make the playoffs. At this point, Cousins isn’t an NHL caliber player.
9 Matt Stajan
With centre Matt Stajan of Calgary we have a very likable guy whose time in the NHL has come and gone. He’s been a good team player with leadership qualities but he’s now 33 years old and has a hard time keeping up. There’s no shame in hanging up the skates after racking up 401 points in 935 career games and that’s Stajan’s best option here. He’s played seven full seasons in Calgary and scored goals in the single digits in seven of those campaigns. Stajan’s cap hit is just over $3 million and he’s simply not doing enough to justify that type of paycheque. He’s an unrestricted free agent after the 2017/18 campaign and I’m sure he’d like to reach 1,000 games. But in today’s era it’s hard to justify another season.
8 John Mitchell
Like Matt Stajan, forward John Mitchell of Colorado should think about celebrating his career and hanging them up. The 32-year-old managed just seven points in 65 games out in Denver this season and was a minus-12 with a weak team. But it was the worst season of his career. He’s managed to play 548 career games as a useful bottom-six player and has contributed with 70 goals and 177 points with a minus-30 mark. Colorado placed Mitchell on waivers last November, but there were no takers. With Mitchell becoming a free agent this summer it’s doubtful the Avalanche will make him an offer and he may have a tough time getting a nibble from any of the other 30 teams as well. Mitchell had all the traits of a good NHL’er, but those days have passed.
7 Patrik Nemeth
Patrik Nemeth of the Dallas Stars is a good-sized defenceman at 6-foot-3 and was drafted 41st overall in 2010. He hasn’t really progressed much though and now at the age of 25 he’s a restricted free agent this summer. Nemeth has played 108 NHL games without scoring a goal even though he’s been played at forward on the odd occasion. He has helped out with 14 assists though. Nemeth is running out of time to prove he belongs in the NHL and he’s another on this list who is better suited to the minor leagues or Europe. The Stars elected to dress him for just 40 games in 2016-17 and while he may eventually turn into a decent fifth or sixth defenceman he’s still not worthy of an NHL job in 2017-18.
6 Drew Miller
Detroit Red Wings’ left-winger Drew Miller finished his fifth straight NHL season with a single-digit number of goals. He scored five this year and chipped in with a pair of assists in 55 games. He’s now managed 56 goals and 504 games and is a minus-30 for his career. His playoff goalscoring average is about the same with six goals in 60 contests. Miller’s now 33 years old and he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. Based on his performance over the past several seasons he may be better off retiring and giving a youngster a shot at an NHL job. Miller was a good bottom-six forward with fine penalty-killing skills, but he just doesn’t have it anymore when it comes to five-on-five play. Landing a new contract this summer should be a long shot.
5 Jakub Kindl
Defenceman Jakub Kindl will be a 30-year-old unrestricted free agent this summer and he should have a hard time finding a job, at least in the NHL. Kindl had no goals and four assists with Florida this season and was a minus-11. He was drafted 19th overall by Detroit back in 2005 and spent the first seven years of his NHL career in the Motor City. He’s not offensively gifted with 16 goals in 331 career contests, but was fortunate enough to play on some strong Detroit teams so it wasn’t as noticeable. He’s never played a full 82-game season though and definitely hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft status. In fact he hasn’t really stood out while playing down in the AHL and at this stage if his career that’s probably where he belongs.
4 Brendan Gaunce
Centre Brendan Gaunce was drafted 26th overall by Vancouver in 2012, and he’s just 23 years old. He was a point-per-game player in junior and while he’s defensively responsible he struggles offensively. He’s played 77 games now and has a lone goal to his name along with five assists and is a minus-11. He may be good on faceoffs, but the fact is he’s not producing enough to have a spot on an NHL roster at this point. Gaunce needs to spend a year or two and work on his offensive skills and build up some confidence when he has the puck. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, but hasn’t done enough to earn an offer from Vancouver or any other NHL team for that matter. He’s just not ready for the big leagues at the moment.
3 Jared Boll
Right-winger Jared Boll played 53 games with Anaheim this season without scoring a goal and has netted 27 of them in 569 career games. He’s served 1,282 minutes in penalties and been suspended a couple of times, so we’re all clear on why he’s in the NHL. Boll’s not trusted with much ice time and has been averaging just 4:42 minutes a game in the current playoffs. He’s a dying breed as enforcers who can’t play at least 10 minutes aren’t much use anymore. If he rarely sees the ice, can’t score goals and set up his teammates, then there’s not really a place for Boll these days. He’s 31 years old and showed decent hands as a junior. If he wants to play hockey rather than sit on the bench Boll should be in the AHL.
2 Steve Ott
At 34, there’s no chance centre Steve Ott of Montreal is going to change his ways. This means if he keeps playing, fans should expect the about the same from him next year as he produced this season. This was seven points in 53 games with 80 minutes in penalties, most of them being of the dumb variety. When he was drafted 25th overall by Dallas in 2000 we didn’t expect much in the way of offense and he’s lived up to that by scoring 109 goals in 848 games. His 1,555 penalty minutes is no surprise either. Ott hasn’t scored 10 goals in a season since 2011-12 and his grit and determination don’t help if he’s in the penalty box more than on the ice. Would you sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer?.
1 Brad Marchand
Boston’s Brad Marchand is a hell of a player when he sticks to playing the game. The problem is, Marchand doesn’t stick to playing hockey. This is a guy who would just as well hurt an unsuspecting opponent as score a goal. Sooner or later he’s going to end somebody’s career. Marchand’s notorious for a smorgasbord dirty play including slew footing, low hits, clipping, elbowing, spearing and an assortment of other cheap shots. He’s a repeat offender who’s been fined and suspended by the NHL numerous times by the NHL, but just keeps coming back for more. We rarely see Marchand drop his gloves as he’d rather raise his stick for protection. It’s obvious he’s not going to change his ways at this stage of his career and the league would be a lot safer without him.