We’ve all learned over time that all good things must come to an end, as sad of a reality as it is.
And that obviously includes the career of a superstar NHL player. For years and years, we see the same players bring us to our feet every single night. They bring you joy and entertainment, as you watch them single-handedly change a game with their slick skating and puck skills.
But as we head into the 2017-18 NHL season, there are a number of past-their-prime veterans that have to play it smart and retire when the campaign ends. Some of these players have suffered too many injuries, meaning it’s not worth putting their body on the line any longer. Some of these players also have nothing to prove or are simply just getting up there in age and can’t produce any longer.
Here is a look at 15 NHL veterans who need to retire after the 2017-18 season.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference. All contract details via CapFriendly.com
15. Dave Bolland
Dave Bolland was a cornerstone piece of the Chicago Blackhawks’ championship teams in 2010 and 2013. The ultra pest shut down the opposition’s top lines and chipped in with big goals (see Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final), but his agent — according to Sportsnet — said that Bolland is unlikely to play again.
Bolland last played an NHL game in 2015, as the Florida Panthers got rid of his contract by shipping him to the Arizona Coyotes. The ‘Yotes have been able to save money by putting him on the injured reserve, though.
At this point of his career, Bolland would be wise to simply retire, as his agent made it clear that injuries make a comeback extremely unlikely. With a pair of championship rings, Bolland doesn’t have anything to play for now. His long-term health is more important.
14. Niklas Kronwall
Once expected to assume the reigns from Nicklas Lidstrom as the next star defenceman for the Detroit Red Wings, Niklas Kronwall has had a solid career in the Motor City. But injuries throughout his career have prevented Kronwall from being a superstar, and he’s barely effective at this stage.
The 36-year-old is under contract for two more years at $4.75 million a season, and he’s playing on one healthy knee. According to Helene St. James from the Detroit Free Press, Kronwall “doesn’t know if he’ll ever be pain-free”. That means it’s time for him to value his health first, and retire at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Kronwall helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2008, so he doesn’t have anything additional to play for. The Red Wings are in rebuilding mode and won’t be competitive any time soon. Kronwall isn’t doing himself any favors by putting his body through even more pain. Time to play it safe and retire, for his own benefit.
13. Chris Kunitz
Chris Kunitz has never been an elite player, but he’s been an extremely serviceable scorer throughout his career. In fact, many NHL legends could only dream of having a Trophy room that Kunitz holds: Four Stanley Cup championships (three with Pittsburgh, one with Anaheim), and a 2014 Olympic gold medal.
Kunitz could go down as the best linemate Sidney Crosby has ever had, as the two spent nine seasons together. But after so many years of scoring the usual 20-30 goals a season, Kunitz is on his last legs. He scored 17 tallies in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, but had just nine goals and 29 points this past season.
Kunitz signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer, and it’s sure to be the last for the 38-year-old. Kunitz brings good leadership and experience, but he’s not a scoring sensation anymore. With four championship rings, he doesn’t need to worry about adding another.
12. Chris Neil
Chris Neil is among the most popular Ottawa Senators in franchise history, thanks to his ability to be an ultra pest who brought plenty of energy to the crowd. Neil has racked up an insane 2,522 career penalty minutes, but the Senators decided not to extend him this summer. Neil is currently awaiting for a team to come forward with a contract offer.
But at 38 years of age, combined with his inability to perform as an impact player at this point of his career, it’s tough to see a team signing Neil. He’ll likely wait for a contract throughout the 2017-18 season, but don’t expect a team to come calling.
11. Ryan Miller
Statistically speaking, Ryan Miller hasn’t been an elite goalie since the 2011-12 season, which is quite a while ago. Miller spent the last three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, but had a mere 64-68-16 record. He signed with the Anaheim Ducks this offseason so he could be closer with his wife, while assuming a backup role behind star goalie John Gibson.
But the 37-year-old Miller is likely preparing for retirement after next season. It’s clear he’s not in his prime any more, and the market for veteran goalies pushing 40 just isn’t strong these days. The Ducks were just happy to find a cheap, experienced backup to Gibson while Jonathan Bernier took his talents to Colorado.
10. Brian Gionta
Though Brian Gionta will unlikely reach the Hockey Hall of Fame, he will go down as one of the top American-born players of his era. A 2003 Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils, Gionta has seven 20-goal seasons under his belt, and is just 11 goals away from the 300-goal milestone.
The 5-foot-7 veteran hasn’t been the same player for quite some time, however. Gionta hasn’t scored 20 goals since 2010-11, and 15 has become his ceiling over the past three years. Coming off his three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Gionta is awaiting another team to come forward with a contract offer.
Like Chris Neil, Gionta could simply wait it out and just hope another team gives him an offer at some point of the season. But whether he plays or not, a past-his-prime Gionta has to accept that his playing days should end in 2018.
9. Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo sits fifth all-time in career wins (453), according to QuantHockey.com. He’s just one victory behind Curtis Joseph for fourth, and 31 behind Ed Belfour for third. But at this stage of his career, “Bobby Lou” isn’t truly a capable No. 1 starter anymore, and it may be time for his Hall of Fame-caliber career to end.
Luongo is under contract for five more years at $5.33 million per season, but his mediocre 17-15-6 record in 2016-17 suggests that Father Time has arrived. Luongo has seen his save percentage and goals against average numbers get significantly worse, and he may want to quit while he’s ahead.
Luongo’s contract is basically unmovable at this point, and the Florida Panthers don’t offer him the chance to win a Cup anytime soon. That’s why he should play it smart and retire after the season, and enjoy retirement with his family.
8. Matt Cullen
Matt Cullen has been a decent scorer throughout his career, totaling 248 goals and 689 points in a career that has spanned two decades. Cullen also won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and added two more rings with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
Cullen signed with the Minnesota Wild for the 2017-18 season, after scoring respectable 13 goals and 31 points in 72 games for Pittsburgh. But teams just aren’t keen on adding players in their 40s, no matter how productive they can still be. Today’s NHL is dominated by young, speedy skaters. So the game doesn’t really fit Cullen at this stage of his career.
7. Mark Streit
Mark Streit has been a solid No. 2 and 3 defenceman throughout his NHL career. The Swiss journeyman has played for over a decade, and has scored 96 goals and 434 points through 784 NHL games. But the 40-year-old is sure to hang up his skates after this season, as the decline, injuries and age have caught up on Streit’s once-dominant game.
The Montreal Canadiens lost a handful of defencemen in the offseason, so their decision to re-sign Streit was essentially a desperation move. Don’t expect Streit to get much ice time, as he’ll be used as a bottom-pairing blueliner at best.
For Streit, his NHL career is going to end after the 2017-18 season. As said earlier, he isn’t much of an impact player with his decline in play. Injuries and age have derailed his career, so expect retirement after this season in Montreal.
6. Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is on his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame — surely in his first year of eligibility. The perennial power forward has 625 goals and 1,300 points, along with a pair of Olympic Gold medals. The only thing missing is a Stanley Cup ring, but it’s unlikely that Iginla will capture one at this point of his career.
In a desperate move to make a surge at the playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Iginla at the 2017 trade deadline. He mustered six goals and three assists in 19 games, showing he just may have a bit of offence left in him.
Iginla remains unsigned, but one team will likely come forward soon enough to offer him a contract. He’s still a respected leader and could help a young team chase a championship. But after that, Iginla will have no choice but to retire as his game is basically all but gone at this point.
5. Patrick Sharp
The 35-year-old Sharp delayed retirement and rejoined the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason, signing with them for one year. Patrick Sharp helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. A long-time fan favourite, Sharp’s return to the Windy City will be a nice feel-good story, but he’s surely preparing for the end of his career.
Sharp has had a nice career, scoring 277 goals and 599 points in 869 NHL games. This includes eight 20-goal seasons. He also has 87 points in 142 playoff games, cementing himself as a money player when it mattered most.
4. Johan Franzen
Johan Franzen will go down as one of the most beloved Detroit Red Wings of all-time. But all good things must come to an end, and it’s becoming time for “The Mule” to accept that his playing career is all but over at this point.
Franzen — a 2008 Stanley Cup champion with 187 goals and 370 points — hasn’t played since suiting up for just two gamesearly in the 2015-16 season. He’s been sidelined with a concussion and has played in just 130 games over the past four years. The 37-year-old has dealt with far too many injuries, and there’s no reason for him to jeopardize his body by coming back for another season.
3. Jaromir Jagr
Though he’s the NHL’s second all-time leader in career points, Jaromir Jagr has to accept that his dream of playing until he’s 50 just isn’t going to happen — at least here in North America.
Jagr tuned in a fine season at the age of 45 for Florida in 2016-17, scoring 16 goals and 46 points. But that was quite a drop off from the 27 goals and 66 points he had posted the year before. No. 68 remains unsigned, and it shouldn’t surprise too many folks that most general managers aren’t keen on adding a 45-year-old to the roster.
At the end of the day, Jagr likely will get a contract from another NHL team. But expect it to be his last, as the human body isn’t build to play pro hockey past 40, let alone 46 and beyond. Sorry, Jagr.
2. Zdeno Chara
From 2003 to 2014, Zdeno Chara was among the NHL’s top defencemen. The 6-foot-9 giant is the tallest player in NHL history, so we won’t be forgetting him any time soon. Chara took home the Norris Trophy in 2009 and guided the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.
Though Chara will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame one day, his best days are well behind him. It’s time for him to realize that and retire after the 2018 season. Like others on this list, Chara has dealt with numerous injuries, and his age/giant stature have really slowed him down.
1. Marian Hossa
It’s been one heckuva career for Slovakian sensation, Marian Hossa. 525 career goals, 1,134 points and three Stanley Cup championships with the Chicago Blackhawks. Without a doubt, the Hockey Hall of Fame is awaiting to induct Hossa in his first year of eligibility.
The Blackhawks took a huge risk when they signed Hossa to a 12-year deal worth $63.3 million, yet he’s been worth absolutely every penny. Unfortunately, Hossa has to sit out all of 2017-18 after suffering an allergic reaction to his hockey equipment.
That means if Hossa were to return, he’d be 39 years old for the 2018-19 season. Is it worth playing? Absolutely not. He’s not going to be an effective NHLer any more, and it’s best for him to put his health first. Expect Hossa to formally announce his retirement after next season.
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