As the 2016-17 NHL regular season comes to a close, the 2017 offseason is anticipated to be an exciting summer for hockey. Keep in mind, the Vegas Golden Knights will host their Expansion Draft which will impact team's rosters for the better or worse; and with the recent news of the NHL announcing that it will not participate at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games (Pyeongchang - South Korea), hockey fans alike could potentially see a number of NHL players heading overseas to continue their professional ice hockey careers.
Now, with that being said, there are certain players who should consider leaving the NHL to play overseas regardless of the unique variables mentioned above. While some players near the end of their NHL careers and would thrive again playing in a different professional league, there's also another generation of players that should consider making the transition, too. Perhaps there are younger NHL skaters that need a sense of rejuvenation in order to excel at their hockey careers.
Sure, it still remains to be seen if the NHL "no-show" at the Winter Games will genuinely impact certain players to make the move overseas, but there are plenty of skaters that could receive intriguing contract offers from professional leagues such as the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL; Russia), Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and others...
Below are 15 NHL players that should head overseas.
15 P.A. Parenteau
In less than 10 NHL regular seasons, forward P.A. Parenteau has already played for eight NHL teams. The Quebec native began his career with the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2006-07 and since that time has dressed for the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and currently the Nashville Predators.
The 34-year-old is set to become an unrestricted-free-agent this summer, and the likelihood of Parenteau finding a new home again is high. But, perhaps the six-foot winger should head overseas. While Parenteau was a late draft-pick (2001; ninth-round), it’s been apparent that the forward has trouble staying put in one place. Don’t be surprised if Parenteau receives a better offer come this offseason and from professional hockey teams overseas.
14 Tommy Wingels
NHL forward Tommy Wingels began to show some promise within the San Jose Sharks lineup, while Wingels dressed for the Teal from 2011 until midway through this season (traded to Ottawa Senators). However, Wingels’ offensive production has declined drastically, and the 28-year-old should consider heading overseas to continue his professional hockey career.
Wingels is set to become an unrestricted-free-agent this summer, and certain clubs from overseas may try to convince the former sixth-round draft-pick (2008) to make the transition out of the NHL. Wingels would more than likely be more of an all-star caliber skater if he were to leave the NHL and play in a league overseas, too. Between the Sharks and Senators this season, Wingels has only posted 12 total points.
13 Mikhail Grigorenko
With the 12th overall-pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft the Buffalo Sabres selected Russian native, Mikhail Grigorenko. Yet, the center has played like anything but a former first-round draft-pick since entering the NHL back in 2012-13.
There have been reports that the 22-year-old could receive a hefty offer to return back to Russia, and play for one of the KHL’s organizations. Grigorenko has never recorded more than 27 points in a season, and heading home to Russia may help the forward regain some necessary confidence in order to excel as a professional hockey player. The former first-rounder is set to become a restricted-free-agent this offseason with the Colorado Avalanche, but it would be hard to imagine that the Avs would consider re-signing Grigorenko and have him in their future plans.
12 Tomas Tatar
NHL players of European decent typically take much pride in representing and playing for one’s respective country. So, as noted above, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some notable NHL names may leave to play overseas in order to play in next year’s Winter Olympics. Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar may just be one of those European skaters, too.
For the first time in 25 years, the Red Wings will not be playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and one has to figure that there will be significant changes to Hockeytown’s roster this offseason. Is Tatar a part of the potential rebuilding plan in Hockeytown, or not? It might be in the Czech Republic native's best interest to play overseas and leave the NHL for the time being.
11 Alexander Burmistrov
At the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the (then) Atlanta Thrashers, now Winnipeg Jets, selected Russian forward Alexander Burmistrov with the eighth-overall-pick in the first-round. Since that time, Burmistrov could be labeled as a bust.
The now, Arizona Coyote skater, has just a mere 15 points on the season and Burmistrov has never earned more than 28 points in an NHL campaign. And, with the Russian forward set to become an unrestricted-free-agent this summer he may not receive contract offers that would interest him. So, Burmistrov should head overseas to potentially earn more money, and keep in mind with the NHL “not allowing” its players to play in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics – the move overseas may give the 25-year-old a chance at playing for Russia in the Olympic Games.
10 Dan Girardi
Sure, the proposition that the New York Rangers need to find a way to remove defenseman Dan Girardi from their club's roster isn’t a surprising proposal, but what if Girardi decided to retire from the NHL, and opt to play overseas for a couple of seasons?
Perhaps this would benefit Girardi and potentially save his NHL career in the long term. The former one-time NHL All-Star could potentially “recuperate” overseas, and make an NHL comeback in two or three seasons. Girardi had sacrificed his body for the Broadway Blueshirts out on the ice a plethora amount of times during the Rangers' string of Stanley Cup Playoff runs; especially under former head coach, John Tortorella. Hypothetically, if the Canadian born defenseman did follow through with the move, it could benefit both he and the Broadway Blueshirts.
9 Jacob Josefson
It’s about time to say that Swedish forward Jacob Josefson has been a disappointment in New Jersey with the Devils since Josefson’s NHL career began back in 2011. At age 26, Josefson, is more than likely in the prime of his hockey career, but all that has to show is a career high of totaling 14 points in a season...
That stat-line is not promising for a former first-round draft-pick (2009), and one that had high hopes to be the future of Jersey’s Team. However, Josefson could potentially be an all-star caliber skater while playing in a league such as the KHL, or SHL, overseas. Perhaps the Swede could reunite with his former Devils teammate, Ilya Kovalchuk, and play for the KHL's SKA Saint Petersburg. Josefson’s strongest asset is his speed, and playing on a larger sized rink on a daily basis would benefit the natural center going forward with his professional ice hockey career.
8 Jaroslav Halak
Jaroslav Halak’s NHL journey has been one of the more overlooked goaltending stories in recent past. Why? For starters Halak used to be part of an efficient NHL goaltending tandem with Montreal Canadiens’ current netminder, Carey Price -- from 2007 until 2010. In fact, Halak ended his tenure in Montreal on such a high note, after leading the Habs to the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, that there were rumors that the Canadiens were open to trading Price and holding onto Halak at the time.
Clearly Montreal was not short sighted, and made the right decision to keep Price. With Halak’s play in the blue paint inconsistent time-and-time again – the Slovakian native should head overseas and explore opportunities with other professional hockey clubs. It’s evident that Halak is a high risk – high reward netminder, but will NHL clubs want to take that risk going forward?
7 Ondrej Pavelec
The Winnipeg Jets’ all-time leader in wins for a goaltender is set to become an unrestricted-free-agent (UFA) this summer, and it’s very possible that a league such as the KHL could make a run at Jets’ netminder, Ondrej Pavelec.
Pavelec’s playing days with the organization date back to when the club was located in Atlanta, Georgia, where the team was known as the Thrashers from 2000 until the 2011 season. While it’s very possible for an NHL team, including the Vegas Golden Knights, to take great interest in the Czech Republic native – there’s an enigma about European players wanting to travel back “home,” or overseas, to finish out one’s respective professional hockey career. Due to the amount of goaltending depth spread out across the NHL right now, it might be best for Pavs to Jet east.
6 Patrik Elias
The New Jersey Devils all-time leading scorer may be retiring from the NHL, but forward Patrik Elias may want to seriously consider playing overseas. Elias, age 41, has proven he can still play at a professional level of hockey, but at this point in time he would flourish more so by playing overseas -- and perhaps in his native country of the Czech Republic.
Elias has portrayed his loyalty by playing his entire NHL career with one organization in the New Jersey Devils, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the former second-round draft-pick (1994) would want to skate proudly for his fellow countrymen overseas. The Czech Extraliga is the highest level of professional ice hockey in the Czech Republic, and the former Devils’ captain would be welcomed with open arms.
5 Marian Gaborik
Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik hasn’t played in more than 70 games in one NHL season since the 2009-10 campaign. It’s tough to judge on whether or not Gaborik has drastically lost a step in his offensive playing abilities, but the Slovakian native should consider going overseas to play professional hockey after this season.
The former 40-goal-scorer has posted just 21 points in 54 games played (at the time of writing), but Gaborik’s contract isn’t set to expire until after the 2020-21 season. Still, the Kings are more than likely going to either buy out the 35-year-old’s contract this offseason, or will look to move the forward. There’s a strong chance that the Vegas Golden Knights would take great interest in the former first-round draft-pick (2000), but the Great Gabby may just opt out to head overseas in order to continue his professional hockey career.
4 Zdeno Chara
It’s not hard for NHL fans alike to miss Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara while he’s out skating on the ice. At six-foot-eight, Chara has been a nightmare for opposing forwards for almost 20 seasons now, and it seems that the Slovakian native’s time of playing in the NHL is nearing its end. Chara, who recently turned 40, has a contract with Boston that is set to expire after the 2017-18 season and the former third-round draft-pick (1996) could play for a number of professional ice hockey teams overseas.
And, while Chara is no longer the same Norris Trophy winning defenseman he once was – he will have a great advantage while playing overseas and should complement any club he joins. Don’t be surprised if a KHL team contacts Chara this summer about making the transition overseas.
3 Daniel & Henrik Sedin
Not only would it be hard for NHL fans across North America to picture Vancouver Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin (twin brothers) playing for any other NHL club, but it would be even more difficult for the twin brothers to don any other sweater than that of a Canucks. The Sedins were drafted by the Canucks (back-to-back) at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, and have made it clear that they will never separate from playing with each other.
So, as the Sedin twins near the end of their NHL careers, and with Vancouver in the beginning stages of a rebuilding phase, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin should consider playing overseas as soon as possible. The Swedish natives are set to become unrestricted-free-agents after next season, so the move could happen sooner than most would expect.
2 Marian Hossa
Another aging NHL veteran, and Slovakian native, that could end up playing overseas is current Chicago Blackhawks forward, Marian Hossa. The right winger is having another solid NHL season, and is a key reason why the Blackhawks are back to being one of the top three teams in the NHL again. But, if the Hawks were to go on and win their fourth Stanley Cup in less than 10 seasons – don’t be surprised is Hossa decides to retire from the NHL and play overseas.
The 38-year-old is under contract with Chicago until the end of the 2021 season, yet it’s probable Hossa will retire before that date. Like Chara (noted above), Hossa would more than likely make the transition to play overseas and while playing in the KHL for a Slovak-based organization.
1 Nail Yakupov
Unfortunately for Russian forward, Nail Yakupov, the time may have arrived where the former first-overall draft-pick should consider heading back home and to play professional hockey overseas. Yakupov was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but has failed to produce more than 33 points in a regular season, thus far.
The five-foot-11 winger is set to become an unrestricted-free-agent this offseason, and while teams such as the Vegas Golden Knights may take interest in the youngster, the chances are that Yakupov will receive a better offer from a KHL club. The former Oiler has been flirting with the term bust ever since he entered the league back in 2012-13, and one could imagine that a majority of NHL clubs will take little interest in the former first-overall-pick.
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