Some of the best NHL careers can come to an unanticipated screeching halt. Production can dissipate on a drop of a dime and lavished careers end on a poor note. Highs turn to lows, leaving the player, organization, and fans frustrated. In some cases it was a late trade or signing that didn't play out as anyone would hope, and instead they provide their new team with less than stellar contributions. At least that was the case when Mats Sundin put off retirement for one more year with the Vancouver Canucks.
We can't pretend money doesn't play a factor either. It's been long argued that too much money can flip a motivated player into a lackluster one, which you'll see in the list. Big contracts don't always motivate, and locker room politics or chemistry can also play a major role. When a top name player moves to your favorite team, you expect a big impact right off the start, and for the most part that's what you got when you think of the Gretzky trade, or the Brett Hull trade to St. Louis, or more recently with Tyler Seguin in Dallas.
When a player doesn't pan out some teams play the situation patiently, hoping it's just an adjustment like Paul Kariya's forgettable time in Colorado. Other teams try to pass the player off as quickly as possible, like David Clarkson's awful signing in Toronto or Alexander Semin's brief and disappointing stint in Montreal.
There's plenty of examples of players changing teams and falling off the map, so we gathered the top 15 and listed them here for you:
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15 Wade Redden
Once touted as one of Ottawa's premier defensemen, Wade Redden helped the team reach the playoffs 9 out of the 10 seasons he played there. Consistent and well-rounded, Redden realized he had a good thing going with the Senators, and made it public he'd take a pay cut to stay. The Senators had other plans; they tried moving Redden a few times before his contract expired, but a no-trade clause kept the optimistic defensemen from going anywhere.
So what happened? Redden eventually signed with the New York Rangers. He quickly fizzled out, and was even playing in the AHL before the team bought out his six-year contract. Redden tried to make an NHL comeback but called it a career after 14 seasons.
14 Paul Kariya
Paul Kariya is one of the greatest Ducks of all time. He spent most of his career with Anaheim and helped them to their first Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils. He put up outstanding numbers and to this day you can still see his jersey being worn at the Honda Center. What you won't see is his name on an Avalanche or Blues jersey.
Despite efforts from both sides to ink a deal, the Anaheim Ducks let Kariya go to free agency where he memorably signed a one-year deal and fell off the map in Colorado. Kariya was resilient and returned to form when he moved to Nashville for two seasons. However, Kariya would fall off the map once more in St. Louis, no thanks to a handful of injuries and eventually retired due to post concussion syndrome.
13 Mike Green
There was a time when Mike Green was mentioned as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Green was putting up stellar offensive numbers with a great plus-minus to boot. It would only last a few seasons before Green's production fell to career lows, and then back up to average but respectable numbers leading up to the end of his contract.
Confident that Green needed a change of scenery, the Red Wings signed the veteran to a $18 million, three-year contract. What they got was another decline in Green's production. Despite tallying 35 points, only 10 would be even strength. A measly seven goals (5 PPGs) and a minus-6, a drop of minus-21 from last season. Green and Detroit will be desperately hoping for a bounce-back season.
12 Scott Gomez
Somewhere out there a Montreal fan is still groaning about his team's acquiring of Scott Gomez, a once prominent player with the New Jersey Devils. There were several seasons where Gomez was netting over 50 points, including his first season with the Canadiens. His first season with Quebec's team would prove to be his last productive year in the NHL.
Gomez completely fell off the map after that season. Going as long as an entire calendar year without tallying a goal, which was especially horrifying to Canadien fans considering the dimming star was still being paid a humbling $7 million for a 4th line effort.
Montreal would eventually buyout his contract, and Gomez began a tenure of short stints with 5 different clubs, most recently; centering the 3rd and 4th lines for 13 games in Ottawa this past season.
11 Martin Havlat
A promising first round selection by the Ottawa Senators, Havlat was an offensive threat right out of the gate. Despite his bursts of elite scoring capabilities, he was often criticized for being a defensive liability and health issues. Havlat was eventually traded to the Blackhawks where he continued to thrive offensively with 161 points in 172 games.
At the end of the 2008-09 season, the Chicago Blackhawks had no interest in offering a long-term deal to the dazzling Czech forward and things ended rather sourly between the parties. The result would see Havlat sign a healthy six-year $30 million contract with the Minnesota Wild. His defensive liability reached an astonishing low with his new club and they quickly shipped him off to San Jose where Havlat would slowly fade from the league with injury and performance issues.
10 Mats Sundin
Sundin played 13 seasons with the Maple Leafs as a point-per-game player. Sundin would lead by example, but his team wouldn't ever reach a Stanley Cup Final. After contemplating retirement in 2008, Mats instead decided to make one last run at the Stanley Cup with the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately for the Canucks, it seemed Sundin was only interested in the postseason, tallying a modest 28 points in 41 regular season games-- well below expectations.
Sundin would rally with eight points in eight postseason games, but the Canucks fell well short of a championship. Sundin announced his retirement at the end of the season, and as bad as he fell off the map in Vancouver, we can't blame him for trying.
9 Alexander Semin
Semin was peppered in controversy from the very beginning of his career, and it opened the door for critics. Labelled as a lazy, one-dimensional player, Semin provided Washington a complimentary offensive threat with phenom, Alexander Ovechkin. Once his asking price became too high the Capitals let the winger test free agency. In 2012, the Carolina Hurricanes signed Semin to a one-year, $7 million contract and he was able to produce 44 points in 44 games that season while netting 13 goals.
The honeymoon quickly faded when Semin netted only 42 points in 65 games the next season and followed it up with a lackluster 19 points in 57 games in the 2014-15 season. The Hurricanes terminated the contract and Semin tried to rekindle his career in Montreal, but after 15 games and only 4 points, the Canadiens demoted the struggling forward, and Semin decided he'd rather play in the KHL.
8 Eric Staal
Our most recent example of a player falling off the map on a new team is Eric Staal. After a long and modestly successful 12-year tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes, which saw the star forward post his one and only 100-point season on his way to winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, Staal was shipped out to New York.
The Rangers acquired the oldest Staal brother in an attempt to energize the 31-year-old and benefit from a rejuvenation in the hopes of a deep playoff run. Instead, Staal posted six points in 20 games leading up to the playoffs and topped off going scoreless with a minus-7. It remains to be seen if Staal can bounce back next season, but so far he's fallen off the map in New York.
7 Brad Richards
Brad Richards successfully changed teams a few times. He was a leader on Tampa Bay before heading to Dallas where he was producing a point per game, and he even provided a bit of consistency in New York with the Rangers. It would seem age had a lot to do with Richards' regression but since leaving the Ranger in 2013, Richards has struggled to find his game, and an organization to call home.
With the Chicago Blackhawks, his top line production diminished to a career-low 37 regular season points. Trying his luck again this season with Detroit, Brad Richards fell right off the map with a measly 28 points. We're not sure how long he'll be in Motor City, but it seems Richards is closer to retirement than ever at age 36.
6 Vincent Lecavalier
One of the greatest and longest serving captains in Tampa Bay Lightning history, Lecavalier was a dominant household name for almost a decade. He's played over 1,200 NHL games, and 1,000 of them were with the Lightning. Once age began to take a toll on the centre and his $7.7 million contract deemed too much, Tampa Bay bought out their leader's contract and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
In the hopes of rejuvenating the 33-year-old star, the Philadelphia Flyers signed Lecavalier to a five-year contract for $22.5 million. What they got in return was a player obviously struggling with the transition and incapable of fitting the Flyers mold. In the third season of his contract, Lecavalier moved to Los Angeles where his production continued to decline. He announced his retirement following the Kings' playoff loss to San Jose.
5 David Clarkson
An important piece of the Devils franchise, Clarkson provided New Jersey with a strong physical presence with a bit of scoring upside. The two-dimensional grinder's veteran presence was meant to make the Maple Leafs a better hockey team. Hopeful that Clarkson would provide a long-term impact on the team, the Leafs signed the gritty forward to a seven-year contract worth $36.75 million. A disastrous deal which saw Clarkson regress for back to back career-low seasons.
Posed as a huge salary cap problem, the Leafs were saved by the Columbus Blue Jackets who desperately needed an active, healthy player to replace Nathan Horton's equally large contract. It doesn't change the fact that Clarkson is displaced, and has fallen off the map since leaving the New Jersey Devils.
4 Andrew Raycroft
By now you've all heard of happenings leading to one of the worst franchise moves by the Toronto Maple Leafs, ever. After one of the best rookie campaigns ever seen by goaltender, Raycroft doused the competition and took home the Calder Trophy in the 2003-04 season. The following year, the magic seemed lost and the netminder struggled mightily before being shipped to Toronto for future franchise goalie, Tuukka Rask-- you may have heard of him.
The move marked a turning point in Raycroft's career, and the goaltender fell off the map quicker than any other player on this list. After unsuccessful stints with Colorado, Vancouver, and Dallas, Raycroft played two seasons in Europe before announcing his retirement in 2014.
3 Mark Messier
An NHL legend never really falls off the map, but if there was ever an example of one it'd have to be Mark Messier's time with Vancouver. First, he demanded his trademark 11 jersey number which was unofficially retired in honor of Wayne Maki. He followed that up with stripping the captaincy from Vancouver favorite Trevor Linden and proceeded to post some of his worst career numbers for the next three seasons, failing to help the struggling Canucks get into the playoffs.
After the botched stint with Vancouver, Messier returned to the Garden and its Rangers. He played three more seasons but only put up one last respectable point total before calling it a career. If a legend had ever fallen off the map after changing teams, it was Mark Messier.
2 Eric Lindros
Eric Lindros was an incredible player and a force not to be messed with. He wore orange and black, and made the Broad Street Bullies proud in his time with the Philadelphia Flyers. A power forward for the ages, an Alex Ovechkin with more bark and bite. Lindros had a shortened career that spiraled after leaving the Flyers.
When Bobby Clarke traded the star forward to New York, it was the turning point of a major decline in Lindros' career. His first season with the Rangers, Lindros barely held onto his career-long, point-a-game production (73 points in 72 games) before finishing with a modest 53 points in 81 games in 2002-03. The next three seasons his point totals fell to 32, 22, and 26 with the Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Stars respectively. In those last three seasons, Lindros missed over 130 regular season games due to injuries before eventually retiring.
1 Alexei Yashin
One of the best cases of a player falling off the map after a team change is Alexei Yashin. In his time with the Ottawa Senators, Yashin posted dominating numbers right from his rookie season, netting 30 goals and tallying 79 points in 83 games of the 1993-94 NHL season. He'd continue to shine with the Senators (on the ice) totaling 491 points in 504 regular season games.
His time with Ottawa was tainted after he held out for an entire season over contract disputes before being dealt to Long Island. The New York Islanders thought they were landing a superstar, and hastily signed Yashin to a 10-year $87.5 million deal. The deal would haunt the team for over a decade.
Yashin famously fell off the map after the lucrative deal and was eventually bought out, returning to Russia to finish his hockey career.
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