Every offseason, the NHL always manages to surprise us with players unexpectedly retiring that we didn’t see coming. For instance, last year we saw Pavel Datsyuk leave the NHL for the KHL due to family reasons. This also happened with players like Shawn Horcoff and Cody McCormick. What makes things more unfortunate is roughly half of these unexpected retirements come from players not being able to land a contract even over in the European leagues making their only option to hang them up for good.
Now that the 2016-17 season is fully underway, we’re already seeing aging players fall down the depth charts to younger, faster players who, even though lack the experience, still get the slot due to their speed. This top 15 list will be counting down stars who may just retire when the year is over. Some you may agree with, others you may disagree with. Some may shock you, while some may not. Either way, here is our list for The Top 15 NHLers Who Will Retire After 2016-17.
15 Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators
Mike Fisher has been playing on the second line so far this season behind Ryan Johansen. With Mike Ribeiro’s talent, it’s only a matter of time before he’s moved up to line two. And with Colton Sissons on the come up as a serious prospect, who's currently on the fourth line, by season’s end he could be filling that third line role, potentially pushing Fisher down to the fourth line. Now at 36 and with his play declining every year since the 2013-14 season, you can expect Fisher to potentially call it a career at the end of this season. If he does, Nashville has three solid centre prospects in the system ready to make a push in next year's training camp, filling Fisher’s void in the lineup. The only red flag we see is that he was just named Nashville's captain, meaning he could stretch it out a few more seasons in a leadership role.
14 Matt Cullen, Pittsburgh Penguins
Matt Cullen will be turning 40 in November and to still be playing at that age in the current NHL is a huge achievement on its own. He is very well expected to retire at year's end though. Matt’s currently filling out Pittsburgh's third line hoping for another Stanley Cup win before it’s all over. When he inevitably does retire, likely at year's end, the Penguins won’t have to worry about filling the void since they have centres like Oskar Sundqvist and Kevin Porter ready to make the jump. When Cullen does retire, he will leave the NHL with two Stanley Cup victories (maybe a third if things go right this year), as well as 661 points in 1,298 total games, and that’s not including what he’ll do the rest of the season. Not bad for a second round pick from 1996.
13 Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin has had himself a pretty prolific career, managing great season totals year in and year out, including some World Championship medals. All the talk this year though is how it might be his last. With Vancouver doing a full on rebuild and getting the youth movement well underway, it's genuine possibility for him to retire from the NHL. Or at least leave the Canucks and return back home to Sweden to finish out his career, much like Pavel Datsyuk did when he left Detroit for Russia this summer. The Canucks won’t be hurting when this happens though, as their core of wingers is deep, young and very fast. Daniel will unquestionably go down as an all-time great for the Canucks since he has a total, as of now, of 944 points in 1,146 games played.
12 Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Just like his brother at number 13, Henrik Sedin has done much of the same for the Canucks, but he’s just been a little bit better at it though. If his brother retires, Henrik will likely take the same route as Daniel, cause well, they do everything together. Vancouver already has pieces in place with players like Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput and Brandon Sutter to round out the centre core. With those two potentially out of the picture for the Canucks, expect Vancouver to get young and fast quickly. Henrik, like his brother again, will also go down as an all-time great for the Canucks, as he’s scored a terrific 972 points in 1,169 games played so far. The 2016 off-season is going to be a big one for Canucks fans.
11 Dennis Wideman, Calgary Flames
Some are starting to believe that this will be Dennis Wideman’s last year in the NHL. He’s currently been a healthy scratch for Calgary, falling behind on their depth chart to their younger and faster defencemen. With players like Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon and Oliver Kylington fighting for a spot next offseason, Wideman will likely not find himself in Calgary as he's becoming an UFA. At 33 years of age, some will think he still has some years left, but with his declining speed and offensive talents, he’ll be hard pressed to land an NHL contract. That could leave him with a few options. He could hopefully sign a contract in Europe, get a PTO and prove himself or retire. The latter seems to be the most likely option. To date, Wideman has played in a total of 760 games scoring 370 points.
10 Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
At 37 years old, falling down the lineup to the third line and declining in play over the last two seasons, 2016-17 could be Marleau’s last year in the NHL. This likely won’t hurt the Sharks overall since their left side is looking pretty good for the future. Players like Tomas Hertl, Mikkel Boedker, Michael Haley, Matt Nieto and Nikolay Goldobin are serious players/prospects. Marleau will definitely be missed though in the locker room, as he’s done a lot for San Jose over his 18 year career, including helping the team make the Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. He’s spent his entire career with the squad, so expect his number to be retired as well the year following his decision.
9 Brooks Laich, Toronto Maple Leafs
When Toronto acquired Brooks Laich from Washington last season, many thought he would come into the 2016-17 season as a potential captain and role model for their younger players. However, it seems Toronto wanted to take a different approach this year with a full on youth movement. This series of decisions made by management ultimately had Laich being sent down to the AHL. At 33 years old and his play declining faster than we can talk about it, Laich will most likely spend the rest of his year down with the Marlies unless injuries occur in TO. Laich’s contract is also up this season making him a free agent after the 2016-17 campaign. With all of that in mind, he’ll be hard pressed to land himself a contract in the NHL, meaning he will most likely retire.
8 Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators
Watching Chris Neil play has always been a thrill, as he loves to skate around and hit everyone in sight, as well as potting the occasional goal here and there. However, we think that 2016/17 could be his last year in the NHL, as his role in the NHL is starting to fade away and he's having trouble keeping up with younger, faster players. With Ottawa’s prospects on both sides of the wing very deep, and with a few ready to make a jump next season, Neil is likely going to be the odd man out. If you’re a Sens fan worrying about a big body being gone that will protect the young guys, don't worry, they still have Mark Borowiecki!
7 Brian Gionta, Buffalo Sabres
2016-17 will see Brian Gionta captain the Buffalo Sabres for the last time, as well as play in the NHL for the last time. When January rolls around, Gionta will turn 38. With the winger cores deep now in Buffalo and his contract ending this summer, Gionta will likely call it a career and most likely hand over the “C” to someone like Jack Eichel, who is the new face of the franchise. Gionta was originally a third round draft pick by the New Jersey Devils in 1998 and he even won a cup with those Devils in 2002/03. At the moment, Gionta is playing on the second line in Buffalo, but will soon fall to the third when Tyler Ennis or Matt Moulson inevitably moves up or when Evander Kane returns. As of now, Gionta has scored a total of 556 points in 927 games played.
6 Andrew Ference, Edmonton Oilers
When Andrew Ference was brought in by Edmonton, he was expected to be the solution to some of their defensive issues and he was also handed the “C.” However, things didn’t work out that way for Ference. While also spending time as a healthy scratch, he also had the “C” pulled from him (to make way for McDavid) and he's now on the injured reserve with a hip injury that'll cost him the year and that he thinks might end his career. Add in the fact that he’ll be 38 in March and it seems everything is in place for Ference to hang them up and call it quits. Everything points to 2016-17 being the last for Ference in the NHL.
5 Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche
Another aging defencemen who will likely be calling it a career at year's end is Francois Beauchemin. Colorado needing some experience on the back-end is likely the reason that Beauchemin is still in the lineup. Once next year rolls around and Duncan Siemens, Chris Bigras, Ryan Stanton and Mat Clark are all competing for full time NHL jobs, Beauchemin could be the lonely man on the outside looking in. Since he’ll be 37 by this time next year and with only one year left on his deal, expect him to do what Pavel did last year and sign overseas or retire - if he isn’t bought out first. Either way, 2016-17 could be the last year he suits up for the Avs. In 758 career games, he’s managed 255 points to date along with one Stanley Cup.
4 Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche
A guaranteed Hall of Famer, Jarome Iginla has been one heck of a player, achieving almost anything you can dream of achieving in the NHL, except winning a Stanly Cup. Jarome currently sits 40th overall in all time scoring and he’s been playing on the first line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog so far this season, showing he can still play with elite talent. However, we think it's possible he won’t be able to manage this much longer since he’s declined in points the last two seasons and is expected to do the same this year. Iginla's contract expires this summer and when it does, he’ll be 40 years of age. So we expect him to retire at the end of the season. Iginla has a total of 1,274 points in 1,477 games to date and the league will definitely be different without him around.
3 Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes
Many assumed Shane Doan would retire after the 2015-16 season, but Arizona offered him a one year deal. Some think this was to bring him back to help younger players like Christian Dvorak, Dylan Strome and Jakob Chychrun adjust to life in the NHL. No one understands the Coyotes like Doan does, as he's managed an impressive 1,468 games played to date with the franchise and even played in Winnipeg when they were still the Jets. Shane turned 40 years old two days before the season kicked off this year and with his one year deal finishing after this season, we think he might call it a career. Shane Doan will leave the game with 947 points, not including what he will score this year, and unfortunately for him his resume is only missing one thing; a Stanley Cup Championship.
2 Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes
Zbynek Michalek, the older brother of Maple Leafs forward Milan, has been a steady stay at home defender during his time in the NHL. However, with Arizona’s youth taking over the team, Michalek showed his age in practice when he couldn’t keep up. He hasn’t played a single game so far this season, after being sent down to the AHL. Zbynek’s contract expires after this season and, when it does, he’ll be 34 years old. Not fairly old, but not very young either. The issue is the game is just to quick for him now. Michalek has played 781 career games with 178 points so far. Expect Michalek to retire after this season or go sign overseas, but either way his time in the NHL is likely over.
1 Stephane Robidas, Toronto Maple Leafs
When Toronto brought in Stephane Robidas before the 2014-15 season, their expectations for him resembled what Edmonton had planned for Andrew Ference and lead their inexperienced defensive core. That didn’t go quite as planned for the Maple Leafs. Robidas only played 52 games for Toronto in three years, missing this year and last year from not passing team physicals due to injury. With Stephane turning 40 next month and one year left on his contract, it’s safe to assume his time in the NHL is over. At 40 years of age it’s gonna be hard for Robidas to land a contract in the NHL. He's already pretty much retired, as he's taken a player consultant role in the Maple Leafs front office. Unless something changes, Robidas won't be back in the NHL.