An NHL player’s career lasts just 5.5 years on average so they need to be good enough to secure some financial security while they have the chance. And when given that chance they need to produce or find themselves shipped out to another team or sent to the minors. These 15 players below appear to be in the twilight of their careers regardless of their age and are having a tough time holding down a regular NHL roster spot. This doesn’t mean they were/are bad players, it just means they’ve fallen on hard times and may need to realize their NHL careers are close to an end or hanging in the balance.
Some players are young enough to rebound from their current situations, but they may want to check out other options such as playing in Europe or Russia. If they choose to stay in North America there’s a good chance they’ll be playing out the remainder of their careers down in the minor leagues. Some of these players have already been placed on waivers and others are regularly scratched by their head coaches. Most of them have shown they can produce at the top level and that can actually be a problem since there’s a lot expected of them. Once their production falls off they become expendable.
One of the main reasons these players may want to give up on their NHL dreams is because of the style of hockey they play. The NHL is leaning towards speed and skill these days and there isn’t much of a need for goons and enforcers. If you don’t bring something valuable to an NHL club these days you can easily be replaced by a younger and less expensive player from the minors. Some of the players on this list have bounced between the minors and NHL, but haven’t done anything at the elite level to prove to management that they belong.
15. Ben Scrivens
When goaltender Ben Scrivens shared the net with James Reimer in Toronto there were many fans who thought he was the better of the two. However, he was shipped off to the Los Angeles Kings in the Jonathan Bernier deal and his fate was sealed to being the backup to Jonathan Quick. Scrivens posted some great numbers with the Kings in a limited role and was dealt to Edmonton to be the number one. He also had some great games with the Oilers behind their shaky defence, but lost his job in the 2015-16 preseason. Scrivens wasn’t just demoted to the backup role with Edmonton, he was sent down to the minors with the Bakersfield Condors. It looked like Scrivens would get another chance when the freefalling Montreal Canadiens traded for him just after Christmas, but the 29-year-old’s been dreadful with the Habs. After his first four games he was 0-4 with a 3.84 goals-against average and an 87.3 save percentage. It appears the likeable Scrivens will find himself back in the minors as soon as Carey Price returns.
14. Steve Downie
Steve Downie is one of hockey’s bad boys who may have a hard time working his way back into the NHL and staying there. The 28-year-old signed a reported $1.75 million deal with the Arizona Coyotes as a free agent last summer so there’s a good chance he’ll get a few more games in at the NHL level this season since nobody wants to pay that type of money to a minor leaguer. However, the forward did recently get sent down to the AHL with the Springfield Falcons after being scratched for several games and clearing waivers. Downie has six points in 25 games with Arizona this season and if it wasn’t for his 53 minutes in penalties he’d rarely be seen on the game summary sheet.
13. Rich Clune
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Rich Clune is a battler on and off the ice and has overcome addiction problems. He gives 100 percent effort every shift, but unfortunately doesn’t have the skills to put the puck in the net on any kind of basis in the NHL. Clune has bounced up and down between the Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies this season and has accumulated a grand total of zero points in nine games with the big club. Clune is too small to be an enforcer and let’s face it, Mike Babcock’s teams have never been known for the rough stuff. In addition, enforcers are basically going the way of the dinosaur and becoming extinct these days. Although he’s just 28-years-old, Clune should realize he’s destined to be a career minor leaguer and can probably do well down in the AHL on a regular basis instead of going up and down between leagues every few weeks.
12. Zack Kassian
Although right winger Zack Kassian is just 25-years-old and was drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in 2009, he could end up being a career minor leaguer. Kassian played just 27 games with the Sabres before being shipped off to Vancouver in 2011-12. The Canucks traded him to Montreal last year for Brandon Prust, who also appears on this list, but he never played a game with the Habs due to suspensions related to substance abuse. The Canadiens placed him on waivers and didn’t want him to report to their minor league team after he wasn’t claimed. The Habs then sent him packing to the Edmonton Oilers for minor league goalie Ben Scrivens, who ironically is also a member of this list. Kassian was sent to Bakersfield of the AHL by Edmonton shortly after arriving and was recently recalled. If he can’t produce with the Oilers, Kassian may need to face the fact he’ll be confined to the minors or may want to head to Europe.
11. Mason Raymond
When your NHL team places you on waivers it’s usually a sign that you may want to check some other career options, especially if you’re just 30-years-old. Mason Raymond falls into this category and he may be another player who ends up in Europe. Raymond of the Calgary Flames had a good season back in 2013-14 when he scored 19 goals and 45 points for Toronto while on a one-year contract. He may now regret not staying with the Leafs. The left winger decided to join Calgary as a free agent, but had just four goals and an assist in 29 games this season. He posted 23 points in 57 contests with the Flames last year and has been scratched numerous times. When he does play, Raymond averages just over 1o minutes of ice time per game. Since Raymond has another year to go on his contract at just over $3 million, there’s a possibility that nobody will take a chance on him and his career could come to an end with the AHL’s Stockton Heat.
10. Brandon Prust
Like Mason Raymond, Brandon Prust was also recently placed on waivers and that’s not a good sign for the 31-year-old left winger. The Canucks are Prust’s fifth NHL team and they acquired him from Montreal last year for fellow list member Zack Kassian. Prust had just one goal in 35 games with Vancouver this season along with 6 assists and 59 penalty minutes. Prust is being paid $2.5 million this year and his contract expires at the end of the season. He’s been an under-performing enforcer this year and a player who has 115 career points in 486 games. Prust also has 1,036 penalty minutes so it’s no secret what his job is. Prust cleared waivers and was sent down to the Utica Comets of the AHL and could very well have played his last NHL game.
9. Ray Emery
Another goalie whose best days are well behind him is the 33-year-old Ray Emery. He’s been up and down between the AHL and NHL over the past several years and also spent a season over in Russia with the KHL. Emery has averaged just 26 NHL games per campaign since the 2007-08 season with the Ottawa Senators. Since then he’s bounced around to Philadelphia, Anaheim, Chicago, and back to Philadelphia. As of February, Emery had appeared in just nine games after the Tampa Bay Lightning released him from a pro tryout contract back in September. Three of those contests were with the Ontario Reign of the AHL and the other six were with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The controversial goalie was released by the Reign in early December and signed the tryout deal with the Marlies as an emergency replacement for the injured James Reimer and Garrett Sparks. However, with both of those goaltenders back Emery was released by Toronto on Feb. 4 after posting a 3.00 goals-against average with the Marlies along with an 88.8 save percentage. He had an 87.8 save percentage with the Reign and a 3.30 goals-against average and is quickly running out of options.
8. Tim Jackman
Right winger Tim Jackman of the Anaheim Ducks was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the 38th overall pick in 2001, but didn’t crack an NHL lineup until the 2008-09 season with the New York Islanders when he played in 69 games. In between, he played less than 20 games with Columbus, eight with Phoenix, and five with the Los Angeles Kings while playing most of his games with four different minor league clubs. Jackman was then able to hang onto an NHL roster spot for seven straight seasons with Calgary and Anaheim. However, he averaged just 44 games a season over the past three years. Jackman appeared in just two games with Anaheim this season before being sent down to the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. He’s now 34-years-old and had just a pair of points in his first 22 outings with the Gulls. It’s going to be hard for Jackman to crack another NHL lineup at this stage of his career.
7. Rob Scuderi
Defenceman Rob Scuderi’s name was rumoured to be on the trade block several times last year and the Pittsburgh Penguins eventually dealt him to the Chicago Blackhawks on December 14th. Scuderi had four assists in 25 games for Pittsburgh this season and had zero points after 16 appearances with Chicago. Scuderi is now starting to find himself listed as a healthy scratch on a regular basis. He has another year to go on his current contract though with a cap hit of $2.5 million next season. He could be on the move at the end of this campaign and if that doesn’t suit him he may want to consider retiring.
6. Scott Gomez
Centre Scott Gomez has had a hard time holding onto a fulltime job in the NHL over the past few years even though he was named the Rookie of the Year back in 1999-00 with New Jersey. In fact, the most games he’s played in an NHL season since 2011-12 was 58 with New Jersey last year. He played 21 games with St. Louis this season, before winding up with the Hershey Bears of the AHL after the Blues placed him on waivers. Gomez has played for six different NHL clubs during his career and is now a 36-year-old forward who lacks a scoring touch around the net. Gomez has just 21 NHL goals to his name since 2010-11. The Alaskan native enjoyed a fine NHL career, but it may be time to realize that it’s just about over.
5. Carlo Colaiacovo
33-year-old Carlo Colaiacovo appeared to have a bright future ahead of him in the NHL when he was drafted by the Maple Leafs with the 17th overall pick in 2001. However, things haven’t worked out that way for him. The injury-prone defenceman is now with his fifth NHL team in Buffalo and has been a healthy scratch for most of the season with just 4 assists in 20 games. He’s appeared in just 84 games over the past four seasons with four different teams: Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and now the Sabres. He’s managed to dress for only 454 contests since 2002 and it doesn’t look like his NHL career’s going to go much farther if he can’t get a game with a weak Sabres’ squad.
4. Tim Gleason
Defenceman Tim Gleason carved out a pretty good NHL career for himself from 2006 to 2013 after starting out with the Los Angeles Kings. His career derailed though when he was dealt to Toronto in the 2013-14 campaign. He played 39 games for the Leafs before they placed him on waivers for the purpose of buying him out. The 33-year-old returned to Carolina as a free agent last season and registered 7 points in 55 games. The Hurricanes then traded him to Washington last February and he racked up a pair of points in 17 games. The game has passed Gleason by due to his physical style of play. He can no longer keep up with the speed of today’s youngsters and nobody has taken a chance on him. Gleason hasn’t retired and is still a free agent, but his NHL days are likely over.
3. David Clarkson
What can be said about David Clarkson that hasn’t been said already? The former 30-goal scorer’s career has nosedived faster than a Kamikaze pilot ever since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent prior to the 2013-14 season. The 31-year-old winger was signed to a ridiculous seven-year, no-movement contract worth $36.75 million and still has four years to go on it. The Leafs miraculously traded him to Columbus for the inured Nathan Horton. Columbus figured they may as well get a warm body for the money they were paying Horton while the Leafs just wanted to get rid of Clarkson’s contract from their salary cap. When Clarkson is healthy, which is quite rare these days, he’s been a bust with Columbus as well. He’s played a grand total of 21 games with the Blue Jackets with a goal and assist to his name. Clarkson’s going to get a ton of money out of his Leafs’ deal, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to continue to be an NHL player. The Leafs hit the jackpot by trading Clarkson, but Columbus is now stuck with the contract as nobody will touch it with a 10-foot pole.
2. John Scott
AHL forward John Scott of the St. John’s Icecaps enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame at the NHL All-Star Game in Nashville recently by being voted in as team captain and then taking home the MVP Award and a brand new vehicle. However, unfortunately for the 33-year-old, career five-goalscorer, it seems he possesses decent hockey skills. He was never given the chance to display them during his time in the NHL though as each one of his coaches viewed him as nothing more than an enforcer. Scott scored a couple of goals during the All-Star weekend and registered a 95 mile-per-hour shot, but I’m afraid he’ll probably never be heard from again as an NHL player. At his age and the style of hockey he’s used for, Scott may want to go out on a high and consider retiring at the end of the season.
1. Raffi Torres
San Jose Sharks’ repeat offender Raffi Torres just recently served a 41-game suspension for gooning Anaheim Ducks’ player Jakob Silfverberg in a pre-season game last October and has now been demoted to the AHL. Torres is now toiling for the San Jose Barracuda down in the AHL and he might find himself buried down there for the rest of his career. It’s hard to believe the fifth-overall pick of the New York Islanders back in 2000 would waste such a promising career by continuously breaking the rules, but his days are numbered. Torres is now 34-years-old and with his seventh NHL franchise. Because of suspensions and poor play, the left winger played in just 39 games in 2012-13 and 5 games in 2013-14. He’s a loose cannon who should take a permanent break before his next suspension comes along.
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