Although the Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing with four excellent match-ups in the second round, as teams have been eliminated – and continue to be eliminated – from contention, players begin to make decisions about their futures. Knowing that they were not playoff-bound, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin announced their departure from the Vancouver Canucks and pro hockey before the end of the season. Former teammate Radim Vrbata made the same decision days later. The Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp announced that he was moving on, after a return to Chicago didn’t go as planned. Then, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin then got the off-season retirement party started last week, officially calling it a career. Meanwhile, for the third straight summer, Matt Cullen will be contemplating his hockey mortality. Who could be next?
Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla: Let’s start with the easy ones – a Calgary Flames legend and a legend whose career likely ended with the Calgary Flames. Jagr and Iginla were both pushing hard for a final chance at the NHL last summer and both players continued their searches into the regular season. Jagr finally landed a deal with the Flames in October, but health issues and a lack of productions made for a poor tenure in Calgary. Jagr recorded just seven points in 22 games before heading back to his native Czech Republic in January. Iginla opted to undergo surgery in the fall, but was back skating in February and hoping to sign on with a team for the stretch run and postseason. However, no such offer came. These two have been a couple of the biggest names in hockey since the 1990’s and are surefire Hall of Famers, but there is little doubt that their NHL playing days are behind them. Expect official announcements this summer.
Brian Gionta: Gionta is in a similar spot. Unable to find a contract last off-season, Gionta worked out and skated with the AHL’s Rochester Americans ahead of his appearance with Team USA at Winter Olympics. It was a less-than-spectacular showing by the veteran, but he still managed to turn it into a late-season contract with the Boston Bruins. Gionta posted seven points in 20 games with the Bruins in the final months of the regular season, but has yet to see any playoff action, despite ample opportunity given injuries to multiple Boston players heading into and during Round One. Gionta’s play with the Bruins has not exactly harked back to his prime, but nevertheless has shown effort and intelligence. He may have earned another look next season, but it’s more likely than not that this current run with Boston will be the curtain call for Gionta.
Chris Kelly: Kelly also played at the Winter Games and signed on late like Gionta. However, both he and his team have not had similar success. Kelly saw just 12 games with the Anaheim Ducks after signing in February and only contributed two points to show for it. The Ducks were then swept out of the playoffs without Kelly having any say in the matter as a healthy scratch all season. Kelly surprised a lot of people when he played in all 82 games with the Ottawa Senators last season, but this short campaign has shown that the years of dependable play have caught up with him.
Mike Fisher: Will Fisher re-retire? Almost surely. No one can blame Fisher for not wanting to miss out on a possible Cup run by the Nashville Predators one season after coming so close, but Fisher’s presence on the team thus far has been more about leadership and morale than on-ice impact. Fisher had just four points in 16 games down the stretch while averaging just over twelve minutes of ice time and thus far in the postseason has been held scoreless in seven games while seeing barely eleven minutes of time. Fisher’s days as a legitimate player seem to clearly be over, but he could still make a difference for Nashville in these playoffs with the right opportunity.
Dominic Moore: There may be no other player in the game today who has thrived by being a hired gun like Moore. Throughout his career, the veteran center has been able to join a new team, adjust, and play a critical support role. So, when that pattern fell apart this year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it signaled the coming end to Moore’s career. Moore was common scratch for the Leafs and averaged only about ten minutes of ice time per night, but with twelve points in 50 games, he also didn’t make the most of his opportunities. If any player in the league can adapt to being 38-years-old and coming off a down season by finding the perfect fit for another go-round, it’s Moore, but don’t be surprised if he calls it quits instead.
Joel Ward: There’s no doubt that Ward would like to keep playing. A hard-nosed player and a consummate pro, Ward has been a reliable piece to every team he has been on. However, there is no looking past what by all accounts was the worst season of his career in 2017-18. Just twelve points in 52 games and less than twelve minutes of ice time per game shows just how small a role he played for the San Jose Sharks this year and that’s not even including the fact that the Sharks tried to trade him at the deadline and have yet to play him in the postseason. Ward’s time in San Jose is undeniably over, but that doesn’t mean another team can’t take a one-year flier on him. At this point, it seems unlikely though.
Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Oduya: What else do these two 36-year-old, left-shot, physical defenders have in common? Their time has come. Seidenberg’s resurgence with the New York Islander was a great story last season, but he came back to earth in this campaign and was limited by injuries and inability to just 28 games and five points. Oduya has had back-to-back disappointing seasons like that, recording only 17 points in 104 games with four different teams across the past two seasons. Dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers at the deadline, Oduya did nothing, skating in just one regular season game and zero postseason games. Both of these men have been admirable NHLers, but it’s hard to see either continuing to play.
On the bubble: Jason Chimera, Antoine Vermette, and Kevin Bieksa, Anaheim Ducks; Josh Gorges, Buffalo Sabres; Matt Stajan, Calgary Flames; Lee Stempniak, Carolina Hurricanes; Ales Hemsky, Montreal Canadiens; Scottie Upshall, St. Louis Blues; Jussi Jokinen, Vancouver Canucks.