For several long-time NHL veterans, this upcoming season could be their last as active players.
Martin Brodeur: Arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history, the 41-year-old Brodeur is entering the final year of his two-year contract. While the coaching staff publicly claims Brodeur and newly-acquired heir apparent Cory Schneider will evenly split the goaltending duties, don’t be surprised over the course of the season if Schneider gets most of the starts, especially if the Devils are jockeying for a playoff berth. Brodeur’s had a tremendous career ( three Stanley Cup rings and plenty of individual awards), but this season will be his last.
Jaromir Jagr: The five-time Art Ross Trophy winner showed flashes of his old brilliance over the past two seasons with the Flyers, Stars and Bruins, and he likely will again this season with the New Jersey Devils. However, age has robbed the 41-year-old Jagr of his speed, making him more reliant on his linemates than ever before. He needs only 19 goals to reach the 700-goal plateau and only 12 points to reach 1,700, which should nicely cap the career of one of the NHL’s greatest forwards.
Teemu Selanne. The seemingly ageless “Finnish Flash” recently agreed to one more season with the Anaheim Ducks, the club with which he’s spent most of his 20 NHL seasons. Though only two years removed from an 80-point season, age is slowly but surely catching up with the 43-year-old Selanne. He’s only 25 goals from reaching the 700-goal club, which could be achievable if he can stay healthy. Selanne’s hinted at retirement in recent years, but he’s said this one will be his last.
Daniel Alfredsson. Though widely expected to finish his career with the Ottawa Senators, the 40-year-old Alfredsson opted instead this summer to ink a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. He remains a capable offensive contributor, but his production has been in a slow but steady decline since his career-high of 103 points in ’05-’06. This could be his final NHL season, which he hopes will give him one last shot at a Stanley Cup title.
Ray Whitney. Only two seasons ago, Whitney led the Phoenix Coyotes with 77 points in 82 games. Despite injury last season, the 41-year-old still managed a respectable 29 points in 32 games with the Dallas Stars. Though a model of consistency through most of his 21-year NHL seasons, the clock could be winding down on Whitney’s career. This is the final season of his contract, and a downturn in his performance could make it his last as an NHL player.
J-S Giguere: The 2003 Conn Smythe Winner hasn’t been in a starting role for several years, spending the past two seasons as a backup for the Colorado Avalanche. Once ranked among the NHL’s top goaltenders, the 36-year-old Giguere’s NHL career appears to be winding down. His future as an NHL player could depend upon his performance this season.
Todd Bertuzzi: The NHL’s best power forward a decade ago, Bertuzzi’s spent the past several seasons as an effective depth forward with the Detroit Red Wings. Injuries limited him to only seven games last season, and he’ll be jockeying for ice time this season with younger teammates. After 17 NHL seasons, this one could be the last for the 38-year-old Bertuzzi.
Ryan Smyth: Though he remains a fan favorite in Edmonton, there’s no denying the decline in the 37-year-old Smyth’s performance over the past two seasons. In what could well be his last NHL season, Smyth is expected to see limited action this season on the Oilers checking lines.
Nikolai Khabibulin: A combination of age (40), injury and off-ice legal problems have conspired to crumble the once-mighty ‘Bulin Wall’. He’ll see limited action with the Chicago Blackhawks, backing up starter Corey Crawford.
Saku Koivu: The former Canadiens captain is still revered in Montreal, but he’s quietly enjoyed the past four seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. He posted decent numbers last season (27 points in 47 games), but inked only a one-year contract this summer with the Ducks. Heading into his 18th season, Koivu is reaching the end of his NHL career.
Evgeni Nabokov: After refusing to report to the NY Islander via waivers two years ago, he’s since settled in well, becoming popular with his teammates. Still, his inconsistency was very apparent last season, and if he doesn’t improve, this season could be the 38-year-old Nabokov’s last as an NHL goaltender.
Kimmo Timonen: Despite a nagging back injury over the past two years, Timonen was the workhorse of the Philadelphia Flyers defense. He hinted this season could be his last, but recently appeared to hedge on that suggestion. The 38-year-old blueliner’s future will depend upon his performance over the course of another long 82-game regular season grind.
Sami Salo: He posted respectable numbers on a Tampa Bay Lightning last season. At 39 and entering his 15th NHL season, however, the oft-injured Salo is nearing the end of his career.