With NHL training camps set to open in a month’s time, a number of players remain available in this summer’s free-agent market. Some could be signed before the season begins in October. Most, however, face the end of their NHL playing careers.
A few aging stars (Martin Brodeur, Daniel Alfredsson, Saku Koivu and Sami Salo) could be among the lucky ones to continue their careers for one more season. Brodeur has stated his willingness to play one more season. Alfredsson will test his back to determine if he’ll return with the Detroit Red Wings. Koivu and Salo have yet to decide on returning or retiring.
Other notables won’t get the opportunity to make that choice.
Only three years ago, Tim Thomas was on top of the hockey world, winning the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP backstopping the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship in nearly 40 years. His stock has plummeted since then, due to a combination of age (he’s now 40), outspoken political opinions, taking a year off following the previous lockout, and a sub-par performance last season with the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars .
Another goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, also had a big year in 2011, inking a lucrative nine-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Two years later, the Flyers used a compliance buyout to ditch the remaining seven years of his contract. That left Bryzgalov, known more for his off-beat observations of hockey and life in general than for his goaltending, playing for Edmonton and Minnesota last season. Given Bryzgalov’s reputation as a flake, he’s probably played his last NHL game.
Age has likely brought an end to 41-year-old left wing Ray Whitney’s 22-year NHL career. His performance significantly declined last season with the Dallas Stars.
Todd Bertuzzi was once among the NHL’s elite power forwards, but he’s been on a slow decline since his glory days a decade ago with the Vancouver Canucks. At 39, Big Bert’s 18-year NHL career is probably over.
Center Scott Gomez tallied 637 points in his first 10 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, winning the Calder Trophy in 2000 as rookie of the year as well as being part of two Stanley Cup championships with the Devils. Over the past four seasons he managed a total of 76 points and has likely played his final NHL game.
Blood clots cost Tomas Vokoun all of last season. While the 38-year-old netminder is hoping to resume his NHL career, his history of blood clots and nagging lower-body injuries could bring his playing days to an end.
Age and injuries have caught up with 38-year-old defenseman Ed Jovanovski, likely bringing his 18-year career to a close. A broken heel sidelined defenseman Joni Pitkanen through all of last season. He reportedly hasn’t even started skating again, which doesn’t bode well for the continuation of his playing career.
Defenseman Mike Komisarek signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal in 2009 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Injuries, however, hampered his effectiveness and sidelined him for lengthy periods. Bought out by the Leafs last summer, Komisarek inked a one-year, $700K contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, but saw action in only 32 games. At 32, his NHL playing days are probably over.
Forward Ville Leino is only 30, but his poor performance with the Sabres (ended this summer when they bought out his contract) led to the perception he’s a lazy player, which doesn’t help his value.