6 NHL Free Agents Who Should Retire Rather Than Wait out the Lockout

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

6 NHL Free Agents Who Should Retire Rather Than Wait out the Lockout

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    Every hockey player knows that the day will come when he eventually has to say goodbye to his sport.

    Some players realize it after injuries have taken away their speed and skill.

    Other players lose their desire or hunger.

    The aging process turns the game's greatest phenoms into struggling athletes.

    Some may have wanted one more shot at playing in the 2012-13 season, but the lockout has kept them from getting that opportunity.

    Here's a look at six players who should decide to call it a career rather than wait for an unlikely opportunity to result in full-time NHL employment.

Andrew Brunette, Chicago

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    39-year-old Andrew Brunette has been a solid player throughout his career, which began in the 1995-96 season with the Washington Capitals.

    Brunette has never been an All-Star, but he has scored 20 or more goals six times in his career.

    He is not a dramatic, game-breaking type of player, but he has fit in well on many teams.

    However, those days may be over. Brunette scored 18 goals in 2010-11 with the Minnesota Wild and just 12 goals last season with the Blackhawks.

    He doesn't appear to have much left in the tank and retirement seems a likely decision.

Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay

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    It's going to be very difficult for Dwayne Roloson to find a starting or backup goalie position in the NHL.

    Roloson, 42, is coming off the worst season of his career. He had a record of 13-16-3 last season along with an inflated 3.66 goals-against average and a shocking .886 save percentage.

    It's hard for NHL teams to trust goaltending positions to netminders over 40 when they have struggled so badly the previous season.

Mike Knuble, Washington

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    Mike Knuble has been a solid power forward who has had his best seasons with the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.

    Knuble, 40, has always been the kind of player who can anchor himself near the net and has excelled at creating havoc in front of opposing goaltenders.

    He also has a solid wrist shot that he gets away quickly.

    Knuble suffered a precipitous drop last year in his production. He scored 24 goals in 2010-11, but that figure fell to six goals in 2011-12.

    Knuble may want to see if he can bounce back from last year's poor showing, but the lockout may force him to take a more realistic long-term view.

Jason Blake, Anaheim

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    Jason Blake started his career with the Los Angeles Kings in 1998-99, but he didn't become a solid NHL contributor until he scored 25 goals for the New York Islanders in 2002-03.

    Blake, 39, may have a hard time hooking on with another team. He has had three straight seasons with fewer than 20 goals and he scored just seven goals in 45 games last year.

    Blake may not have a place in the NHL next season since he is coming off a wrist injury that kept him off the ice for nearly half the season.

    Blake overcame a rare form of leukemia and played in all 82 games of the 2007-08 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jochen Hecht, Buffalo

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    Jochen Hecht, 35, played just 22 games last season for the Buffalo Sabres.

    He struggled with concussion-related issues and that kept his productivity to a minimum. While he is normally a checker and defensive-minded player, Hecht scored just four goals and four assists last season.

    That's significantly below his career numbers.

    It may be difficult for Hecht to stay healthy and win an NHL roster spot. As a result, retirement may be his best option.

Ty Conklin, Detroit

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    Ty Conklin has been a functional goalie throughout his career.

    But there was quite a bit of slippage last season, when he lost his backup position in Detroit after recording a 5-6-1 record with a 3.28 goals-against average and a dreadful .884 save percentage.

    Conklin, 36, is likely to have a difficult time getting a chance to play in the NHL. He has had a save percentage below the .900 mark in six of his last nine NHL seasons.