Predicting Which Top NHL Veterans Will Retire After 2013-14

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2014

Predicting Which Top NHL Veterans Will Retire After 2013-14

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    These are the stars of yesterday hanging on for one more year. Recognized for names and roles in the game, this may be the last time we see them. 

    Some players are enjoying solid performances. Others have seen their skills erode to the point where a contract for next season is unlikely.

    Sooner or later, it happens to everyone. Here are the top 10 NHL veterans likely to retire after this season.

10. Douglas Murray, D, Montreal Canadiens

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Legacy: Douglas Murray has carved out a solid career as an NHL defenseman who brings physical play and nastiness to every shift. It's a difficult job, and a big man does it for obvious reasons. Murray's size (6'3", 245 lbs) made him an ideal player for the role.

     

    Current Status: There's a fine line for this player typelosing a step can have an enormous impact. He was an effective player for years in San Jose, and a credible performer when dealt to Pittsburgh. It has been a poor season in Montreal, and that has his future in doubt.

     

    Why He'll Retire: Murray isn't fast enough to keep challengers at bay, so his other gifts come at too dear a price. His playing time was reduced by five minutes a game this season.

9. Ed Jovanovski, D, Florida Panthers

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Legacy: Ed Jovanovski was a top-flight defenseman with a complete skill set. He enjoyed major offensive seasons during his career. Added to size, strength and defensive acumen, he was a major player on many teams.

     

    Current Status: He is losing playing time to a hip injury. The real culprit is the years of tough skating and competition he's been through in 1,100 career games. "Jovo Cop" has recently returned to action with the Panthers after a long layoff. He has a year left on his contract.

     

    Why He'll Retire: Jovanovski has $4 million reasons to return next season—that's the cash payout on his contract if he plays in 2014-15. Despite the money, his injuries are coming more often and this may be his final campaign.

8. Dany Heatley, W, Minnesota Wild

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Legacy: Dany Heatley's legacy will be like Derek Sanderson's 40 years ago—a wonderful talent wasted on the way. Heatley is a former 100-point scorer and impact NHL winger, and a man who still demands a massive check every payday. His $7.5 million contract runs out at the end of the season, and the checks are guaranteed to be less next year.

     

    Current Status: He's barely hanging on as an NHL regular. He ranks 376th among 448 NHL forwards in five-on-five points-per-60 this season. Heatley is on pace to score fewer than 15 goals in total. The only thing keeping his point total above disaster is his power-play ability, and even that number is fading. 

     

    Why He'll Retire: His contract expires at the end of the year and he'll face an enormous cut in pay. There's a chance that no one offers him a deal at all, although that's a long shot. The more likely scenario is that Heatley tests the market, finds nothing to his satisfaction and moves on with his life.

7. Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Legacy: Nikolai Khabibulin has enjoyed a long and productive career. The highlight came in 2004 when he backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup. He's known as a former Winnipeg Jets goalie who played long enough to see that team go away and return to the league. Khabibulin's career is not Hall of Fame-caliber, but he has earned a conversation.

     

    Current Status: Chicago signed Khabibulin as veteran insurance, but he couldn't stay healthy and when he did play the results were poor. January 2014 surgery means his season is over.

     

    Why He'll Retire: Khabibulin was having health and performance issues in Edmonton, and his signing with Chicago was a surprise. After the season ended predictably, it's difficult to imagine the veteran getting another chance.

6. Daniel Cleary, RW, Detroit Red Wings

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Legacy: Daniel Cleary was a reclamation project by the Detroit Red Wings years ago. He repaid the team with years of quality two-way play. It all culminated in Cleary becoming the first man from Newfoundland to win the Stanley Cup.

     

    Current Status: He had a poor season in 2012-13 and has followed it up with one that is even worse. What's more, he had surgery on his knee in 2012 because he was in extreme pain. That's a sign his body is wearing out on him.

     

    Why He'll Retire: The Red Wings are not having a good season, and veterans like Cleary are losing their spots on the roster. Young men like Tomas Tatar are getting a chance to replace him. His poor season and injuries make him an unattractive candidate to solve a problem for next year.

5. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Legacy: Mikael Samuelsson has enjoyed a long and productive career as a complementary offensive player. He brings enough grit and two-way play to skate on skill lines. In his best seasons, he delivered quality minutes at a very reasonable salary.

     

    Current Status: Samuelsson entered this season with some health problems. He lost all but four games during the lockout season due to a broken finger and other issues. This season, he can't score enough to stay in the lineup.

     

    Why He'll Retire: The Detroit Red Wings are the most patient team in the NHL when it comes to veterans. Samuelsson is not alone among the veterans who are not performing well, but he has been unproductive two seasons in a row. It is unlikely he'll return.

4. Todd Bertuzzi, RW, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Legacy: Todd Bertuzzi's legacy is as complicated as any player in the history of the game. It's very likely that he'll be remembered more for the Steve Moore tragedy than anything else. He has been successful and has enjoyed a sustained period of productivity deep into his career. That won't be the reason his name is mentioned 20 years from now.

     

    Current Status: In 2011-12, Bertuzzi posted a strong season and was among the Red Wings' most productive offensive forwards. Last season was lost to a back injury as he played seven games. This year, he's healthy but cannot impact the game as he did in the past.

     

    Why He'll Retire: There are two reasons he'll retire. Bertuzzi's eroding skills mean he is unlikely to get a contract offer for next season. The other reason is the September 8, 2014 start date for the Bertuzzi-Moore trial. It will be a distraction for the entire NHL and require much of time and attention. Playing NHL hockey under those circumstances will be difficult.

3. Ray Whitney, LW, Dallas Stars

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Legacy: Ray Whitney has made a career out of being an offensive dynamo. He's not a big player, not overly physical, but he can stay healthy by avoiding the big hit and is a sublime passer and offensive contributor. There are very few players in the game's history who have been able to play at a sustained level in the NHL at this size.

     

    Current Status: Whitney's offensive numbers are fading, and the Dallas Stars appear to be morphing into a big, physical team. Whitney, at age 41, is finding the going tougher than ever.

     

    Why He'll Retire: Whitney is at an age where any little thing might be enough for him to lose out on opportunities. This season, his shooting percentage has gone from 17.7 percent a year ago to under 7 percent in 2013-14. Whitney is paid to post offense, and it isn't coming as quickly this year. It might be the end of the line.

2. Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils

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    GEORGE NIKITIN/Associated Press

    Legacy: Martin Brodeur is a three-time Stanley Cup winner and has received the Calder Trophy (1994) and the Vezina Trophy (four times). He won the gold medal for Canada at the Olympics twice (2002, 2010). He has received many other awards and honors during his storied career. Brodeur holds many of the NHL's greatest goaltending records, including career wins and games. It is impossible to discuss the history of the game without including Brodeur, an honor normally bestowed on men long after retirement.

     

    Current Status: Brodeur is having another solid year, and his goals-against average and save percentage are higher than his career average but remain respectable.

     

    Why He'll Retire: He is in a tough spot with the Devils. The club acquired his replacement at the draft (Cory Schneider), and the new hire has outperformed the legend this season. New Jersey is spending $8.5 million in cap dollars on the goaltending. The smart play is to retain Schneider and move on from Brodeur.

1. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anaheim Ducks

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Legacy: Teemu Selanne ranks second among active players and 15th all-time in NHL points and 11th all-time in NHL goals. He won a Stanley Cup and scored 76 goals as a rookie. His major awards are the Calder (1993), the Rocket Richard (1999) and the Masterton (2006) trophies.

     

    Current Status: Selanne is playing less at even-strength this season and ranks 10th among forwards in the category. His offensive output is eroding, and he's on pace to score fewer than 15 goals this year. The Ducks have kept using him on the power play, and Selanne has scored (4-3-7) with the man advantage.

     

    Why He'll Retire: There has been much speculation about the reasons behind Selanne's decision to retire after this season. His Hall of Fame career has included both longevity and exceptional peaks. Selanne has thrilled NHL fans for decades, and he exits as one of the game's greatest players.