Chris Chelios: Where Will He Land?

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Chris Chelios: Where Will He Land?
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

On Monday, June 22, 2009, Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland announced that he would not be offering a new contract to Chris Chelios. The 47-year old sure-fire future Hall of Fame defenceman was signed to a one-year contract in 2008, played in just 28 games, recorded no points and was +1 with 18 PIM.

That marks the end for Chelios, right? Wrong—he reportedly would like to play again, but obviously has little to offer one of the three best blue lines in the world.

So where will he land? If history is any judge, it will be an Original-Six franchise.

Thus far in his career, Chelios played for the Montreal Canadiens (from the 1983-84 season through the 1989-90 season), Chicago Blackhawks (1990-91 through the spring of 1999), and the Red Wings from 1999-present. That leaves the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Rangers left among the six franchises that still remain from the inception of the NHL.

Of course, he could return to a team he has played for or—gasp!—play for a franchise that was not there for the dawn of the league (which, by the way, was about when Chelios started playing). So where would he be a good fit?

For starters, at this point in his career, there are three primary attributes he has to offer a team: leadership, championship experience, and intelligence. However, do not be fooled: Chelios is one of the best-conditioned athletes in the world, and he can be a physical asset, too. He is not going to score much anymore or catch a skater from behind, but he can log minutes.

He will be looking to go to a team that has a chance to get his name etched on the Stanley Cup for a fourth time—otherwise, why bother playing? Since this could be his last season, only teams that can reach that pinnacle in 2009 will be considered. Even with Detroit out of the mix, just a dozen teams are not going to be desirable destinations for Cheli in the wide-open NHL.

The most likely scenario is that he will not get much playing time on whatever team he signs with, so it is not going to be about him providing an upgrade over existing blue line talent. Any team that is not seven-deep with better players would be foolish not to consider Cheli as added depth, and as long as he can be the seventh defenceman, he likely will play enough to qualify to have his name on the Cup.

However, with the plethora of their own and outside quality free agents as options, it does not seem likely that Cheli would be any team’s first option. Therefore, I will immediately rule out any team that already has six defencemen either under contract or as restricted free agents (meaning they are likely to keep that player) who are better than Cheli.

That leaves 11 teams, all of whom should strongly consider signing Cheli. In my next article, I will examine each team based on their needs for what he could bring to the table: blue line depth, leadership, hockey IQ, and championship experience, and predict the odds that he will land with each…

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