In a move that may mark the end of his NHL career, the Ottawa Senators have waived forward Jonathan Cheechoo. After clearing waivers, Cheechoo can then have the remaining $3.5 million of his contract bought out and will be free to sign anywhere as a free agent.
It's hard to believe that just four years ago, Cheechoo was coming off a season in which he lead the NHL in goal scoring with 56, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, and signing a five year $17.5 million contract. The future looked bright for Cheechoo, but injuries took a huge toll on the big bodied forward, and his production slipped annually after 2005-06. By 2008-09 with San Jose Cheechoo was reduced to fourth line duty, and was dealt to Ottawa as partial compensation for Dany Heatley, primarily because San Jose had to move Cheechoo's contract
A change of scenery didn't help Cheechoo however, as his numbers continued to decline with only 5 goals in 61 games before being assigned to Binghampton in the AHL. It is virtually unforeseeable that Cheechoo will be claimed on waivers, and whether anyone will sign him to a minimum salary contract remains to be seen .
Cheechoo's demise is primarily blamed on injuries. Cheechoo never had great speed to begin with, and major surgery to repair a double hernia in 2006-07 further limited his mobility. Cheechoo was never a solid defender, so without the ability to get to the net and score goals, his value in the NHL has decreased to that of "reclamation project".
Cheechoo was a feel good story when he won the Richard Trophy in '06, he grew up in the isolated northern town of Moose Factory, and was held up as a role model to young Aboriginals for his work ethic and success. Cheechoo is well liked and respected by his peers and may yet get another chance to play in the NHL, but his odds now might be even longer than they were as a teenager in Moose Factory .