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'09 forced retirements

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

There are a number of unrestricted free agents still available on the market, but not all will find a job.

This week we take a little time to lament the loss of some NHL players; those for whom age, injury history and/or eroding skills have conspired to mean they’ve likely skated on their last sheet of NHL ice.

These aren’t players who’ve voluntarily retired or who’ve signed in Europe; they’re players whose agents are working the phones, just not finding any takers. While there’s always a chance a desperate team will give them the league minimum salary, these players are reluctantly leaving the game, fading into forced retirement.

These are THN’s Top 10 UFAs who’d like an NHL job, but likely won’t get one, in order of how much they’ll be missed.

10. Manny Fernandez, Goaltender – Dallas, Minnesota, Boston

Fernandez never played more than 58 games in a season and was better suited to a backup or split-duty role. The 34-year-old won the Jennings Trophy in 2007 with Niklas Backstrom in Minnesota and accomplished that same feat last year alongside Tim Thomas in Boston. He has a career 2.50 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

9. Patrice Brisebois, Defense – Montreal, Colorado

An unsung-hero type, Brisebois, 38, played his 1000th game last year with the same team it all began with back in 1990, Montreal. He was a member of the Habs’ last Stanley Cup team in 1993 and finished his career with 420 points.

8. Mike Sillinger, Center – Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, Phoenix, St. Louis, Nashville, NY Islanders

Sillinger holds the dubious record – or the “Hey, at least I’m wanted” record – of being traded 11 times, more than any player in NHL history. The 11th overall pick in 1989, Sillinger, 38, has played 1,049 regular season games for 12 teams since getting his first NHL taste in 1990-91. However, he’s participated in just 43 playoff contests, a sign of being on some bad squads. Another sign: a career plus-minus mark of minus-191.

7. Manny Legace, Goaltender – Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis

It’s a bad year for goalies named Manny. The 36-year-old has a career 2.38 goals-against average and .912 save percentage, but was the victim of an inglorious squeeze-out last season in St. Louis. He won the Stanley Cup in a backup role with Detroit in 2002.

6. Darryl Sydor, Defense – Los Angeles, Dallas, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh

Never the biggest name on a roster, Sydor won Stanley Cups with Dallas (1999) and Tampa Bay (2004). Sydor, 37, forged a 17-season career netting 499 points.

5. Mike Peca, Center – Vancouver, Buffalo, NY Islanders, Edmonton, Toronto, Columbus

In his prime during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Peca, 35, was known as one of the best defensive forwards in the world. The Selke Trophy winner in 1997 and 2002 (he was also runner-up in 1998), Peca was also a four-time 20-goal scorer during they hey-day of the NHL’s dead-puck era.

4. Jeremy Roenick, Center – Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Jose

One of the greatest quotes ever, J.R., 39, never met a microphone he didn’t like. He was straight shooter, in more ways than one. Roenick’s 513 goals and 1,216 points make him the third-highest scoring American-born player.

3. Curtis Joseph, Goaltender – St. Louis, Edmonton, Toronto, Detroit, Phoenix, Calgary

CuJo, as he is known, was one of the best goalies on bad to mediocre teams in the modern NHL. Joseph, 42, is fourth all-time in regular season victories (454), but his 352 losses tie him with Gump Worsley for the highest all-time total in that dubious category. He’ll best be remembered for leading average teams in Edmonton and Toronto to playoff upsets.

2. Chris Chelios, Defense – Montreal, Chicago, Detroit

Fourth all-time in NHL games played with 1644, 12th in penalty minutes with 2,891 and the 10th-highest scoring blueliner ever, Chelios, 47, won three Norris Trophies (1989, 1993, 1996), was runner-up twice (1995, 2002) and played his first NHL game in 1983-84. He won Stanley Cups with Montreal (1986) and Detroit (2002, 2008).

1. Brendan Shanahan, Left Wing – New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit, NY Rangers

Only Luc Robitaille has more goals and points as a left winger than Shanny and only John Bucyk and Robitaille have more assists. Shanahan, 40, is not only a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer for his on-ice exploits, he’s been a great ambassador in trying to enhance the game.

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