At the start of the season, I looked at a few players that were headed towards likely swan-song campaigns.
Since then, Anaheim Ducks netminder Ryan Miller has had a bit of a resurgence as a reliable backup goaltender, but the rest still look like likely candidates. Craig Anderson hasn’t been healthy for much of the season and when he has, he hasn’t been reliable in the Ottawa net. Senators teammate Ron Hainsey’s big-league career also appears to be nearing its expiration date. The Senators needed a veteran to offset the young blueline, but the focus will soon shift to the future and giving the young kids more opportunities. Jason Spezza has been good as a fourth-liner in Toronto, but there’s enough competition in the depth department that the Maple Leafs could decide to turn elsewhere. The same goes for Deryk Engelland in Vegas, though one imagines that if he does decide to call it quits, he’ll have a job waiting for him with the Golden Knights in some capacity.
Now, with the season paused due to the COVID-19 virus – and with no return date in sight – the question has to be raised: who else has likely played their last NHL game? With no games slated for any time in the near future, there are more than a few players who could potentially never touch NHL ice again should the season not resume. And it’s not a foreign circumstance. Players such as Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis and Adam Oates didn’t return to NHL duty following the 2004-05 lockout and Marty Turco, Tomas Holmstrom, Jaroslav Spacek and Andrew Brunette didn’t return after the partial 2012-13 work stoppage.
The list of players who could hang the skates up this time around is by no means short. St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester survived a terrifying cardiac arrest on the bench in Anaheim back in February, and he could very well call it a career. Brent Seabrook was shutdown earlier this season with lingering injury issues and it seems the Chicago Blackhawks want to move on from his $6.88-million cap hit, which is on the books through 2023-24. David Backes and Andrew Ladd seem destined for so-called “LTIRetirement” in the near future, so add two more to the potential list. But we’re only going to limit this list to pending UFAs.
With that out of the way, here are six players that have likely played their final NHL game:
Corey Perry, RW, 34 (Dallas)
There was hope Perry could have a late-career revival after joining the Stars this season, but his season has been difficult, to say the least. Knee and foot injuries limited Perry’s game action in the final two years of his 14-year run in Anaheim, with the Ducks choosing to buy out the remaining two years of his contract last summer. Perry’s one-year, $1.5-million deal looked like it had potential to be a low-risk win for Dallas, but with just 21 points and a five-game suspension this season, there haven’t been many positives for the former league MVP. The Stars will likely look to replace him with younger talent and it’s hard to imagine anyone will scoop Perry up this summer.
Mikko Koivu, C, 37 (Minnesota)
The Wild have only made the post-season eight times in his 15-year career, but Koivu will forever be remembered as a legend in the ‘State of Hockey’. Koivu is the only player to record at least 500 points (709) and play more than 1,000 games (1,028) with the club and is the only true captain the Wild has ever had. A handful of players held the title for bits and pieces before 2008-09, but Koivu was the first player to wear the ‘C’ on a long-term basis. Koivu has shown no interest in moving to a new organization, but stuck in a bottom-six role, he doesn’t have much left to offer at the NHL level. Injuries have limited his action over the past two seasons and he posted just 21 points in 55 games before the shutdown, tying his career-worst output from his rookie season in 2005-06. Koivu is a UFA at the end of the season and unless both sides see value in him signing a pact in the $1-million range, it’s hard to see Koivu resuming his career after all the physical obstacles he has had to overcome.
Dan Hamhuis, D, 37 (Nashville)
The small town of Smithers, B.C. has produced just four NHLers. Each of them had lengthy NHL careers, but none like Hamhuis, a veteran of more than 1,100 games who has an Olympic gold medal to his name. In his prime, Hamhuis was one of the league’s better shot-blockers, logging heavy minutes and holding the fort defensively. But those days are well behind him, with the Predators instead using him in a depth defensive role. A lower-body injury took him out of action earlier this month and injuries have limited him throughout his career. It’s time for both sides to move on.
Jimmy Howard, G, 36 (Detroit)
Howard’s struggles this season have been well documented, and there’s nobody who wanted the season to come to a close more than the long-time Red Wings netminder. With a 2-23-2 record and no victories since October, Howard has had one of the worst seasons among goaltenders in recent history, with Detroit electing to run with Jonathan Bernier for the majority of the campaign. Add to it Howard’s injury history and it’s hard to fathom a team will take a chance on him unless they desperately need a backup. But, again, based on his performance this season, a team would have to be extremely desperate to take a chance on him. If Howard does retire, he can still be remembered for a good career in Detroit, highlighted by three 35-plus win seasons, three all-star game selections (including 2019) and championships with USA’s U-18 team and the University of Maine. Not too shabby.
Patrick Marleau, C, 40 (Pittsburgh)
When Marleau signed with the Sharks shortly after the regular season commenced in October, it looked like he was finally going to get the chance to win a Stanley Cup after all these years. Of course, the Sharks have been among the worst teams this season and shipped the NHL’s active games played leader (1,723) to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. Marleau’s impact with the Pens was minor in eight games before the shutdown, as he registered just two points despite getting some time in the top six with Evgeni Malkin. If the season somehow does resume, Marleau would have a good shot at the Cup with the contending Pens. If it doesn’t – and it’s getting harder to believe we’ll resume this season – he could finish his career without ever hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug. That would be a shame for one of the league’s most beloved forwards.
Justin Williams, RW, 38 (Carolina)
When Williams returned to the Hurricanes in the fall after a brief hiatus, there was pure excitement at PNC Arena. Williams has been valuable in Raleigh, scoring eight goals and 11 points in 20 games. But through it all, his ice time has dropped from 17:27 a year ago to 13:37 this season and there’s been some noticeable rust in his overall two-way game due to his time off. The Hurricanes look as though they have the pieces in place to become a perennial contender, and while having a veteran with three Stanley Cups on the roster is never a bad thing to have, Williams isn’t the player he once was. He also doesn’t have a lot more to prove. It might be time to hang up the skates.
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