Jarome Iginla (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Shawn Thornton said he nearly hung up his skates before the Florida Panthers offered a one-year contract extension, but this season looks to be Thornton’s last in the league. He’s not the only player who could be heading for retirement following the 2016-17 campaign, though.
The rough and tumble ways of the NHL are starting to go by the wayside, but veteran winger Shawn Thornton is sticking around for one more season with the Florida Panthers. But Thornton, 39, admitted that before he signed a one-year contract extension in February, he was considering hanging up his skates for good.
Speaking with CBS Boston’s Matt Kalman, Thornton said that while the 2015-16 campaign wore on, he began to think about retirement. As he planned to retire from the game, though, along came a contract offer from the Panthers to come back on a one-year, $750,000 deal. The idea was to keep Thornton around as a locker room leader and a guide for the young players looking to get a foothold in the league.
However, once this season is done, that’s likely it for Thornton. And once his playing days are done, the one-time tough guy could be finding his way to the Panthers’ front office, working on the “business side of things” for the team he has spent the past two years of his career with.
“Things change year to year. This would’ve been a different conversation last year,” Thornton told Kalman. “But as of right now probably leaning more toward the business side of hockey. Once the season’s over I’ll probably move into that role in Florida.”
That this is likely Thornton’s final season in the league isn’t altogether surprising as his career has been winding down since he arrived in Florida. But he’s not the only player who could be riding off into the sunset following the upcoming campaign. Here are five other players potentially headed for retirement after 2016-17:
Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers
Jagr is probably the first player who comes to mind when picturing a player on the cusp of retirement, but, really, does it seem like he has any intention of slowing down? He’s 44 and coming off of a 27-goal, 66-point season with the Panthers in which he skated more than 17 minutes of ice time per game. That’s mighty impressive, but one has to wonder how many more years he plans to keep going.
During the post-season, Jagr struggled and seemed to have difficulty keeping up after a long season, but the Panthers have faith in him finding his form again during the 2016-17 season. He signed a one-year, $5.515-million deal to return to Florida next season, but does he land another contract or decide he’s had enough?
Just because you can still produce doesn't mean you can't retire. Ask Martin St-Louis, who hung up his skates after a 21-goal, 52-point season in 2014-15. Jagr has already decided not to play any longer with the Czech Republic national team and it might not be much longer before he decides to finally hang up his skates and take his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche
He’s one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation, but at 39 and with his point totals steadily falling, this may be the last season we get to watch Iginla suit up for an NHL game.
Over the past three seasons, Iginla has gone from 30 goals and 60 points to 29 goals and 59 points to a 22-goal, 47-point campaign in the second year of his three-year deal with the Avalanche. The signs of slowing down are there, and they can also be seen in his ice time. Before the late stages of his career, Iginla averaged 20-plus minutes per game, but he was down to 15:51 per game in 2015-16. Much of his time now is spent as a power play specialist, and he scored 13 of his goals with the extra man this past season.
Whether Iginla retires or not, the big question entering this season is if he ends the campaign in Colorado. It would be a shame for Iginla to go out without one last playoff run and sad to see him retire without a Stanley Cup. This season could be his last shot.
Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes
There’s an understanding between the Coyotes and Doan, according to GM John Chayka, and the team’s captain gets to take his time to decide whether or not he wants to return after each campaign. This past off-season, he came to the conclusion he wanted to play in 2016-17. Once that was decided, he inked a one-year deal with a total salary close to $4.85 million.
Eventually, though, Doan is going to decide to walk away, and one can’t help but wonder if that won’t be after this coming season, because he doesn’t really have much else to accomplish in Arizona. The 39-year-old is the franchise’s leader in games played, goals, points, power play goals and is only a few helpers away from taking the all-time assists lead. He is the Coyotes and he doesn’t seem awfully interested in heading elsewhere to chase a Stanley Cup, otherwise he likely would have left town to chase one in the past.
With all the fresh faces set to come into the Coyotes lineup in the next several seasons, it seems Doan’s time in Arizona is coming to a close. But even when he retires, there’s a good chance he remains in the organization in some capacity.
Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
The upcoming campaign is going to be a telling one for Markov, who will be without his defense parter, P.K. Subban, for the first time in two campaigns. As age has taken a toll on Markov’s mobility, Subban has been there alongside the Russian blueliner and the two have been sound defensively and impactful offensively. But Subban’s trade out of town puts Markov’s spot in the lineup in question, and he’s in the last year of his contract with uncertainty surrounding his future.
Eventually, the Canadiens are going to need to get younger, and the signs are already there that Markov may be on his way out of the plan in Montreal. Over the past three seasons, his ice time has decreased by nearly 1:30 per game. Markov can still play, but it might be in a more limited this upcoming campaign, especially because Shea Weber doesn’t boast the skating ability of Subban. That means Markov likely comes off of the top pairing.
Could playing the final years of his career in the KHL, in the same way Pavel Datsyuk has chosen to do so, be something that interests Markov? Only he knows, but with his deal set to expire following the upcoming season, Markov’s 16th season with the Canadiens could very well be his last.
Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers
Streit only entered the NHL in 2005-06, but he quickly rose to prominence as an effective offensive defenseman. By his third season in the league, he scored 13 goals and 62 points in 74 games, and he’s maintained his scoring ways throughout his career. But Streit missed the entire 2011-12 campaign due to injury, was forced to sit out 19 games this past season with a groin ailment and 2015-16 was the worst offensive campaign since his rookie year.
At 38, Streit doesn’t appear to have much tread left on the tires and that might be doubly true when taking into account the price tag. He is set to earn $4 million this coming season but will carry a cap hit of $5.25 million.
During the 2012-13 lockout, Streit went back to his native Switzerland and played a half season with SC Bern. He’s the face of the Swiss international team, one of the best players the country has ever produced and has a chance to finish his career in Switzerland, if he so pleases.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.