Jaromir Jagr returned to the NHL with the Flyers last season and signed on with the Stars for 2012-13. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
With a lockout looming, the careers of veteran NHLers nearing the end of their playing days could be ended abruptly and without fanfare, just as many veterans didn’t play another game after 2004-05. Which players could be at risk this time around? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders.
The 37-year-old Nabokov is on a one-year contract and could return to the Kontinental League in his Russian homeland if the NHL experiences a lengthy lockout. And considering he’s averaged just 32 games played the past two seasons, it’s unlikely any NHL team will see him as a viable option for 2013-14.
9. Saku Koivu, Ducks.
The former Canadiens captain will turn 38 in November and his points dropped from 52 in 2009-10 to 45 in 2010-11 and 38 last season. Like all players on this list, he’s an unrestricted free agent after this season and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him hang up his skates after his 17th NHL season.
8. Milan Hejduk, Avalanche.
The Avs’ captain and last remaining member of their 2001 Stanley Cup winning team said in March he was considering retirement, but signed a one-year, $2-million contract this summer. He’s also a depreciating asset, having scored just 14 goals last season – his lowest total since he posted the same number in his rookie season of 1998-99.
7. Jamie Langenbrunner, Blues.
Langenbrunner just turned 37 and the miles he’s logged during his solid career are starting to show. Although he played 70 games in each of the past two seasons, the Blues’ right winger failed to reach the 10-goal plateau both times and wouldn’t have a whole lot to offer after a significant period of time on the sidelines.
6. Jason Arnott, UFA.
Arnott is Langenbrunner’s age, but unlike his Blues teammate, the 18-year veteran isn’t signed. He was decent (17 goals and 34 points in 72 games) last season, but has only played more than 68 games in three of the past six.
5. Nikolai Khabibulin, Oilers.
The Stanley Cup winner is entering the last season of a four-year contract with Edmonton and will turn 40 in January. He’s a candidate to return to the KHL in his native Russia, but also has made enough money to retire if there’s no NHL job awaiting him.
4. Sergei Gonchar, Senators.
In his prime, Gonchar was one of the best point-producing defensemen, but his game has fallen off noticeably since he signed a three-year contract with Ottawa in 2010. He’ll be 39 by the time 2012-13 ends and may choose to hang up his skates after 19 seasons in hockey’s top league.
3. Daniel Alfredsson, Senators.
There was much speculation the universally respected Sens captain wouldn’t return for 2012-13, but he announced in July he intended on playing. However, all bets are off for anything beyond that.
2. Teemu Selanne, Ducks.
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Selanne and Alfredsson now share the title of the NHL’s classiest senior statesman. The 42-year-old Finnish legend signed a one-year contract extension and almost certainly won’t be around for 2013-14.
1. Jaromir Jagr, Stars.
A no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer, Jagr showed in Philly that he still can play NHL hockey and signed a one-year contract with Dallas in July. But he’ll be 41 in February and has a number of other playing options if the NHL isn’t operating, including the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream and play in his native Czech Republic.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.