Salary cap forcing sentimental players to retire
Alexander Monaghan delves into the issue of discussion and how successful veteran free agents handled their free agency as the market for veterans dwindles down.
Chris Chelios retired yesterday as Christina Roberts so eloquently broke down, but this piece has been coming for a while. For some people, myself included, a player like Chelly came from our childhood. I remember getting excited by unwrapping the special card in the pack, you know the one with him and Brian Leetch each sporting All-Star jerseys (the Eastern Conference wore San Jose Shark teal, still weird). He brings back the memories of old and makes you feel old. Heck, when Chelios was a rookie Reagan was in office. Reagan.
A look at the career of Chelios makes you think of the other excellent players who hit free agency this season and to this point still remain unsigned.
Jere Lehtinen may be mulling over his role in Dallas and can probably imagine there would be no room in Detroit. Despite his age, he still needs to consider his future simply because he feels he can play while the rest of the league would rather gamble on a younger player. In a time pre-dating the salary cap, a player regardless of recent performance could at least strike a one-year deal– albeit most of them were signed by the New York Rangers and enjoyed the twilight of their careers in the Big Apple.
Paul Kariya decided he would take the year off due to post concussion syndrome making the hockey world wonder if we have seen him lace them up for the last time. We somewhat saw this coming, unlike that blindside hit to the back of the head from Patrick Kaleta.
His former teammate Teemu Selanne seemed adamant in returning as he continues his string of retirement holdouts and one-year contract continues but he is a rare breed. While Doug Weight seems to share his philosophy with his one-year extension the two share one trait: their team actually wants them.
The Pittsburgh Penguins no longer wanted Bill Guerin despite his 21 goals last season, they felt the kids could do better. While Guerin still looks for employment and does not consider the R word, Lehtinen refuses to complain about the situation. It simply seems like teams will let the old men walk and decide to stick it out with the kids.
Generally speaking the average age of an NHL player, especially forward, has dropped since the lockout. As teams get younger, there becomes casualties. Sadly these casualties may be future hall-of-famers.
It is a sad day when there is no room for Chris Chelios, Paul Kariya, Jere Lehtinen, Mathieu Schneider or Slava Kozlov. At the very least they could offer solid veteran leadership and a 13th forward/7th defenseman type role. Will more players start to take the same route as say Rob Blake and Scott Neidermayer? Or more importantly: Do you think there is still room for these guys or would you rather see a fringe prospect play this role?