According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, former Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen has informed the Philadelphia Flyers that he will retire.
Let’s update this: Matt Niskanen has informed PHI that he will retire. Team asked him to take some time and think about it, he did and stayed with that decision. The Flyers are working on re-signing Justin Braun, do not want to lose two critical members of the PK
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 5, 2020
According to Ken Campbell of “The Hockey News”, who spoke with Niskanen’s agent Monday afternoon, the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a part in his decision.
“He told me he didn’t want to go through it again,” Niskanen’s agent Neil Sheehy said. “He mentioned COVID to me. I don’t think he wanted to get ready for another season by Nov. 15 and then have to go into isolation and be away from his two kids and his wife. I think he always planned to finish his contract and then stop, but I think because of COVID and his experience of the bubble, he decided now is the time.”
The Capitals traded Niskanen to the Flyers in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas on June 14, 2019.
Congrats on a great career Nisky!! Was an amazing 5 years playing by your side every night. See ya down the road! pic.twitter.com/RSaJTt3mi9
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) October 5, 2020
In 390 career games with the Capitals, the 33-year-old posted 29 goals, 156 points, and a +58 rating. He signed a seven-year contract, which will expire after next season, with the Capitals in 2014 when the team was looking to boast their defensive corps.
Niskanen’s average of 25:23 per game during the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2018 was the second-most on the team (right behind defenseman John Carlson 25:38). His average shorthanded ice-time of 3:07 per game was also second behind Brooks Orpik (3:15). He led the Capitals with 57 blocked shots during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he recorded one goal, nine points, and a +8 rating in 24 games.
In 949 career games with the Flyers, Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Dallas Stars, Niskanen posted 72 goals, 356 goals, and a +112 rating.
The Capitals “Thank You” video presented during his first game back as a Flyer:
The Capitals traded him after a down season in 2018-19 where he had a -3 rating, his lowest since the 2010-11 season. The team also needed to clear cap space and at his age, they expected Niskanen’s play to only go down. However, he proved them wrong with a bounce back season in Philadelphia as they almost caught the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead before the season paused due to COVID-19.
With Niskanen retiring, the Flyers lose arguably their most reliable shut down defenseman who helped defenseman Ivan Provorov immensely this season as he went from a -16 rating in 2018-19 to a +11 this past year. Niskanen was a big reason why the Flyers went from 29th in goals-against per game (3.41) in 2018-19 to seventh (2.77) this past year, averaging 21:54 per game (second on the team behind Provorov – 24:51), including 2:38 on the penalty kill.
The Capitals “Day With The Cup” video for Nisky:
By Harrison Brown
Matt Niskanen’s Day With The Stanley Cup