Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Every player who signs an NHL contract looks forward to having a long career, possibly a decade or more. But all good things eventually come to an end, including NHL playing careers.
With the start of the 2023-24 NHL season less than two months away and NHL training camps starting in nearly a month, several long-term NHL players who became unrestricted free agents this summer do not have a new contract, and have not yet announced their retirement. Two prominent unrestricted free agents have already announced their retirements: Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
The discussion below is limited to prominent NHL players who are 34-years-old or older and who have still not signed a contract. Note: the age listed in this discussion is their age as of October 1, 2023.
Zach Parise – Age 39 – Parise, a winger drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has played in the NHL since 2005-06, mostly with the New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild. Last year he played with the Islanders after the Wild bought out his contract. He scored 21 goals and had 13 assists with the Islanders. The report is that he will either re-sign with the Islanders or retire.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Eric Staal – Age 38 – Staal, a center also drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has played in the NHL since 2003-04, mostly with the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild and played in the AHL for the 2021-22 season. Last season, he played with the Florida Panthers and scored 14 goals and had 15 assists. No team offered him an NHL contract for 2021-22 and last season, the Panthers signed him early in the season after he had been on a PTO for training camp. It is uncertain whether he’ll be offered an NHL contract again.
Photo: Roger Lee
Brian Elliott – Age 38 – Elliott, a goaltender drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, started his NHL career with the Ottawa Senators in 2007-08. He became a full-time NHL player after his trade to the St. Louis Blues prior to the 2011-12 season. Last season, he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, serving as the backup to Andrey Vasilevskiy.
Jaroslav Halak – Age 38 – Halak, a goaltender drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, started his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens in 2006-07. He became a full-time NHL player during the 2008-09 season. Last season he played for the New York Rangers, serving as the backup to Igor Shesterkin. The Capitals acquired him at the trade deadline in 2014. He is best known for his performance in the 2010 playoffs where he helped the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens upset both the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2010 playoffs.
Photo: Getty Images
Paul Stastny – Age 37 – Stastny, a center drafted in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, started his career with the Colorado Avalanche in 2006-07. He mostly played with the Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues. Last season, he played with the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring nine goals with 13 assists.
Alexander Edler – Age 37 – Edler, a defenseman drafted in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, started his career with the Vancouver Canucks in 2006-07 and became a full-time NHL player the following season, aside from two games in the AHL. He mostly played with the Canucks but played with the Los Angeles Kings for the last two years.
Nick Holden – Age 36 – Holden, an undrafted defenseman, made his NHL debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012-13 and became a full-time NHL player In 2013-14. He played with numerous teams in his career including the Colorado Avalanche and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. He played the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons with the Ottawa Senators.
Derick Brassard – Age 36 – Brassard, a center drafted in 2006, made his NHL debut in 2006-07 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and became a full-time NHL player the following year. He played for the Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers for the first several seasons of his career but several other teams after that. He played the 2022-23 season with the Ottawa Senators where he scored 13 goals and had 10 assists.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Phil Kessel – Age 35 – Kessel, a winger drafted in 2006, started his NHL career during the 2006-07 season with the Boston Bruins, playing just two games in the AHL. He primarily played with the Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Arizona Coyotes. Last season, he played with the Vegas Golden Knights where he scored 14 goals and recorded 22 assists. Ironically, he played in all of his team’s regular season games but only played in four playoff games during the Golden Knights’ playoff run on their way to the Stanley Cup. Kessel has scored 413 goals, recorded 579 assists, and scored 992 NHL points throughout his career.
Photo: Steve Marcus/AP
Jonathan Toews – Age 35 – Toews, a center drafted in 2006, started his NHL career during the 2007-08 season with the Chicago Blackhawks, and played his entire career with Chicago. Last season he scored 15 goals and recorded 16 assists in just 53 games. He is taking the 2023-24 season off to focus on recovering from long Covid which has been an issue for him since 2020, and hopes to make a comeback in 2024-25, but the combination of his advancing age and being out of action for over a year will work against him. While he offers great leadership qualities, an NHL General Manager may feel he may not be able to handle the rigors of playing an entire NHL season, due to his health issues. He scored 372 goals and recorded 511 assists for 883 points during his career.
Photo/Charles Rex Arbogas/AP
Carl Hagelin – Age 35 – Hagelin, a winger drafted in 2007, made his NHL debut in 2011-12 with the New York Rangers and became a full-time NHL player during 2012-13. He has played with the Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, and Washington Capitals. The Caps acquired him in a deadline deal in 2019. He missed the end of the 2021-22 and the entirety of the 2022-23 season due to an eye injury and hip surgery. He ended the season by getting the same hip resurfacing surgery that Nicklas Backstrom had during the 2022 off-season. It is unlikely that Hagelin will play in the NHL again.
Wayne Simmonds – Age 35 – Simmonds, a winger drafted in 2007, began his NHL career in 2008-09 with the Los Angeles Kings. He played with the Kings for three seasons before getting traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, with whom he spent the bulk of his career. He played with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2020-21 through 2022-23 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Given that he was often a healthy scratch during his last season with Toronto, it is unlikely that he will play in the NHL again.
Patrick Kane – Age 34 – Kane, a winger drafted in 2006, started his NHL career during the 2007-08 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played his entire career with Chicago until getting traded to the New York Rangers at the 2023 trade deadline. Due to hip issues, he has undergone the same hip resurfacing surgery that Nicklas Backstrom underwent. There are rumors of NHL teams being interested in his services but the issues with offering him a contract are the fact he won’t be returning until December or January at the earliest and whether he can regain his old form after that, given his age.
By Diane Doyle