As the Stanley Cup playoffs enter the finals, 30 of the league’s 32 teams prepare for the NHL draft and offseason, where a slew of players become available for signing beginning July 1. But, many of this year’s free agents are seasoned veterans aged 35 and over and could likely be toying with the idea of retirement, especially given injury history in some cases.
Here are five NHL free agents who could retire this summer.
It’s been a rough road in the NHL for Donskoi, who’s seen concussions hamper a once-promising career. He did not play a single game for the Seattle Kraken this season and admitted earlier in the year that his NHL career may very well be over. “Yes, it always scares and makes you think, especially when there are many of them (concussions),” Donskoi told reporter Rahen Seuduin in his native Finnish. “You always have to think, since I’m a family man, and I should be a functional father for many more decades. Of course, decisions will be made before then about how to continue this.”
It’s a terrible situation for Donskoi–especially since he is only 31–but his retirement is likely to come out of necessity.
The 37-year-old left the only team he ever played for, the Los Angeles Kings, to join the Vegas Golden Knights (with a quick stop in Columbus) at the trade deadline. It was a complicated chapter in a storied NHL saga which, unfortunately, has seen his production enter a sharp decline the last few seasons. He’s suffered many injuries and, quite simply, is not the goalie he once was.
Vegas has been carried by exemplary play by Adin Hill and have Laurent Brossoit and Robin Lehner to contend with next season, pushing Quick out. Simply put, he’s not good enough anymore to win a spot on most teams in the league and should retire instead of over-extending his welcome.
Another unfortunate set of events led to Max Pacioretty dealing with his right Achilles tendon being torn twice in one season. He played only five games–one of which saw him sustain the second injury–and added another difficult season to a list of injury-riddled campaigns.
Pacioretty, when healthy, is certainly not short on talent, but the 34-year-old has not played a full NHL season since the 2015-16 campaign, and two Achilles tendons surgeries could certainly affect his ability to skate. Considering he’s unlikely to come back and compete the same way, Pacioretty should consider retirement as his best avenue this offseason.
There has been tons of chatter around Toews and his future, especially since the Blackhawks revealed he would not be re-upping with the club he captained for most of his career. He, too, has seen the past few years become complicated quickly, as he deals with the effects of long Covid and an auto-immune disease that has rendered him almost completely unable to take the ice since the pandemic began.
While he stalled retirement talks and frequently tells reporters he has not yet made a decision, Toews–who also represented Canada at the Olympics–is expected to hang up his skates. It would come as no surprise if the center chose to focus on his health and the long-term benefits for his family rather than opting to play hockey again.
This former first-round pick has achieved the highest accolade the NHL can offer: his name is engraved on the Stanley Cup, after he hoisted the trophy in June 2022 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Like every player on this list, the 35-year-old defenseman has seen his fair share of injuries over his career and even landed on LTIR last season.
There was a point in his career when people thought Johnson would never play again, so his lengthy stay in the NHL is impressive, and Johnson surely does not take it for granted. So, having achieved everything he set out to and then some, Erik Johnson could be headed for retirement this offseason.
Lucic was once one of the most coveted forwards in the game, as teams were drawn to his size and puck-moving ability. But, now, Lucic’s value is fading quickly, as he collected just 19 points in 77 games this season. As the game moves to a high-speed, high-scoring format, a player with Lucic’s tools becomes less valuable, and the desire to roster him lessens.
Now, the former Stanley Cup winner is 35 and averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time a game, proving his value has become obsolete in the modern NHL. As a result, it could be very possible that fans see Milan Lucic announce his retirement from the league this summer.