Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Which NHL stars will end their careers as members of the one-franchise club?

You hear the term “franchise player” thrown around a lot these days, typically as a slightly fancier way of saying a player is very good. But actually playing out your entire career with one NHL franchise isn’t easy. Mario Lemieux managed to do it, but Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe didn’t. Nicklas Lidstrom did, but not Bobby Orr or Ray Bourque. Rocket Richard, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman made it, but not Mark Messier, Phil Esposito or Marcel Dionne.

And so far, it’s been an especially rough summer for modern-day players looking to join the club. Among the active leaders in games played with one team, as many as four players could have new homes in October. Patrick Marleau has already said goodbye to San Jose after 20 years. Shane Doan has been told that his services won’t be required in Arizona after 22 years with the organization, while Chris Neil got the same message from the Senators after 16. And as of right now, Andrei Markov’s 17-year tenure with the Canadiens appears to be in serious jeopardy.

Some of those players might still get to claim one-franchise status — Markov could re-sign in Montreal, and Doan and Neil could retire rather than sign elsewhere. But this summer has made it clear that playing out a decade or more with one organization doesn’t guarantee anything, and you never know when a player or team will decide that it’s time to sever a long-term relationship.

So today, let’s take a look at the 10 players with the most games played for a single team that they’re still on the roster of, and try to figure out which ones have the best odds of ending their career as a member of the one-franchise club.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Canucks

The tenure: 1,248 games for Henrik and 1,225 for Daniel, dating back to 2000

Why they’ll make it: Both sides in this one have been clear: The Sedins will finish their career in Vancouver. The twins have gone on the record to say they don’t want to leave. And the Canucks seem happy to hold onto them, resisting calls to think about moving their two veteran stars to help kickstart a rebuild.

On top of that, there’s another issue in play here: It’s just not easy to take on a pair of high salaries in the same deal. Assuming the twins will want to stay together wherever they play, there just aren’t many teams out there that could add that sort of cap hit. Sticking it out in Vancouver and then retiring as Canucks isn’t just the sentimental choice, it’s the practical one.

Why they won’t: The brothers have just one year left on their contracts, and the Canucks are expected to be a bad team this year and probably a few after that. Trading them today would be all but impossible, but getting a retained-salary deal done at the deadline might be realistic. And even assuming they finish the season as Canucks, the Sedins could head into unrestricted free agency next summer. Maybe they’d want to take a swing at a Stanley Cup somewhere before calling it quits.

Chance of making the one-franchise club: 75%. This will seem low to Canucks fans, many of whom seem to assume that the Sedins playing out their career in Vancouver is a sure thing. Maybe it is. But if Doan and the Coyotes taught us anything, it’s that loyalty has its limits, especially when a rebuilding team wants to go young. Is it really that hard to imagine the twins at least thinking about a discount deal with a contender next summer?

Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings

The tenure: 1,000 games on the nose, dating back to 2002

Why they’ll make it: A lot of what we just wrote about the Sedins would apply here, too. It’s a veteran player on a rebuilding team that probably won’t have a shot at a Stanley Cup anytime soon.

But there are two key differences. First, Zetterberg already has a Cup ring. And second (and more importantly), he’s signed for four more years at a cap hit north of $6 million. Free agency isn’t on the radar, and even if the Red Wings wanted to trade him, they’d have trouble finding anyone willing to take on that deal.

On top of that, this is the Red Wings; no team holds onto its stars like Detroit. They made sure to do it for everyone from Yzerman to Lidstrom to Alex Delvecchio to Pavel Datsyuk. Well, kind of.

Why they won’t: Datsyuk never played anywhere else, but the Red Wings did trade his rights. That was a unique situation, of course, but it shows that Ken Holland is willing to get creative when it comes to dumping bad contracts. Zetterberg’s deal isn’t awful yet, but it’s headed there fast, and dumping it on a floor team down the line could be the sort of painful decision the rebuilding Wings have no choice but to make.

Chance of making the one-franchise club: 90%. In today’s NHL, I’m not sure you ever go higher than 90 until the player is actually making their way to the podium to announce their retirement. But of everyone on our list, Zetterberg is the most likely to retire with his team.

Dustin Brown, Kings

The tenure: 964 games dating back to 2003

Why they’ll make it: He’s been a warrior for the franchise, lifting two Stanley Cups as their captain. But let’s face it, the real reason Brown will retire as a King is his contract. With five years left at a nearly $6-million cap hit, and given Brown’s recent performance, it’s one of the worst contracts in the league. Even if the Kings wanted to trade him, no other team is going anywhere near that deal.

Why they won’t: The contract may be untradeable, but that doesn’t mean the Kings are stuck with it. Brown’s deal isn’t weighted down with bonuses, making it relatively straightforward to buy out. New management will no doubt give him a chance to find his game again before going that route, but this team already stripped him of his captaincy. The writing is on the wall here.

Chance of making the one-franchise club: 30%. Brown is a buyout waiting to happen.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

No comments:

Post a Comment