There has been a lot of news regarding players that were once on now defunct/moved franchises. Martin Gelinas' (Nordiques) retirement was made official with him signing on as Nashville's new Director of Player Development. This follows on news in recent weeks that had Derian Hatcher (North Stars) and Bobby Holik (Whalers) retire, as well as reports that Michael Nylander (Whalers) was set to leave the NHL for the KHL.
I don't recall hearing any of the following players' retirements, but none of the following played any hockey of note during the past year after being active in 2007-08: Geoff Sanderson (Whalers), Richard Matvichuk (North Stars), Aaron Miller (Nordiques), Jocelyn Thibault (Nordiques), and Chad Kilger (Jets). Kilger's sudden leave from the NHL remains a mystery, so he has the potential to come back at some point, and Jocelyn Thibault is still 34, but it is quite likely we have seen the last of all five of these players as well. Nolan Pratt (Whalers) played the past year in the KHL, and since he only turns 34 this August, he could potentially catch on in the NHL again, although he was never considered a top four defender during his prime, so it is quite possible he's out of the NHL for good as well. And then, of course, there is future Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg (Nordiques), who came back for three games with Modo of the Elitseren this past year, but his nagging foot injuries have prevented him from rejoining the NHL, and may force him into retirement.
What are we left with, then? For old Minnesota North Stars fans, it's just Mike Modano, who has recently stated he will come back to finish the final year on his contract with Dallas. Last week, Modano turned 39, so it is quite possible this will be his final season.
Meanwhile, the Hartford Whalers had six alumni participate in the NHL last year (Pronger, Giguere, Holik, Nylander, Shanahan, Malik), but only Pronger, Nylander and Giguere are under contract for next year. With Holik retired, and Nylander's situation undetermined, that just leaves two players who joined their last teams during the regular season in Marek Malik and Brendan Shanahan. At 40 years old, Shanahan appears to have hit the end of the line on a Hall of Fame worthy career, notching just 13 points in 34 regular season games, plus three points in seven playoff games for New Jersey. Malik, meanwhile, battled injuries all year and was limited to just 42 games. At 34, he could have a couple of years left, but if the injuries persist he might not have much left in him.
The Quebec Nordiques, meanwhile, have only two alumni under contract for next season in Colorado's Adam Foote and Minnesota's Owen Nolan. Foote will be 38 next year, while Owen Nolan is 37 years old. The other two ex-Nordiques that played in the NHL last year were Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin. Sakic has battled a variety of injuries this past year, and is said to be seriously contemplating retirement as a result. He'll turn 40 this July. Sundin, meanwhile, didn't return to the NHL until after Christmas this past year, signing in Vancouver to huge fanfare. However, Sundin didn't live up to the lofty expectations, and has gone back to his "undecided" mode that caused him to sit out the start of the last season. It's early, but we could easily be down to only two Nordiques alumni next season.
The Winnipeg Jets had a fairly young team when they left town in 1996, and have 3 former players still signed to a contract for 2009-10. They are Shane Doan of Phoenix, Kris Draper of Detroit, and Teemu Selanne of Anaheim. Meanwhile, of their three unrestricted free agents, only Teppo Numminen seems likely to retire. Nikolai Khabibulin and Keith Tkachuk both had good years, and should be able to find NHL employment on the open market. Shane Doan will be 33 this fall, the youngest of this exclusive club, so ex-Jets players will probably last the longest of any of the groups brought up here.
Only 17 alumni from teams that no longer exist played in the NHL last year, and it won't be long until those fans have no former players left to cheer on. So who will these old fans follow? Perhaps they'll have to live vicariously through the offspring of former players, like Alex Steen, Paul Stastny, or potential 2009 1st round pick Landon Ferraro.