Marian Hossa won't be playing hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks this year. Given his age and his contract -- his backdiving contract pays him $1 million a year despite the lofty cap hit -- it's quite like his career is over.
Marian Hossa is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He scored more than 500 goals and 1,000 points while playing his career in the "dead puck" era, all while playing Selke-calibre defense. It was a sad day in 2009 when the Red Wings announced they'd signed Johan Franzen, because it meant there wasn't enough money left to sign Hossa.
Franzen, while a great goal scorer for a couple years, was never at the level of Marian Hossa. I've always viewed the decision to sign Franzen over Hossa as the end of the golden era in Detroit -- the era when the Red Wings did everything they could to sign the world's best players.
In Hossa they had one. A guy every bit as good as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk at both ends of the ice.
They let a great player go to keep a good player.
But that's water under the bridge now.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, the immediate challenge is next year. Hossa scored 26 goals last year -- good for third on the team. Chicago has options. Richard Panik scored 22 goals. Ryan Hartman scored 19 goals. But the x-factor is former Red Wing Tomas Jurco.
The Hawks decided to protect Jurco in the expansion draft -- a surprising decision given how sparingly he played. He scored one goal in 13 games, playing 11:22 a night. He didn't play in the playoffs.
Chicago's decision means they see something in Jurco -- something the Red Wings apparently never saw in the kid.
Next year could be Jurco's last kick at the can in the NHL. He needs to kick it hard. Or he might find himself booted from the NHL.