We have all heard the saying: “40 is the new 30”. It’s an encouraging expression with a nice ring to it. Athletes generally have longer careers nowadays, oftentimes playing and being productive into their late-thirties. Medical advancements and stingier training regimens have made it possible to somewhat turn back the clock on a career. But how much is too much? Regardless of anyone’s training regimen, there is still a negative stigma that revolves around players the age of 40. It’s as if an athlete can be trucking along just fine and the second his/her 40th birthday hits, it’s time to invest in some beach chairs and move to Florida. There are some players in the NHL who are currently playing above this dreaded age. Lets have a look how they are producing statistically, compared to when they were 30 and also if financially they still offer some bang for their buck, starting with the men between the pipes!
6. Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago Blackhawks (41 years old)
Not to start off on a bad note, but this isn’t one of the promising over-40 stories. Khabibulin is currently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2013-2014 NHL season ,earning $1.7 million. His play has dropped significantly as he’s currently posting a 5.01 G.A.A and a .811 save percentage in only four games played this season. An even more alarming stat is how often he has been injured in the past few years. Since 2010 he has; missed 60 games with a back injury, 6 games with a groin injury, 4 games with an eye injury, 5 games with another groin injury, 5 games with a hip injury, and another 8 games after injuring his groin yet again. To top it off, he is also currently out 4-5 months with a lower-body injury. In Khabibulin’s case, 40 is the new 60. It is baffling how he is still around, and what’s even more mind-blowing is the fact that general managers keep giving him contracts, year after year. Granted, his salary has significantly decreased since the 2003-2004 season where he was making $4.4 million. But he was also at the pinnacle of his career with a 2.33 GAA, 9.10 save pct. and ultimately won the Stanley Cup that year. The bad news is that Khabibulin has nothing left to offer to an NHL team. The only good news is that if there was ever a case study to demonstrate how 40 is not the new 30, Khabibulin would make a wonderful candidate.
5. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (41 years old)
Martin Brodeur is arguably the best goalie of all-time (easy everyone, I said arguably). He is not embarrassing himself by any means out there and still shows flashes of brilliance at times. However, his numbers have slowly dwindled over the past few seasons. His save percentage has dropped from .908 to .901 to his current .899 since the 2011-2012 season. These numbers are nowhere near his 2003-2004 season, when he was 30, posting a remarkable 2.03 GAA and 9.17 save percentage. It’s also safe to say that Cory Schneider has effectively taken over the starter’s position on the team as he has been absolutely stellar. While Brodeur’s numbers have dropped considerably, his salary has not. He was making $6.9 million in 2003-2004 as an elite, starting goaltender and he makes $5 million now. This is even though Schneider seems poised to carry the bulk of the load the rest of the way, leaving Brodeur as a pricy backup.
4. Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils (41 years old)
We move on to Brodeur’s teammate, Jaromir Jagr. He would probably hate this article as he proclaimed a few weeks ago in Montreal that he was tired of people talking about his age and that “when you’re good, you’re good” (relax Jaromir, I’m about to compliment you). He may use Just for Men, but the 41-year-old can still bring it. He currently has 16 goals and 28 assists totaling 44 points in 54 games, which gives him an average of 0.81 points per game. In the 2003-2004 season with the Capitals and Rangers, he amassed 74 points in 77 games which came out to 0.96 points per game. Considering we’re comparing a 41-year-old Jagr to a 31-year-old Jagr, that really isn’t that much of a drop-off in terms of production. Still not sold? During the 2003-2004 season he was earning $11 million in comparison to the $4 million he is currently earning with the Devils. That is a $7 million differential for an equally effective player. Great signing by Lou Lamoriello.
3. Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars (41 years old)
It’s hard to believe that Ray Whitney was drafted in 1991 as many current NHLers weren’t even born then. Part of the reason that no one realizes this is because he’s a quiet player who goes about his business without rocking the boat. In 2003-2004, he put up 14 goals, 29 assists, totaling 43 points with the Red Wings. At the time he was earning $3 million on the nose. This season he has 6 goal and 15 assists, totalling 21 points. He is also earning $4.5 million which translates into a $1.5 million raise for a considerably less productive player. He is 7th on the team in points among forwards and does not see much power play time anymore. For an offensive player earning that kind of coin, his output simply isn’t good enough. However, I am not willing to write him off just yet (even though it sure sounded like it) as he may just be having an off year. Whitney has been a consistent contributor for the past three seasons, notching 57, 77 and 29 points, respectively. We must keep in mind that last season was only 48 games long due to the lockout and that he also only played 32 of the 48.
2. Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings (41 years old)
Daniel Alfredsson physically doesn’t seem to age, and the only thing that fluctuates is the length of his hair. His point production, much like his physical appearance, never seems to change either. Everything remains status quo for Alfie, which is why it raised so many eyebrows when he chose to sign with Detroit after 17 seasons in Ottawa. At 41, Alfredsson continues to be a dependable top 6 forward and a regular contributor on the power play. He’s tallied 12 goals and 20 assists this season, totaling 32 points in 41 games played, which is good enough to be tied for second on the team in points with Pavel Datsyuk. When Alfredsson was at his peek, he was considered underpaid as he secured 32 goals and 48 assists in the 2003-2004 season. He was earning $5 million at the time (collective groan from the crowd). Yes, I concede that $5 million is not chump change, but in comparison to other players around the league with those numbers, he was grossly underpaid. He is currently earning $5.5 million, which begs the question; did he really deserve a raise 10 years later? Probably not, but that’s what happens when a player hits the open market. GM’s will overpay to ensure that they get what they want (see Paul Holmgren in Philadelphia).
1. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks (43 years old)
It’s remarkable that at 43 years old, the Finish Flash continues to play on. Before the 2003-2004 season commenced, the Colorado Avalanche reached out to the then 33-year-old Selanne and offered him $5.8 million for one season in an attempt to bring the Cup back to Denver. Selanne (alongside Paul Kariya) ultimately put up a dud of a season, only tallying 16 goals and 16 assists, for 32 points. He was billed as “washed-up” and garnered very little interest from teams the following year. Anaheim ultimately took a chance on the veteran forward, offering him a one-year deal worth $1 million. He shocked the hockey world as he experienced a career resurgence and put up 90 points! The even more remarkable aspect of this resurgence was its duration. He was putting up similar numbers all the way up to 2010-2011, where he racked up another 80 point season. For Selanne, 40 really was the new 30. This season, Selanne has visibly slowed down, with 7 goals, 12 assists, for 19 points so far. I am willing to toss Selanne a mulligan considering the fact that he is three years removed from 40. He currently earns $2 million a year but he is similar to Brodeur in the sense that he is far from embarrassing himself out there, while offering significant leadership for the Ducks. He is also well aware that it’s time to bow out as he has stated that this season will be his last.