Marian Hossa will not play for Blackhawks next season
In a stunning development, Marian Hossa will not play next season due to a skin disorder that the Blackhawks forward has been dealing with for some time.
"Over the course of the last few years, under the supervision of the Blackhawks medical staff, I have been privately undergoing treatment for a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat the disorder," Hossa said in a statement released by team officials early Wednesday. "Due to the severe side effects associated with those medications, playing hockey is not possible for me during the upcoming 2017-18 season.
"While I am disappointed that I will not be able to play, I have to consider the severity of my condition and how the treatments have impacted my life both on and off the ice."
The announcement sent shock waves across Chicago and the NHL as one of the most respected and professional players in the league may have played his last game. It's too early to make that proclamation a reality, but attempting to come back after a year off is difficult on any athlete, and Hossa will be 39 when the 2018-19 season begins.
Hossa, who signed a 12-year, $63.3 million contract on July 1, 2009, is set to make just $1 million in the last four years of that deal. The Hawks will now almost certainly look to put Hossa on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), which should give them up to $5.275 million in salary-cap relief. However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters in Las Vegas that the league has not decided what the cap treatment will be for the Hawks.
"From my point of view, and the Blackhawks might have a different point of view, is that it's something that won't get resolved by this week and won't be anything we have to opine probably before July 1," Daly said.
If Hossa simply retired -- instead of announcing he is unable to play for one season -- the Hawks would be on the hook for a cap recapture penalty of about $4 million through the 2020-21 season.
Unless the NHL is about to use the Hawks as an example of teams trying to circumvent the salary cap, Hossa's absence means GM Stan Bowman suddenly has options when free agency begins on July 1 without having to move a high-salaried player. Teams don't have to be cap compliant until the first day of the regular season and can be as much as 10 percent over the cap ($75 million in 2017-18) until then.
A locker room leader who at times would spend 15 or 20 minutes talking to reporters, Hossa was asked in March 2016 if he's proud of what he has accomplished in the NHL.
"To tell you the truth, when I first started as … an 18-year-old in the league, I never thought about these numbers," said Hossa, who has 525 goals and 609 assists in 1,309 regular-season games. "My goal was kind of (be able) to play in the NHL for a (while) and hopefully be good in it. I never thought in my head that I would play this long. … Obviously my dream was to win the Stanley Cup at least once."
In that same interview, Hossa -- mired in a season-long slump that would see him score just 13 goals -- was asked how important it was to finish out his contract.
"I would love to go through my whole contract, what I signed because I signed for a long time," he said. "On the other hand, you cannot know what can happen -- injuries and when you become older. When you're not at the level you want to be it's tough to force things. I go year by year definitely."
Replacing Hossa, one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL, won't be easy. Even at 38, he hasn't lost a step and few play better defense, few strip pucks better and almost no one is tougher to knock off the puck than Hossa.
"There's not really anything he doesn't do that's not at the top of the league in whatever category," said Jonathan Toews in March 2016. "Even at his age, to see how hard he works with the skill level that he has, it's pretty amazing."
After scoring just 13 times on 307 shots in 2015-16, Hossa bounced back in a big way last season, scoring 26 times on 303 shots.
Hossa did express some disappointment at being demoted to a third-line role when he conducted his exit interview on April 22 at the United Center, but he also gave no indication that anything was wrong with him physically.
"There was a little bumps and bruises where I couldn't play but otherwise overall I played lots of games and so healthwise I felt pretty decent," he said.
Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said that Hossa's skin disorder was becoming tougher to treat and that the medications were becoming less and less effective.
Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville are scheduled to meet the media at the United Center on Thursday at noon. The NHL draft is at the UC on Friday (first round) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7).
"This is extremely difficult for us because we all know the incredible person and player that Marian Hossa is -- competitive, loyal and humble," Bowman said in a statement. "His teammates and coaches know he battled through some very tough physical difficulties but never complained or missed games despite the challenges he faced."
• Follow John's Hawks reports on Twitter @johndietzdh.