by PuckStopsHere on 10/19/13 at 07:30 PM ET
I like to write career retrospectives when players that I think will make the Hockey Hall of Fame retire. In today`s case, Chris Pronger isn`t actually officially retired but he is almost certain to never play another game in his career. His general manager Paul Holmgren is on record saying that Pronger is very unlikely to ever play again. Today I am deciding to treat him as retired.
Pronger is on the longterm injured reserve and is not trying to make a comeback to play again. Pronger is signed until 2017 and his contract counts toward his team`s salary cap regardless of if he plays again, unless he stays on the LTIR. Pronger hasn`t played a game since 2011. If he doesn`t play again, he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015. He will likely not retire officially until 2017 when his contract ends. Thus he could make the Hall of Fame, while still an active player on paper.
Pronger was born on October 10th, 1974 in Dryden, Ontario. He first came to the attention of NHL scouts at age 16 playing for the Stratford Cullitons in the Ontario Junior Hockey B League, where he scored at better than point per game rate on defence. It was expected that he would go to the NCAA to play at Bowling Green University where his older brother Sean was playing, but he was nevertheless drafted by the Peterborough Petes in the OHL. He chose to report to Peterborough instead of play in the NCAA. He spent two years in Peterborough. His second was a huge year where he won the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the best OHL defenceman, was named the CHL best defenceman, won the CHL plus/minus award and made the OHL First Team All Star Team. He played on the gold medal winning Canadian team in the World Junior Hockey Championships and was on the runner up team in the Memorial Cup. That was good enough to make him a first round pick, second overall by the Hartford Whalers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
He made the NHL All Rookie Team in his first year in Hartford. He also had off-ice problems. He was arrested in a bar-room brawl in Buffalo and again for drunk driving after the season ended. He was seen by many as talented but immature. After a second year in Hartford, he was traded to St Louis for Brendan Shanahan, who was a far more established star.
In St Louis, he developed into a star. By 1998, he played for Team Canada in the Olympics. He led the NHL in +/- that season and made the NHL's Second Team All Star. In 1999, he played in his first NHL All Star Game. It was the first of six times he would be named to an All Star Game. In 2000 he became the first defenceman since Bobby Orr in 1972 to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. He also won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the league, made the First Team All Star and led the NHL in +/- rating. He made his second Olympic Team and won the gold medal in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately his 2002/03 season was washed out. He only played five games, losing most of the year to injury. He bounced back in 2003/04 and made his second NHL Second Team All Star. With a search for a new ownership group in St Louis, the Blues opted to cut payroll and they traded Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch. After the 2004/05 lockout, he reported to the Edmonton Oilers.
Pronger made his third straight Canadian Olympic Team in 2006. He was a key part of the Edmonton Oilers run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals and was considered a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate, despite their losing effort. After the playoffs, it was reported that Pronger had requested a trade as his wife was unhappy in Edmonton. This made him a hated man in Edmonton. He was traded to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul, Ladoslav Smid, a 2007 first round draft pick (later traded to Phoenix - who chose Nick Ross), a 2008 second round draft pick (later traded to the New York Islanders - who selected Travis Hamonic) and a conditional 2008 first round pick (Edmonton selected Jordan Eberle).
In Anaheim, he won the Stanley Cup in his first season in 2007. He was considered a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate again but was passed over for teammate Scott Niedermayer because he was suspended for two playoff games during the Stanley Cup run. Pronger made the Second Team All Star that year. He remained in Anaheim until 2009 when he was traded in an attempt to rebuild the Ducks, who were no longer a Stanley Cup candidate. Pronger along with Ryan Dingle was traded to Philadelphia for Joffrey Lupul (the second time he had been traded for Pronger), Luca Sbisa, a 2009 first round draft pick (traded to Columbus - they selected John Moore), a 2010 first round draft pick (Emerson Etem) and a conditional third round pick (but the conditions were never satisfied).
Very soon after being traded to Philadelphia, he signed a seven year contract extension that was heavily front-loaded. Although he signed it before his 35th birthday, he would turn 35 in October of the year it began. The NHL ruled this was a 35+ contract and every season would count toward his team's salary cap - unless he put on the LTIR. Some people began to predict Pronger being placed on LTIR as soon as he was no longer valuable to the Flyers. After slightly over two seasons in Philadelphia it occurred. Concussions placed him on LTIR in 2011 and he has been there ever since. He won his second Olympic gold medal with Team Canada at the Vancouver Olypmics in 2010 before this happened.
Pronger is not officially retired but his career is over. He will be remembered as one of the best physical defencemen in NHL history. He was a rare defenceman to win the Hart Trophy. Injuries kept him from sustained success well into his 30's but he had a peak to his career that few defencemen ever have.
This "retirement" shortens my list of players who are still active and I believe should make the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers. Here is my list:
Martin St Louis
I have added Sergei Fedorov back onto the list because he is making a comeback playing in the KHL. There will likely be more players added as hockey is played this season. There are a few players on this list who will likely retire at season's end shortening this list again.
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