Have you ever caught yourself thinking of an old Caps' favorite and wondered, what ever happened to that guy?
Hockey, like all professional sports, is a tough business. Team legends can spend many years in one city but find themselves looking for a new team near the end of their careers. Other players are brought in to bolster the squad but are let go through free agency or trades just as they began to establish themselves in Washington.
The hockey world, however, does not end when players leave D.C. Here’s a look at some former Caps and how they fared after their time in Washington.
Played for Caps: 1995 – 2004
Stats with Caps: 654 GP, 144 G, 272 A, 416 Pts, Postseason: 51 GP, 13 G, 18 A, 31 Pts
Before there was Mike Green, there was Gonchar. The Gonchar/Peter Bondra power play combination was feared throughout the league and is remembered fondly by Caps fans to this day.
Gonchar became a Cap when he was selected 14th overall in the 1992 NHL Draft. He first suited up for the team on Feb. 7, 1995 and was almost immediately became a key piece of the team as a fantastic defenseman with uncanny offensive abilities.
Like so many former Caps greats, however, Gonchar was a shipped away in 2004 with the lockout looming. The Caps traded the star defenseman to Boston for Shaone Morrisonn and two draft picks. Gonchar would finish the season strong and led all defensemen with 58 points, four points ahead of second place Chris Pronger.
During the lockout, Gonchar returned to Russia and played for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Upon his return he broke the collective hearts of Caps fans everywhere and signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Pittsburgh.
Along with a young Sidney Crosby, Gonchar helped revive the stagnant Pittsburgh franchise. He tied a career-high in points with 67 in his second season with the team. Injuries hampered him for several seasons and when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009, he revealed to the media he had actually been playing with a partially torn medial collateral ligament.
Goncahr played out the remainder of his contract with Pittsburgh and signed a three-year deal with Ottawa on July 1, 2010. Though his offensive numbers declined, Gonchar still proved his worth as a solid defensive player with the Senators. Ottawa traded Gonchar’s rights to Dallas and in the summer of 2013, he signed a two-year deal with the Stars.
In the 2013-14 season, Gonchar played in 76 games, scored two goals and recorded 20 assists, helping Dallas reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.
When the seemingly ageless 40-year-old finally retires, he will go down as one of the best defensemen in NHL history. Gonchar currently ranks 17th in goals among all defensemen in the history of the NHL, 19th in assists and 17th in points and he’s compiled those offensive numbers without sacrificing too much defensively as so many other puck-moving defensemen have struggled with in the past.
Clearly, he will be remembered as an all-time great and that’s due largely because of what he accomplished while with the Caps.