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How Marian Hossa's 'Retirement' Makes Even Blackhawks Fans Irate With The NHL

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 21, 2017 3:07PM

Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa / Getty Images / Photo: Jana Chytilova

One of the most beloved professional hockey players of his era could be about to retire, and here we all are thinking about cap recapture penalties. Thanks, NHL.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa—one of the premier two-way forwards in the league and a strong contender for the Hall of Fame—announced on Wednesday morning that he will not play next season due to a progressive skin disorder.

Hossa said in a statement:

“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. 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."

Team physician Dr. Michael Terry signed off on Hossa's call to sit out. "Because of the dramatic nature of the medications required and their decreasing effectiveness, we strongly support his decision not to play during the 2017-18 season," he said.

Nowhere in the statement does the word "retirement" appear, but the tea leaves point in that direction, primarily because of the specifics of Hossa's contract—which is where we get to the NHL's awful, cynicism-driving ways.

Hossa is on the back four years of a ridiculously front-loaded 12-year contract. He's only set to make $1 million per year. The unspoken nature of the contract, and those like it, was that the player would likely retire before those final, paltry-salary years. But the league got wise and instituted a cap recapture penalty. Hossa's contract would still hit against the team's salary cap at a more than $5 million per year, and the Hawks would still face a heft cap ding if Hossa were to retire proper.

But the injury now opens up the possibility of putting Hossa on long-term injury reserve, which would spare the team all those nasty cap headaches.

Still, while the timing is super-convenient, we have no information to doubt the severity of Hossa's injury—which the beat writers say sounds pretty bad, and has precedent.

What drives us crazy is that one of the great players of his era has to go out via such a ridiculous, circuitous exit, if it is indeed the end. One could argue that the Hawks and Hossa made their bed with that crafty, cap-evading contract, but it was an entirely legal move at the time. The cap-circumvention penalties were instituted after the deal was in place. But there was no grandfathering, as there ought to have been. So now we get this awkward, winky non-retirement-retirement limbo.

Fans are legitimately bummed that Hossa will be denied his proper timely sendoff, but irony of ironies, some other past tinkering, on the part of the Hockey Hall of Fame, may help assuage some of that. Defenseman Chris Pronger similarly went on long-term injury reserve/cap relief at the end of his career—and the Hall of Fame duly changed their rules so he wouldn't have to wait around for his contract to expire.

WIth Hossa, we could similarly see the bizarre spectacle of a non-retired player entering the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Unsporting or not, Hossa's contract was legit at the time, and the CBA made a terrible call when it later retroactively punished previous offenders like Hossa and the Hawks. (Keep in mind this is coming from a lifelong St. Louis Blues fan, too.) We look forward to toasting him at his retirement party, however maddeningly delayed.