It is undeniably true. The well-traveled Rucinsky hails from the town of Most, Czech Republic. He’s been the Most since the day he was born. Rucinsky played a handful of games in 1991-92, but really started his full-time NHL career in 1992-93. How long ago was that? Al Gore hadn’t invented the neutral zone trap yet. Rucinsky has been around so long, he was actually one of the draft picks the Oilers got for Wayne Gretzky (he was also part of another blockbuster trade, the one that brought Patrick Roy to Colorado. How many guys can say they were traded for both the best skater to ever play the game and the best goalie?). Rucinsky is in his 17th NHL season, for his 10th team (if you count his three stints with the Rangers and two with the Blues separately).
A player with this much longevity, desired by that many teams, must have something special going for him. Stellar defense? Well, he’s never been in the running for the Selke. Offensive production? His career high is 60 points for the 1995-96 Canadiens, and he has typically been a 40-ish point player; not exactly a juggernaut. A dashing, marketable grin? Um, look at that face. No, Rucinsky is one of those mysterious players who, despite no definable skill set, manages to hang around the NHL year after year after year. Rucinsky is making a mind-boggling $3 million this season for his pedestrian efforts. But he is not alone.
Martin Gelinas, I’m looking at you. Gelinas broke into the league as a member of the famed “Kid Line” for the 1989-90 Oilers Stanley Cup champs with Joe Murphy and Adam Graves. Long after those two have passed from this league, Gelinas hangs on. Is it his indifferent defense, or the memory of those 68 points he scored a decade ago in Vancouver that prompted the Predators to shell out $1.25 million for him?
Radek Bonk. Nashville seems to be a haven for these never-wases. Bonk was a No. 3 overall pick by the Senators, seemingly destined to be en elite forward. I guess if scoring 70 points one time makes you elite, he made it!
Chris Gratton was the poster boy for the fiscal insanity that led to the lockout. A huge contract for a guy who had topped 60 points exactly once (and did it one other time after his payday, in 1997-98). He is currently on his third stint with the Lightning. What is that expression that starts, “fool me once…”? For the last decade, he has essentially been the world’s most expensive penalty killer. But hey, he’ll get you 15 goals a season!
Viktor Kozlov. That’s a very Russian name. And it sounds very similar to former Red Wings sniper Slava Kozlov (who is still playing at a very nice point-a-game clip in Atlanta). Alas, the similarities end there. Viktor is plying his mediocre trade for the Capitals this season, and is on pace for around 12 goals and 48 points. Whoop-de-do. Is that all $2.5 million will buy you these days?
Sergei Brylin. Another Russian. I thought these guys could skate and stuff. Brylin has spent his entire career with the Devils, and scored 23 goals once. Most years, though, he plugs along at about 15. At least he comes at a relatively cheap $1.5 million, although you’d have to think that the Devils could find some kid in the AHL who could score 15 goals for a third of that.
Jamie Langenbrunner actually had a career year for the Devils last season with 60 points. At age 32, I’m going to suggest you shouldn’t expect a dramatic improvement. The Devils seem content enough to pay the long-named-one $2.8 million, though. As my colleague The Legend of Vincent Tremblay suggested, perhaps there out to be a special exception for New Jersey forwards.
Your further suggestions in the comments are welcome.