The season is less than two weeks away, but for one National Hockey League veteran it will mark his first season as a newly retired player. On Thursday morning, in a breaking news report brought our way from KHL and Hockey Buzz insider Aivis Kalnins, it has been revealed that veteran goalie Ondrej Pavelec has called it a career and announced his retirement from the NHL.
The 31-year-old netminder spent the last season with the New York Rangers, with whom he started in 19 games as a backup for star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. However, once his one-year contract with the Blue Shirts came to an end, New York did not re-sign him to an extension, betting on younger netminder Dustin Tokarski instead for the 2018-19 season.
As an unsigned free agent, Pavelec had doubts about continuing his career overseas. His agents noted that he did not want to pursue his career in the KHL or in Czech Republic, so he waited all summer long for an NHL offer. He has now decided to hang up the skates entirely.
"The time has come," he said in an interview for iSport.cz.
"I knew I did not want to play hockey at the age of thirty or forty. That was clearly set in me. For the people who were around me, it was no surprise. I would like to enjoy life from another perspective. One step is behind me, one in front of me. And I have to say I'm very much looking forward to it," said Pavelec.
Pavelec has been in America since 2005, when he was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the second round, 41th overall in that year's draft. He made the move to Winnipeg when the Jets got back in 2011.
After his deal came to an end with the Jets, Pavelec landed a contract with the Rangers as a free agent. He did not get the same chance this summer, as he awaited a call from an interested team in the NHL, but couldn't convince one he could be of help as a trustworthy backup goalie.
Pavelec played less than 400 games in the NHL, with the Thrashers, Jets and Rangers. He never got the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup during his career. He ends his run in the NHL with a 156-167-48 record, a total save percentage of .907 and a goalsp-against average of 2.88 in 398 contests.