We considered not even writing this one.
Like, why bother? Barring a radical change to the way the sport is played, nobody is ever – ever – going to surpass Wayne Gretzky in career NHL points.
It's simple math. Gretzky has more assists than anyone else has points – and, oh yeah, he also happens to be the all-time leading goal-scorer, too. Add it all up and he's more than 900 points ahead of all-time runner-up Jaromir Jagr and nearly 1,000 ahead of third-place Mark Messier. Among active players, Gretzky is more than 1,300 points ahead of Joe Thornton and nearly 1,600 ahead of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
But, since we've already done all-time goals and assists and games played and defenseman points and goalie wins, well, we figured we should at least go through the motions and see if maybe, just maybe, someone might have a shot at one day beating Gretzky's all-time NHL point record. (Spoiler: They don't.)
Take a look at the NHL's top 10 all-time leaders and top 10 active leaders in career points.Top 10 all-time NHL players: Career points
Wayne Gretzky 2,857Jaromir Jagr 1,921Mark Messier 1,887Gordie Howe 1,850Ron Francis 1,798Marcel Dionne 1,771Steve Yzerman 1,755Mario Lemieux 1,723Joe Sakic 1,641Phil Esposito 1,590
Wayne's world: Where to begin? How about with the fact that Wayne Gretzky is the only NHL player to ever score 200 points in a single season – and he did it not once, but four times? Or the fact that Gretzky owns nine of the NHL's top 11 single-season scoring marks? Or that he owns the NHL record with 15 seasons of 100-plus points, including his first 13 seasons in the league? (For comparison, Mario Lemieux is second all-time with 10 career 100-plus point seasons, followed by Marcel Dionne with eight. Sidney Crosby is the active leader with six, followed by Alex Ovechkin with four.) Gretzky had a seven-year stretch where his worst season was 164 points, and an 11-year stretch where his worst season was 142 points. In his 20s, he was the NHL's highest-scoring player in the 1980s by a mile (more than 800 points ahead of Peter Stastny). In his 30s, he was the NHL's highest-scoring player in the 1990s by a bit (12 points ahead of Jaromir Jagr). We could go on and on and on, like Gretzky's NHL-record 51-game point streak in 1983-84. But you get the point – nobody's beating Gretzky's point record. Ever.
Best of the rest: Jaromir Jagr, who scored the overtime winner for Pittsburgh in Gretzky's final NHL game with the Rangers in 1999, peaked with 149 points in 1995-96 and had a total of five 100-plus point campaigns during his 24-year NHL career. But for a three-year KHL hiatus in his late 30s, Jagr surely would've become the NHL's second 2,000-point man...Mark Messier counted six 100-plus point campaigns during his 25-year NHL career, with a high of 129 in 1989-90 (after Gretzky was traded to L.A.)...Gordie Howe took over the NHL's all-time scoring lead from Maurice Richard in 1960 and remained on top for 29 years until Gretzky recorded point No. 1,851 in 1989. Amazingly, Howe only had one 100-point season during his 26-year NHL career – hitting 103 points as a 40-year-old in 1968-69. (Note: Howe had two 100-point seasons and two 90-point seasons during his six-year WHA stint in his late 40s.)...Ron Francis posted three 100-point campaigns during his 23-year career, including 119 with Pittsburgh in 1995-96...Marcel Dionne never won the Stanley Cup and his offensive exploits were largely underappreciated as he spent the prime of his career on a non-contending team on the West Coast. But the numbers don't lie. Only Gretzky (15) and Lemieux (10) had more 100-point seasons than Dionne (eight), who hit 130-plus points in three straight seasons including a personal-best 137 in 1979-80...Steve Yzerman owns the NHL's highest-scoring season by a player not named Gretzky or Lemieux, with 155 points in 1988-89, during a six-year stretch of 100-plus point seasons for the Red Wings legend...While Gretzky owns nine of the NHL's 11 highest-scoring seasons, Mario Lemieux owns the other two – including a 199-point effort in 1988-89 – as well as the 12th and 13th highest-scoring seasons. Lemieux's career point-per-game pace of 1.88 is the only one close to Gretzky's career rate of 1.92. Mike Bossy sits third (1.50)...Joe Sakic had six 100-point seasons, the first as a 20-year-old sophomore NHLer in 1989-90, the last as a 37-year-old grizzled veteran in 2006-07...After setting the NHL record with 126 points in 1968-69, Phil Esposito shattered it two years later when he posted 152 points in 1970-71. It stood until Gretzky and the '80s showed up; today, it ranks as the 15th-most prolific season in NHL history.Top 10 active NHL players: Career points
Joe Thornton 1,509Alex Ovechkin 1,278Sidney Crosby 1,263Patrick Marleau 1,188Evgeni Malkin 1,076Patrick Kane 1,022Eric Staal 1,021Ryan Getzlaf 965Anze Kopitar 950Jason Spezza 940
Grey power: Joe Thornton ranks 14th on the NHL's all-time scoring list, and the 41-year-old might move up a couple spots this season, but making his way into the top 10 is another matter. With 1,509 career points, Thornton is 22 back of Paul Coffey (1,531) and 24 behind Mark Recchi (1,533), and 70 points behind 11th-place Ray Bourque (1,579) and 81 behind 10th-place Esposito. Does Thornton have two 40-plus point seasons in him? We know he loves to play, but he's on a one-year deal and given his age and declining output, he might have to be satisfied with squeezing past Coffey and Recchi. Thornton had a career-best 125 points in 2005-06, the season he was traded from Boston to San Jose, and hit 100-plus points on two other occasions.
Sid & Ovie: It's hard to believe, but we're 15 years into Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin's NHL rivalry. After all that time, the league's standard-bearers are separated by a mere 15 points. Ovechkin holds a decided edge in games played – he's suited up in 1,152 NHL contests compared to Crosby's 984 – but durability is part of the deal in the big leagues. Ovechkin and Crosby both recorded 100-plus point campaigns in four of their first five seasons, and Crosby later did it two more times. Currently, Ovechkin, 35, sits 36th on the all-time scoring list, while Crosby, 33, ranks 39th. How much higher can they climb? If Ovechkin can add 300 points to his total – with, say, five 60-point seasons – he'd be one point behind 11th-place Bourque and 12 behind 10th-place Esposito. Crosby, meanwhile, is two years younger but has been more susceptible to injury. So, let's project 300 more points for him, too, which puts Crosby just outside the top 10. They've still got work to do, but at this juncture both Ovechkin and Crosby look like better bets to crack the all-time top 10 than Thornton.
Best of the rest: You can lump Patrick Marleau in with his old Sharks pal Thornton – he might notch a few more points this year, but he's slowing down at 41 and this will surely be his final season. Currently, Marleau sits 50th all-time, and he can move up into the low 40s if he can produce 30 points this season. He's never had a 100-point campaign in his 22 NHL seasons, maxing out at 86 in 2005-06...What is it about Pittsburgh's superstar centers? Evgeni Malkin, 34, is still scoring at a point-per-game rate (or better), but staying healthy has been an issue – he's only played 70-plus games in a season once in the past eight years. Malkin has had three 100-point efforts, including 113 in 2008-09...Patrick Kane struck for 106 points in 2015-16 and then set a career best with 110 points at age 31 in 2018-19. His supporting cast ain't what it used to be, but with his sublime skill set he's still got an outside shot at 1,500 career points before all is said and done...Eric Staal hit 100 points bang-on in his breakout sophomore season in 2005-06. At 36 the end is near, but Staal was surprisingly productive in Minnesota and will get plenty of opportunity to produce in Buffalo. The best-case is 1,200 points, but 1,100 wouldn't be shabby, either...At 35, Ryan Getzlaf is a year younger than Staal, but the Ducks captain has slowed in the past couple seasons. He'll hit 1,000 points, but don't expect any milestones beyond that. Getzlaf's best season was a 91-pointer in 2008-09...It's not nearly as bad as it was during Dionne's days, but playing in L.A. still means you're a little lower on the league's radar. Like, Anze Kopitar has 950 career points? When did that happen? It helps that the 33-year-old has basically been a point-a-game player since arriving in 2006-07, with a personal-best 92 points in 2017-18...Jason Spezza will likely come up short in his quest for 1,000 career points. He's 37 years old and has posted point totals of 26, 27 and 25 over the past three seasons. He topped out at 92 points in 2007-08.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Lightning fans, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You've got Mikhail Sergachev on a bargain deal. It's amazing how Julien Brisebois continues to make things work.
But the pain isn't over: the team still needs to sign Anthony Cirelli.
Tampa Bay is currently over the salary cap by about $2 million and Cirelli won't come cheap after proving himself as a reliable two-way center. Add in Erik Cernak's potential new deal on the point and the next few moves will not be easy to put together.
The Lightning moved on from Zach Bogosian and Kevin Shattenkirk which cleared a few million each, but not enough to make everything work just yet. The Lightning were unsuccessful in their search to give Tyler Johnson a new home via the waiver wire in October and despite a solid scoring background, his play has dropped off over time. Seattle would be a fantastic dumping ground for Johnson, but the Lightning can't wait a year if they want to secure Cirelli.
That's the issue the Lightning face moving forward, and Ryan Kennedy does a great job at highlighting the challenge ahead after the Sergachev news. But what about the rest of the league's top RFAs? Here's a look at the best players still available as we head into December:
Mathew Barzal, C (New York Islanders)
Barzal is the centerpiece of the Islanders, bar none. He's going nowhere, period. Barzal has recorded at least 60 points in all three of his NHL seasons, highlighted by a superb 85-point rookie campaign in 2017-18. At 23, what's his next contract going to look like? Matt Larkin suggested that Barzal would make close to Jack Eichel's $10 million deal in a non-COVID-19 world, but nobody's making that this off-season. The Isles have just $3.9 million in cap space as it stands, but that's about to change. But things might be ready to get just a bit more interesting. Long-time NHL defenseman Johnny Boychuk was forced into early retirement due to an eye injury, opening up about $6 million in free space to give them nearly $10 million in cap room to play with. That'll be enough to land Barzal in this COVID-19 contract landscape, but what about the length?
Pierre-Luc Dubois, C (Columbus Blue Jackets)
The Blue Jackets have shown true promise with first- and qualification-round victories the past two seasons. Now it's time for the Jackets to continue towards a successful long-term future and Dubois is one of the biggest pieces of that puzzle. The Jackets have $9.23 million in available cap space so landing Dubois shouldn't be an issue. But GM Jarmo Kekalainen needs to be mindful of Columbus' cap situation moving forward, too: only Cam Atkinson, Gustav Nyquist and Vladislav Gavrikov are signed past 2021-22, meaning the Jackets still need to deal with Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Max Domi, among others over the next two years. Dubois is a No. 1 centerman at the age of 22 with a 61-point season to his credit - give him time and Dubois will be a true star in the NHL. It just won't come cheap.
Mackenzie Blackwood, G (New Jersey Devils)
The Devils seemed set on making Blackwood the team's goaltender of the future and bringing in two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford into the fray will offer some guidance and competition that Blackwood hasn't really had in his short NHL career. He picked an incredible time to get hot during the season: from Dec. 14 until the shutdown on March 12, Blackwood had a 14-6-4 record to make him one of the better goalies down the stretch. Blackwood is still young at 23 with about a season and a half of NHL experience to his credit, so I'd keep an eye on something like Matt Murray's three-year deal at $3.75-million per that he signed in 2016 as a comparable.
Ethan Bear, D (Edmonton Oilers)
Bear's emergence in 2019-20 was one of the best surprises in Edmonton. Bear played in 18 games in 2017-18 but never received a call-up in 2018-19 after suffering injuries along the way. Bear averaged 21:53 a game in 2019-20 as a rookie and in a normal year, his performance would have earned him a long-term deal at a reasonable rate. But with a flat-cap world, Bear's likely chasing a short-term bridge deal. The Oilers have $732,509 in cap space and Bear has next to no leverage in earning a better deal, so GM Ken Holland will have to get creative to keep a player the team will likely protect ahead of the 2021 expansion draft.
Jack Roslovic, RW (Winnipeg Jets)
Roslovic has never really developed into the star some hoped he would be after being Auston Matthews' setup man with the U.S. National Development Team Program in 2014-15. Roslovic's career-high in points is 29 and it's arguable that he's a 35-point player at his best at this point. That's still not a bad player to have in the bottom six and the Jets could use the scoring depth if they intend on moving on from Patrik Laine in the near future. Anything much higher than $2 million will be an over-payment.
Dylan Strome, C (Chicago Blackhawks)
Strome emerged as one of the team’s top young guns in 2018-19 after recording 51 points in 58 games, following an unsuccessful three-year stint in Arizona. But Strome’s numbers dipped this season with just 38 points in 58 games, leaving some to wonder what his results will look like in the future. Kirby Dach should force Strome down in the lineup, which could make Strome expendable after a few years. A one-year deal would make him arbitration-eligible next off-season, but it might be worth signing him for three years and, if needed, move him a year or two in.
Jesper Bratt, LW (New Jersey Devils)
At 22, Bratt is another young piece on a youthful core that's still a few years away from being serious contenders again. Bratt has hit the 32-point threshold in all three of his NHL seasons to date and if that's what the club can expect moving forward, he's a decent secondary scorer to keep in the fray. As the Devils improve, Bratt's numbers could, too. At 5-on-5, only Nikita Gusev (29) had more points than Bratt (25) on the Devils, and Bratt played six fewer games. Bratt also came second to Gusev (2.29) in points-per-60 (2.21), so Bratt clearly is making the most of his opportunities. That should factor in nicely for Bratt on his next deal.
Vince Dunn, D (St. Louis Blues)
The Blues lost Alex Pietrangelo over the summer, and while the club got a strong replacement in Krug, Dunn is still someone the club needs to deal with. The Blues don't have a ton of room to work with in regular cap space, but injuries Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko will take them off the books for a bit and giving the club more to work with. The Blues should be able to make it work, but we're talking about a player that, when everyone else is healthy, is a third-pairing defenseman at best. He's a good value guy there, but the Blues won't spend too much to keep him around.
Philippe Myers, D (Philadelphia Flyers)
Myers was an absolute steal as an unsigned prospect, but he hasn't found his groove in the NHL just yet. Still, his presence as a reliable depth defenseman is noteworthy and the shocking retirement of Matt Niskanen could give Myers a better shot on the right side moving forward. Myers is the only player the Flyers need to sign with around $5 million in cap space, but a one-year deal before arbitration rights click in could be how GM Chuck Fletcher decides to proceed. Or, on the other hand, with the extra space, do they bet on his long-term play and overpay a bit to keep from having to pay him more next year?
S(Photo by Yifan Ding/NHLI via Getty Images)NHLI via Getty Images
In July, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association agreed to a six -year extension of their collective bargaining agreement. In these incredibly perilous times, this was great news for hockey fans since this meant labor peace until 2026.
Well, not so fast. Despite having signed the CBA just five months ago, the NHL has requested further concessions from the players to weather the Covid-19 storm. Initially, the players agreed to a 20% escrow and a 10% deferral of salary. Put another way, the players agreed to be paid 72% of their salaries this season with the understanding that the 20% dropped into escrow was as good as gone. As far as the 72% figure, remember that the 10% deferral comes off the top followed by the escrow deduction.
Unhappy with the current deal, the NHL is asking the NHLPA to agree to one of two proposals. The first proposal would see the escrow figure increase to 25% while players deferred 20% of their salaries. Alternatively, the league is asking the players to defer 26% of their salaries next season while keeping the escrow figure flat at 20% for the 2020-21 season. There are additional details, but the bottom line is that these proposals would see the players go from taking home 72% of their salaries this season to an average of 63%.
The league has been criticized for backpedaling on the ratified CBA. That initial reaction is understandable. That being said, while perhaps ill-timed, the NHL’s request for further concessions isn’t crazy; there is some merit to it.
Requesting amendments to a ratified agreement is a big deal, and the NHL knows that. So to approach the players’ union for further concessions means the league is seeing something new and material that requires urgent attention. Indeed, the NHL believes that its financial assumptions have so dramatically changed that this coming season is no longer financially viable within the four corners of the existing framework.
So what has changed for the league? Its fans—or, more precisely, no fans. The NHL didn’t anticipate that it wouldn’t have fans in arenas this season. Most were expecting some return to normalcy this fall. That expectation has now been pushed to sometime next year at the earliest. So there was a belief that fans would be back; they will not.
That substantially alters the financial outlook for the league. Under the existing framework, players will take home $1.6 billion in salaries. With league revenue hovering around $1.8 to $2 billion without fans in attendance, players would account for 80% of league revenue. That’s a far cry from the typical arrangement of a 50-50 split of league revenue.
The NHLPA, however, is banking on an additional $1 billion injection of revenue by way of some fans attending some of the games. If that is indeed the case, then the players would take home closer to 53% of league revenue, which presumably would be far more palatable for both sides. At this point, however, having fans in the stands for this upcoming season does not seem too likely.
In addition, the NHLPA understandably believes that nothing should change since the sides already have a deal. The NHL should have been more aggressive in its forecasting for the upcoming season, the NHLPA would reason, and if the league is now unhappy with the existing deal, well, too bad.
But the league’s position is not outrageous by any means. While the timing isn’t ideal, the substantive nature of the proposals is sound. If there are no fans in the buildings, then the NHL’s position makes sense. NHL owners understand they will lose money this season; they are, however, asking the NHLPA to help minimize the extent of those losses in these exceptional times.