BERNE – According to North American media reports, Markus Näslund of the New York Rangers is poised to announce his retirement from the NHL at age 35.
Näslund put up 24 goals and 22 assists in 82 games in his lone season with the Rangers, with whom he signed as a free agent on July 3, 2008. The Swedish veteran had one year remaining on his contract at $4 million. Reportedly, his decision to retire was motivated by a feeling that he could no longer perform at a level that was personally satisfying.
The Örnsköldsvik-born forward leaves behind a mixed legacy. He certainly enjoyed many successes as an NHLer. Best-known as the captain of the Vancouver Canucks (2000-08), Näslund remains that franchise's career points leader (756), and also holds the single-season team record for most goals (48), assists (56), and points (104) by a left wing.
Näslund, however, was often criticized by fans and media for not leading the Canucks deeper into the playoffs than the second round in 2002-03. That season marked the peak of his glory years on a line with centre Brendan Morrison and right wing Todd Bertuzzi, which was among the league's most explosive and exciting in the pre-lockout NHL era dominated by defensive schemes. The three-time NHL All-Star generated most of his offence with his great skating and lightning wrist shot.
In IIHF competition, Näslund generally didn't perform at the same level he did as a pro. His best outing came at the 1993 IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden, where he set the record for most goals in one tournament (13) on a line with Peter Forsberg and Niklas Sundstrom, and won his second straight silver medal in a Tre Kronor jersey.
Yet afterwards, apart from a 10-point showing with Sweden's 1999 World Championship team that won bronze in Norway, Näslund seemed to struggle with expectations when representing his country. He never had more than three points at any of his other senior IIHF tournaments (Worlds in 1993 and 2002, Olympics in 2002) or World Cups (1996, 2004). He also had the misfortune of not getting to make up for the disastrous quarterfinal loss to Belarus at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, as he missed the golden glory of Torino 2006 with a groin injury.
Nonetheless, Näslund should be remembered as a classy and conscientious star, whether he ever makes a comeback in the NHL or Swedish Elitserien or not. His #19 jersey will likely be retired by the Canucks in the near future.