Kristian Huselius

Colorado Avalanche v Columbus Blue Jackets

Kristian Huselius calls it a career

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Veteran NHL forward Kristian Huselius announced his retirement on Tuesday.

Huselius made the announcement via Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet, citing his inability to recover from a troublesome hip injury.

The 34-year-old signed with Swedish Elite League team AIK in December and played three games for the club before calling it quits.

“[My hip] has become worse and worse every game,” he said in a statement. “So I have taken the decision to stop with hockey altogether.”

Huselius last played in the NHL during the 2011-12 season, appearing in just two games for Columbus.

While he enjoyed some success with the Blue Jackets — he led the team in assists (40) in 2009-10 and finished third in points (63) — Huselius spent most of his final two seasons on IR, missing 123 games with various ailments.

Then came the bickering.

In August, Huselius accused Columbus of rushing him back from injury, which he said indirectly led to a groin tear that kept him out of the final 55 games of last year:

Here’s what the 33-year-old unrestricted free agent had to say (translated) to Aftonbladet:

“I had not a single practice with the team before coming back (from a torn pectoral). I had one game to get acclimated. Then I went into (the next) NHL game and played 21 minutes. I think they acted wrong against me. My groin broke in the second game. I had not built up muscle mass and was not fit or ready to play.

“Columbus was in a vulnerable position and was out of playoffs. Perhaps it was this situation that made that they wanted to bet everything on one card.”

Huselius actually played 19:27 in his first game back, on Dec. 2 in Edmonton. He only lasted 12:57 of his next outing, in Montreal, during which he suffered the groin injury.

He’s apparently refusing to return the Blue Jackets’ calls this summer, which leads one to believe he won’t be back in Columbus next season if he’s healthy enough to play.

Jackets GM Scott Howson denied the accusations, saying he was “confident Kristian received exceptional medical care” while in Columbus.

Report: Huselius to join Swedish Elite League

Colorado Avalanche v Columbus Blue Jackets

Veteran NHL forward Kristian Huselius is set to join SEL team AIK, according to Swedish media outlets Dagens Nyheter and Aftonbladet.

(Now THAT’s a sentence.)

Huselius, 35, had been practicing with AIK for a month prior to reaching an agreement — his contractual status was dicey given the current work stoppage and how his time in Columbus ended.

The former Flame and Panther saw his four-year, $19 million deal with the Blue Jackets expire in June. While he enjoyed some success in Ohio — he led the team in assists (40) in 2009-10 and finished third in points (63) — Huselius spent most of his final two seasons on IR, missing 123 games with various ailments.

Then came the bickering.

In August, Huselius accused Columbus of rushing him back from injury, which he said indirectly led to a groin tear that kept him out of the final 55 games of the 2011-12 season:

Here’s what the 33-year-old unrestricted free agent had to say (translated) to Aftonbladet:

“I had not a single practice with the team before coming back (from a torn pectoral). I had one game to get acclimated. Then I went into (the next) NHL game and played 21 minutes. I think they acted wrong against me. My groin broke in the second game. I had not built up muscle mass and was not fit or ready to play.

“Columbus was in a vulnerable position and was out of playoffs. Perhaps it was this situation that made that they wanted to bet everything on one card.”

Huselius actually played 19:27 in his first game back, on Dec. 2 in Edmonton. He only lasted 12:57 of his next outing, in Montreal, during which he suffered the groin injury.

He’s apparently refusing to return the Blue Jackets’ calls this summer, which leads one to believe he won’t be back in Columbus next season if he’s healthy enough to play.

Jackets GM Scott Howson denied the accusations, saying he was “confident Kristian received exceptional medical care” while in Columbus.

List: 30 remaining unrestricted free agents

Petr Sykora, lya Bryzgalov
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For your afternoon perusal, NHL.com has put together a good list of 30 unrestricted free agents that are still available.

Not surprisingly, Shane Doan tops the list, but some other intriguing options remain. For example…

Petr Sykora: Played for peanuts last year in his return to the NHL following a season in Europe. The 35-year-old Devils winger proved he can still put the puck in the net, scoring 21 goals during the regular season. However, he struggled to produce during the playoffs, spending time in the press box as a healthy scratch. Sykora has said he wants to return to New Jersey, but so far hasn’t been able to reach a deal.

Kristian Huselius: The 33-year-old winger missed all but two games in 2011-12 – the first 25 he was recovering from pectoral surgery, the last 55 he sat out with a groin tear. Obviously his health is a considerable concern (groin injuries can be especially tough to heal), but Huselius is a six-time 20-goal scorer that could presumably be had for cheap. If he can pass a physical, it might be worth rolling the dice.

Tom Kostopoulos: Another 33-year-old, though a very different player than Huselius. Kostopolous is a tough bottom-six forward that played 81 games for the Flames last season, scoring four times and dishing out 124 hits. He’s not too bad with his fists either. Just ask Kevin Bieksa.

Weiss on playoff-bound Florida: “It was worth staying”

Atlanta Thrashers v Florida Panthers
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When Stephen Weiss played his first full season in Florida — as a 19-year-old — he was part of a young, 25-and-under core than included Jay Bouwmeester, Niklas Hagman, Kristian Huselius, Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo.

That was nine years ago.

Since then, the organization’s undergone sweeping changes, with Weiss remaining the lone constant. And now that he’s the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, assists and points, Weiss is relishing the decision to stick with the team — namely because the Panthers are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

“It’s been tough, a long 10 years. You wonder if you’re doing the right thing,” Weiss told WQAM 560 Miami. “It was worth staying, trusting Dale [Tallon]. We have some young kids coming up who will be pretty special. I want to be a part of that. But it’s been tough. You go home early in the summer and wonder if you’re doing the right thing for yourself and your career.

“You want to be loyal by at the same time there’s only so many years to play. And you want to be able to play for the Stanley Cup. I’m excited to get my first taste.”

Weiss has seen plenty of tough times during his Panthers career, but perhaps none as bad as the 2011 trade deadline. Florida shipped out veterans Radek Dvorak, Dennis Wideman, Bryan Allen, Chris Higgins, Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe, leaving Weiss to wonder what the gameplan was moving forward.

“I think the low moment was last year around the trade deadline when we got rid of like seven veterans,” he said. “It was a complete rebuild again. That was a tough moment, but there have been a lot.

“I never wanted to go anywhere else. At the same time, at the end of every season when it’s still not working out, you wonder if you’re doing the right thing. When I saw what Dale was doing this summer, bringing in all those guys — I knew what kind of quality guys we had — I was pumped.”

Weiss could be even more pumped after tonight. The Panthers have a chance to lock up the Southeast Division title and the Eastern Conference’s third overall seed — all they need is a win against Carolina.

A few trade candidates to whet your appetite

Derek Roy and Drew Stafford
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We’re still over a month away from the NHL’s trade deadline (Feb. 27), but that doesn’t mean deals can’t be struck before then. In fact, with so many teams with the cap flexibility to make moves, there are bound to be GMs that don’t want to wait until the last minute, lest they find themselves in a bidding war for, say, one of the following forwards that ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun believes are in play

Derek Roy, Brad Boyes and Drew Stafford in Buffalo; Vaclav Prospal, Antoine Vermette and Kristian Huselius in Columbus; Ales Hemsky in Edmonton; Tuomo Ruutu in Carolina; and the suddenly hot Jason Blake in Anaheim.

Most of those names have been bandied about already, though given what’s happening in Buffalo these days, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Stafford and Roy in the next little while. (No offense to Boyes, but who would want him?)

Stafford, a 26-year-old big body that doesn’t mind using his size, is coming off a 31-goal season, so he’s already proven he can snipe. Plus, he’s signed until 2014-15 with a very manageable cap hit of $4 million. If he’s truly available, there’ll be plenty of suitors.

Roy, 28, probably wouldn’t garner as high a return as Stafford. He’s got lots of talent, but he’s small and only signed until the end of next season (cap hit of $4 million.)