Palffy retires; reportedly because of shoulder injury

Updated: January 19, 2006, 10:20 AM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Zigmund Palffy retired Wednesday, leaving the team without its second leading scorer and another question mark in a puzzling, disappointing season.

Palffy wasn't at a news conference held by general manager Craig Patrick during the team's practice. Patrick wouldn't comment on a Slovak newspaper report that Palffy retired because of a lingering shoulder injury.

 Ziggy Palffy
Palffy

"No, I'm not going to talk about our discussion," Patrick said, saying Palffy cited only "personal reasons." Palffy told Patrick of his decision Tuesday morning. They agreed not to announce it until Wednesday because Patrick hoped Palffy would reconsider.

Patrick said the Penguins had no concerns about Palffy's health when the team signed him to a three-year, $13.5 million contract in August.

"We didn't sense that there was any problems with the shoulder," Patrick said. "He passed the physical."

Patrick said he didn't see the retirement coming.

"I was surprised," Patrick said. "He came in, he closed the door. It became pretty apparent once he started [talking] that he was heading down that path."

The 33-year-old Palffy was injured while playing for the Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim in January 2004. He had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder twice, but the problems persisted.

The shoulder injury led to his decision to retire, he told the Sport daily, a Slovak newspaper.

"I have talked to my doctor and he did not recommend a third operation," Palffy told the newspaper.

Palffy's agent, Paul Kraus, didn't immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

Earlier this year, Palffy retired from the Slovak national team ahead of the Turin Olympics.

Palffy had 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 42 games with the Penguins, but all 11 points in his last 11 games were assists. He hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 16 against Buffalo, Michel Therrien's first game as coach.

"It's been tough on him the last 10 to 15 games," said rookie Sidney Crosby, Palffy's linemate and the team's leading scorer. "I don't know if he's ever gone that long without scoring one."

Palffy had 329 goals and 384 assists in 684 games in 12 NHL seasons with the New York Islanders, the Kings and Penguins, scoring 40 or more goals three times with New York.

Therrien, who replaced coach Eddie Olczyk, said he tried to talk Palffy out of retiring.

"It's a tough decision for him but we have to respect his decision," Therrien said. "He was not playing the way he wished to play and he's not getting any younger."

Palffy is the second free agent the Penguins have lost this season. Goaltender Jocelyn Thibault was expected to miss the rest of the season because of hip surgery.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar is another free agent who has played below expectations. Gonchar, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract in August, was picked up after the Penguins acquired the right to choose Crosby in the draft.

Gonchar has 22 points in 43 games, after averaging 59 points over the past five seasons.

The Penguins have the second-worst record in the NHL, 11-26-9. They are mired in a seven-game losing streak, 19 points out of a playoff spot with 36 games to play.

"It's been an interesting year for sure, there's no doubt about that," Patrick said. "It's the new NHL and it hasn't unfolded as we expected, but there's still a half season left and we'll see how it goes the rest of the way."

Patrick wasn't immediately sure who would take Palffy's roster spot when the Penguins host the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Hours after Palffy retired, the Penguins traded a sixth-round draft pick to Florida for 6-foot-6 defenseman Eric Cairns, who could provide a physical presence to help protect Crosby.

Crosby, the team's leading scorer, has been increasingly targeted for physical play by opponents in recent weeks and now leads the Penguins in penalty minutes.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press