The NHL is a league full of players with horrendous contracts. July 1st of each year is well known as the day where NHL teams make drastic mistakes by throwing large amounts of money at players who simply are worth far less. NHL general managers seem to lack common sense on this day and we often see our teams sign the wrong players to ridiculous contracts.
This list will go over specific players who fall under this situation and are on the verge of being bought out by their current teams. In a lot of scenarios, these players are not necessarily bad, but are paid at a level where they do not belong. Buyouts are an extremely challenging part of the business, but often lead to positives for both the players and teams involved. A change of scenery is never a bad thing if handled correctly.
With that said, here is a list of NHL players that need to be bought out by their current teams.
15 Matt Moulson
Matt Moulson is a player who very well could be bought before his contract expires after the 2018-19 season. During the 2014 offseason, Moulson signed a lucrative five-year, $25 million contract with the Sabres and has yet to produce at the level that was expected. At the time, this seemed like a decent contract because he had a handful of strong seasons with the Islanders and became a very steady goal scorer.
Moulson is still a productive player in the NHL, but he is definitely not worth a five million dollar cap hit. It is safe to believe that the Sabres would not be able to trade him so it may be time for them to buy him out. As a rebuilding team, having a veteran like Moulson in theory sounds good, but that price is too large to ignore. Moulson could benefit from a change of scenery too.
14 Matt Beleksey
The Matt Beleksey era in Boston has been a complete bust so far and it is unlikely that it will change. During the 2015 offseason, Matt Beleksey signed a five-year, $19 million contract with the Bruins and at the time, was considered to be one of the best deals of that summer. Beleksey was coming off a career year with the Ducks and played an integral part in their playoff run.
Beleksey's first season with the Bruins was actually quite strong and saw him reach a career high in points with 37. Yet, last season he only had eight points in 49 games, which is far below average. With that said, the 2017-18 season could very well be Beleksey's last chance to have a roster spot with the Bruins. If Beleksey can regain his form and have a solid season, he very well may avoid being bought out and actually redeem himself.
13 Andrew MacDonald
Andrew MacDonald surprisingly became a very rich fan during the 2014 offseason when he signed a six-year, $30 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. The previous season, McDonald did put up a solid 27 points, but the amount of money and term he received from this deal was a huge risk from the start. So far in Philadelphia, he has underachieved and even had a stint in the AHL during the 2015-16 season.
This is a contract that the Flyers desperately want and need to get rid of if they want to build a playoff team. Giving five million dollars to a player who at best is a Top-6 defenseman is ridiculous and very counterproductive for the team in general. MacDonald is not necessarily a bad player, but is a victim of an atrocious contract. At least, however, he still gets to make that pay for the time being.
12 Brooks Orpik
Brooks Orpik's contract had major red flags the first day that he signed it during the 2014 offseason. At the age of 33, Orpik signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals to the shock of many fans around the league. The majority of NHL analysts considered this contract to be the worst one of the July 1st signings, especially because of the term Orpik was given.
Orpik mainly received this contract for his steady play during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Orpik was a very large part of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup Championship and the Capitals thought his leadership would help lead them to one. Yet, now with the Capitals championship window closing, they have nothing to show for it and are stuck with a bad contract in Orpik. A buyout is a necessity for the aging defenseman.
11 Josh Gorges
Josh Gorges is another example of a player who is under a very bad contract. Before the 2012 season as a member of the Canadiens, Gorges signed a six-year, $ 23.4 million extension. Two years later, he was traded to the Sabres and since has seen his play diminish. During his first season with Buffalo, he was a -28 and failed to record a single goal.
Although Gorges' stats have decreased a lot during his time in Buffalo, he is still a player who could benefit playing on a new team. However, for this to occur, it is easy to see that he will either have to be bought out or wait for his contract to end. When acquiring Gorges, it looked like a very smart move by the Sabres, as it gave them a veteran defenseman to help their rebuild. Yet, the experiment sadly has not gone the way it was planned for them.
10 Carl Soderberg
During the 2015 offseason, the Colorado Avalanche signed Carl Soderberg to a five-year, $ 23.75 million contract. This signing made a lot of sense for the Avalanche at the time because Soderberg was coming off back to back 40 plus point seasons. The Avalanche expected Soderberg to be a solid 2nd line center for the team and provide a lot of help for their powerplay.
His first season with the Avalanche was a great success. He put up a career high 51 points and was one of their best players offensively. However, he simply did not carry this success last season and only contributed with 14 points. That is a major downgrade and the Avalanche should seriously consider a buyout if his play continues to decrease. In Soderberg's defense, he did play on the one of the worst teams of this decade so maybe he can turn it around during the 2017-18 season.
9 Loui Eriksson
Loui Eriksson is another candidate of a buyout and most likely will be by the time his contract is set to expire. Last offseason, Eriksson signed a massive six-year, $36 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. This seemed like a match made in heaven as many thought he would fit perfectly on a line with the Sedin twins. However, his first season in Vancouver saw his numbers drop dramatically, as he only had 24 points in 65 games.
Eriksson is already showing signs of decline and he still has five whole years left on his contract. As a rebuilding team, the Canucks need to rid of players who may hurt the development of their team. Maybe Eriksson's lack of success this past season was due to his new environment, but he needs to turn it around as soon as possible. He is one year removed from a season where he scored 30 goals and had 63 points.
8 Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard's tenure in Detroit has been incredibly inconsistent. At times, he has proven that he is a legitimate starting goalie, but at others, he has played much more like a backup. During the 2013 offseason, Howard signed a six-year, $31.75 million extension with the Red Wings. Over the past few seasons, he has been battling for the number one spot with Petr Mrazek.
For a goalie with that contract, it is fair for the Red Wings to expect far more than what they have received from Howard. As a team who is rebuilding, it is definitely time for them to move on from Howard and give Mrazek more of an opportunity as their permanent number one. Howard showed signs of improvement during the 2016-17 season, but it simply is time for him and the Red Wings to move on.
7 Reilly Smith
After a career year with the Panthers during the 2015-16 season, Reilly Smith earned him a five-year, $25 million extension. This contract seemed like a great decision by the Panthers because Smith was showing a lot of progression and fit nicely in their Top-6. However, last season, Smith's numbers dropped off offensively and he was a -13 on the season.
Smith was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights this offseason, which makes a lot of sense for both teams. This is definitely a trial year for Smith, as he has the chance to turn it around and redeem himself as a player. Yet, if he continues to struggle, it is fair to believe that he will be bought out by the Golden Knights sooner rather than later.
6 Marian Gaborik
After their amazing playoff run in 2014, the Los Angeles Kings gave Marian Gaborik a seven-year, $34.125 million extension. This was an extremely risky bargain made by the Kings because they knew full well that Gaborik would be 39 by the time the contract ended in 2021. Without much surprise, Gaborik has already shown signs of decline and is no longer the superstar he once was.
Gaborik was an incredibly important piece of the Kings' Stanley Cup Championship that season, but at the end of the day, should have never been given that contract. As we have seen through this list so far, most players begin to drop in skill dramatically once they are past the age of thirty. It is extremely unlikely that Gaborik will be part of the Kings for much longer due to this.
5 Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown is the other Los Angeles Kings player that most likely will be bought out sooner rather than later. After their Stanley Cup run in 2014, Brown was given an eight-year, $47 million extension. This came to the shock of many fans around the league because Brown's stats that season already were starting to drop very quickly.
Since the contract extension, Brown has never hit forty points again and has seen his playing time continue to decrease. Because of this, Brown was stripped of his captaincy and has openly voiced his dissatisfaction with the change. Both parties would benefit immensely if Brown were to be bought out because at the end of the day, it is overdue. However, Brown's time as a captain in LA should never be forgotten.
4 Ryan Callahan
During the 2014 offseason, Ryan Callahan was given a six-year, $34.8 million extension from the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the time, it seemed like a smart contract because Callahan was still a very physical and productive power forward. Callahan's first season under his new contract was very strong and saw him put up a respectable 54 points in 77 games.
Yet, in 2015-16, Callahan's numbers dropped in half and quickly began to underachieve with his contract. This past season, Callahan was injured for the majority of it, but only had 4 points in 18 games. With that said, it is clear that Callahan no longer deserves the amount of money he is making. The Lightning are a contending team and could rid of his contract to pick up another strong piece for their roster.
3 Marc Staal
During the 2015 offseason, Marc Staal signed a six-year, $34.2 million extension with the New York Rangers. This made sense at the time because Staal was coming off a 20 point season as a defensive defenseman and had been a big part of the Rangers' defense for almost a decade. Yet, as the pattern has shown, Staal's play began to decrease.
Staal is still a productive defenseman in the NHL, but simply is not worth the money that he is making. This is an issue for the Rangers because their primary goal is to win a Stanley Cup before Henrik Lundqvist retires. The Rangers very well should be considering a potential buyout with Staal and using the money to pick up a different piece.
2 Dion Phaneuf
Dion Phaneuf is a very solid Top-4 defenseman, but is paid like an elite one. During the 2014 offseason, Phaneuf signed a lucrative seven-year, $49 million extension when he was the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs smartly traded him to the Ottawa Senators the following season and somehow got away with not retaining any of his salary.
Phaneuf has been a great addition for the Senators since arriving and was a big reason why they made it to the Conference Finals during the 2016-17 season. However, due to his No Movement Clause, he refused to make himself available for this season's Expansion Draft and the Senators lost Marc Methot as a result of this. This moment should makes the Senators realize that Phaneuf's bad contract has to go at some point, as it could make them lose other key players in the future.
1 Bobby Ryan
During the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Bobby Ryan signed an enormous seven-year, $50.75 million extension with the Ottawa Senators. This came as a huge surprise around the league because Ryan was three seasons removed from his 71 point season and received a contract like he was still that player. As the seasons continue to pass by, he has yet to even come close to matching those numbers.
The 2016-17 season was Ryan's worst regular season to date and saw him only put up 25 points in 62 games. A player making over 7 million dollars per season should be producing far better than those numbers. Ryan is by no means a bad player, but it is fair to say that he is no longer elite and has not been for quite some time. However, he had a very strong playoffs for the Senators this season when he got 15 points in 19 games. If Ryan were to continue this success for the rest of his contract, he very well could salvage his lackluster start of it.