With the announcement of Scott Gomez calling it a career, we've decided to review some terrible deals in the current NHL environment. Poor Gomez remains the poster boy, even years later, for bad hockey deals, which ultimately plagued his NHL journey.
After putting up some great numbers with New Jersey, the Rangers, who are notorious for overspending, gave Gomez a mega contract worth $51.5 million for a seven year term (annual cap hit of around $7.35 million). After the deal was inked, Gomez spent two seasons with the team before getting shipped off to Montreal where his career took a nasty turn. He had seasons of twelve, seven and two goals during his three season stint there. He’d never recover following his time in Montreal and finally called it a career just days ago.
The bad is expected to continue with the cap going up, as we saw a plethora of bad deals this past off-season and we can expect more of the same. Though we should mention there were some great signings as well, with the Stamkos deal being an example of a deal that gives hockey fans hope that a good hockey deal is still a possibility in today's climate.
In this article we look at both sides with the very best and worst deals in the NHL today. Enjoy!
15 Worst: Jonathan Bernier
Contract: $4.15 Million Annual Cap Hit
Since joining the Leafs organization as General Manager, Lou Lamoriello has made it a priority to eliminate some of the bad contracts that have plagued the team over the past few years. For the most part, he’s done a heck of a job thus far and one of his greatest moves came this off-season when the GM wiped away Jonathan Bernier’s contract by dealing him away to the Ducks for a conditional draft pick.
Bernier endured the worst season of his career last year. The Leafs brought him in thinking he was the future, but unfortunately that hasn’t panned out for Bernie. Last season, he went 12-21 and reached a career low when the team sent him down to the Marlies for a handful of games in order for the goaltender to gain his confidence back. Luckily for the Ducks, they’ll only be on the hook for $2.15 million as the Leafs paid the $2 million in signing bonuses for Bernie.
14 Best: Troy Brouwer
Contract: $4.5 Million Annual Cap Hit
When looking back at the signings during the offseason, it’s pretty clear to see the numbers have gone way up and the days of ridiculous contracts are clearly back. On July 1st in particular, teams paid a hefty price for players, as most GMs overpaid by at least a million. Some of those wacky deals included Jamie Benn singing for $9.5 million a year, Mark Scheifele $6.1 million per year, Frans Nielsen $5.25 million, Loui Eriksson $6 million and Milan Lucic $6 million.
When you consider these annual cap hits, the Troy Brouwer deal was an absolute steal. The Flames inked the power forward to a four year deal worth $4.5 million annually. At 31, he's entering his prime and coming off a pair of career seasons, so this is one of the few signings that seems fair for both sides.
In addition to putting up points, he’s a fantastic two way player and a big body that fits the Calgary mold beautifully. His signing was one of the best of the entire summer, especially when you especially consider the value of some of the other deals we mentioned.
13 Worst: Matt Moulson
Contract: $5 Million Annual Cap Hit
We discussed the Buffalo Sabres in one of our previous articles here on The Sportster, when we looked at teams with terrible contracts. Buffalo was at the very top of the list, as they have an aggressive owner who is willing to spend money like it’s going out of style.
Poor Matt Moulson has one of the very worst contracts, not only on the team, but perhaps in the entire league. Moulson was brought in by John Tavares, who convinced the Islanders brass to consider Moulson, as the two shared some great chemistry before their NHL days. The experiment paid off big time, as Moulson enjoyed three 30 goal campaigns while playing with his friend.
Since leaving John’s side, the veteran hasn’t been the same. Last season was by far his worst, as he scored a career low eight goals in 81 games. So basically, he got paid $625,000 per goal. If things don’t pick up for him in the 2016-17 campaign, you can expect the Sabres to potentially buy him out of his deal.
12 Best: Jake Muzzin
Contract: $4 Million Annual Cap Hit
Team Canada’s selection of Jake Muzzin showed casually how good he really is. Fans from the East Coast don’t get much of a chance to see him play, so the decision was met with anger and confusion, especially when you consider that Kris Letang and P.K. Subban were snubbed for him. What East Coast fans don’t realize is that Muzzin is a perfect fit on the Team Canada roster with his smooth outlet passes mixed in with his reliable defensive play. The 27 year old has enjoyed tremendous back to back seasons, putting up 41 and 40 points. It's scary to think that he is just now entering his prime.
At $4 million per season, it’s not hard to see why this deal is an absolute steal, especially for a defenseman. On another team, Muzzin would probably see himself making between $5.5 to $6 million realistically.
11 Worst: Jordan Staal
Contract: $6 million Annual Cap Hit
Since joining the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2012-13 season, the franchise has endured some terrible seasons and lackluster performances by their apparent standout player.
Coming off a 25 goal season with the Pens, the Hurricanes took out their checkbook and signed the centerman to a terrible ten year deal worth a whopping $60 million dollars. At the time of the signing, the prospect of having both Staal brothers locked in long term seemed like a dream. Fast forward four seasons and the situation turned out to be a disaster, with Eric leaving the team and Jordan only scoring more than 20 goals once in his four seasons with the team.
It’s pretty obvious that Jordan is not a $6 million dollar guy. Thankfully, the Canes are loaded with young talent, so cap space is pretty easy to come by for the team. When brother Eric left, Jordan finally upped his game, putting up his first 20 goal campaign with the club, along with 48 points. Without his brother's large shadow, we may finally see Jordan breakout. After all, he’s only 27 and set to enter his prime. This deal still has time to be salvaged, but ,as of right now, it’s considered a pretty big bust of a deal.
10 Best: Brendan Gallagher
Contract: $3.7 Million Annual Cap Hit
The demand for a Brendan Gallagher-type player is sky high at the moment and several teams are starting to overpay for 'gritty' players with skill. The Habs got a perfect deal for that kind of player, while other teams have overpaid for the same kind of guys who have worse numbers. Take the Red Wings for example. The Wings just re-signed gritty speedster Darren Helm to a new deal worth $3.85 million per season and they also inked Justin Abdelkader to a new deal last season worth $4.25 million per year.
In terms of line slotting and two-way game, all three play a similar role, which leaves it to the stats. Helm has scored 15 and 13 goals in his last two seasons while Abby netted 23 and 19 (but was a -16 last season). The cheaper Gallagher, on the other hand, scored 24 and 19 goals, along with some excellent plus minus numbers at +18 and +13.
The Wings aren’t the only team guilty of this type of contract, as a handful of other teams have given similar deals to these kinds of players. We applaud Montreal for having the best deal for a player that is worth every penny.
9 Worst: Dave Bolland
Contract: $5.5 Million Annual Cap Hit
Dave Bolland is one of the biggest question marks around the league, as most fans can't understand why he's been so sought after. His stats have been average at best and his success has been limited to a couple of good seasons with the Hawks. Several fans were confused when the centerman signed a whopping $27.5 million dollar deal for a five year term with Florida (cap hit of $5.5 million). Even the Leafs put in a big bid of $4.9 million per year, but, thankfully for Toronto fans, he opted for bigger bucks with Florida.
His run with the Panthers was horrifying, to say the least. Injuries and awful performances caused the team to send him down to the AHL last year for an apparent “conditioning stint.” The Panthers pretty much had their hands tied as buying out the forward was not a possibility.
Finally the team was able to move his deal over to Arizona and he is now the team's highest paid player. tied with Superstar d-man Oliver Ekman-Larsson. I’m sure that’s going to sit well in the Arizona locker room this season.
8 Best: Justin Faulk
Contract: $4.83 Million Annual Cap Hit
Still only 24 years of age, Justin Faulk seems to be getting better every year, which is quite scary to think about when assessing his potential.
Faulk averages close to 25 minutes per game which ranks him as the 21st most played defenseman in the entire NHL. Not only does he eat big minutes, but the bulk of that time is against the opposition's best player. He is also counted on to quarterback the powerplay and score goals from the back. His role is pretty much Drew Doughty-like.
His six year extension signed in 2014 is now looking like a genius move by the Hurricanes, who will enjoy another four seasons of this tremendous deal worth a modest $4.8 million. You can expect his value to jump up towards the $7 million dollar range once his deal expires. For now, the Canes are smiling.
7 Worst: Dustin Brown
Contract: $5.875 Million Annual Cap Hit
Back in 2013, the Kings took a leap of faith by signing their captain to a massive eight year extension worth $47 million. Since signing the deal, Brown has failed to find his form and has turned into a liability more than anything else for the team, playing a fourth line role on most nights. His production value has completely diminished the last two years, as he's only managed 11 goals in both campaigns while combining for a -23 rating. A buy out seems inevitable, but for now the Kings are maintaining hope
They'll hope that stripping Brown of his captaincy, and the pressure that comes with it, will pay off. After signing Anze Kopitar to a mega $10 million dollar deal per year, the team decided to give him the C, while hoping Brown will find his game with less pressure.
With Kings super prospect and sniper Tyler Toffoli set to be an RFA next summer, the pressure for Brown to perform is that much higher, especially when you consider that Tyler will probably make between $5 to $6 million per year. It truly is a make or break season for the Kings veteran.
6 Best: Erik Karlsson
Contract: $6.5 Million Annual Cap Hit
Signing Erik Karlsson to a contract extension during the summer of 2012 was a huge leap of faith for the Sens, which has worked out spectacularly well. At the time of his singing, Karlsson was on a high, winning the Norris Trophy at the age of 21. The club rewarded his efforts with a seven year deal worth $45.5 million. Some were worried at the time, as Karlsson had just broken out of his shell. However, looking at the deal now, it looks like a steal with Karlsson leading defenders in pretty much every single category over the last couple of years. Last season he had 82 points, which was top four in the entire league, regardless of position.
With the cap going up, franchise players are starting to make ridiculous amounts of money. Take the previously mentioned Kopitar for example, who is set to make $10 million per season or even Jamie Benn, who signed a deal with an annual cap hit of $9.5 million. Teams are dishing out the big bucks to secure their top players.
Karlsson won’t be an exception once his deal expires, as the d-man will surely gather up to $10 million per season. For now, the Sens will enjoy the next three years of his deal at a modest cap hit of $6.5 million. Not bad for a 26 year old who is about to play the next three years of his prime. What a steal!
5 Worst: Bobby Ryan
Contract: $7.25 Million Annual Cap Hit
The Sens have a blend of really good and really bad contracts. The good ones belong to the recently mentioned Erik Karlsson, along with Kyle Turris, who makes a modest $3.5 million per season, which is pretty great for the team's number one center.
The team has some pretty bad ones as well. Dion Phanuef makes $7 million per season, while Bobby Ryan has one of the worst deals in the league.
After appearing in 70 games before missing the rest of the regular season due to injury, the Sens decided to reward Ryan with a massive seven year extension worth $7.25 million annually. Since inking the deal, Ryan hasn’t lived up to the expectations and has struggled to find his 30 goal form. Since the signing, Ryan has scored 18 and 22 goals in the 14-15 and 15-16 campaigns. He was also a defensive liability last season (he was a -9) and found himself playing low end minutes towards the end of the season. If things don’t work out this year, you can expect Ryan’s name to be attached to various trade rumors.
4 Best: Martin Jones
Contract: $3 Million Annual Cap Hit
The San Jose Sharks took a huge risk when they traded for Martin Jones. The team was desperate to finally solidify a reliable face between the pipes and certainly took a big risk by giving up a first round pick to the Boston Bruins, who had just acquired Jones from LA.
Once a member of the Sharks, the team quickly signed the young goalie to a three year deal worth $9 million total. At the time, several fans believed the price was too high for an unestablished goalie, but after he led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals this past season, we can confidently say that the deal was a massive steal.
Jones was one of the best stories in the league, playing 65 games and carrying his team to the finals. His play was sensational and very Carey Price-like; calm, cool and collective. At 26 and entering his prime, this deal will continue to be a major steal for the next two seasons.
3 Worst: Jason Pominville
Contract: $5.6 Million Annual Cap Hit
His best years came as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. Once his contract was set to expire with his former team, the club traded him to the West, making a deal with the Wild. When the season came to an end, Pominville was hours away from entering the free agency madness. However, just before that would happen, the Wild agreed to an expensive deal, signing the winger to a five year, $28 million deal.
Initially, the deal looked good, as Pominville scored 30 goals in his first year of the deal. However, the veteran has lost his way over the last couple of year. Last season, in particular, he put up a career low in goals, scoring 11 goals in 75 games. The year before that, he failed to crack the 20 goal mark, netting 18 goals.
With another three years left on the deal, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out for Pominville and his future on the team.
2 Best: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Contract: $5.5 Million Annual Cap Hit
Back in 2013, Don Maloney made the wise choice to sign Oliver Ekman-Larsson sooner than later and the choice saved the Coyotes a lot of money, when looking at how great OEL has become.
At the age of 21, the team locked up the defender for six years on a deal worth $33 million. The team was looking at the big picture when they made the deal.
Well, with half the contract done, it’s safe to say that the team made the right choice by singing the defenseman to this contract, as his production continues to go up every year. He notched a career high in terms of numbers last season, finishing the year with 55 points.
He’s turned out to be a top defenseman, finishing second amongst d-men in goals with 21 and logging almost 25 minutes of ice-time per game. It’s pretty clear the team got a heck of a deal here.
1 Worst: David Clarkson
Contract: $5.2 Million Annual Cap Hit
This nightmare of a deal given out by the Leafs is regarded as the 'new era' Scott Gomez deal. The Leafs signed David Clarkson to an awful seven year deal based on one good season that saw Clarkson put up a career high with 30 goals in 2011-12. It's something he hasn't come close to since signing for big money.
After signing the deal, Clarkson would be riddled by injuries and this would ultimately put a damper on his production. To put things into perspective, he's scored 17 goals over his last three seasons. Yes, it’s been that bad.
The Leafs somehow pulled a rabbit out of a hat by dealing this terrible contract away to the Blue Jackets, who agreed to take the entire deal if the Leafs took their Nathan Horton contract (who was badly hurt and retired) and now have the contract under their books.
Congrats Columbus, you now own the worst contract in the entire National Hockey League.