Last month I took a look at the worst player on every current NHL roster and you all liked it so much I have decided to bring a series of articles all along the topic of next season in the NHL. So here we are, Anaheim to Winnipeg: the worst contract on every NHL team. The NHL is littered with some truly awful contracts. Sometimes like in the case of Andrew MacDonald it leads to a decent depth defenseman having to play in the AHL because he makes too much money. This list will have a little bit of everything. From current stars like Shea Weber to aging vets like Rick Nash and Marian Hossa to just truly what were they thinking contracts like David Clarkson and Brandon Sutter.
In a salary cap era, it's really crippling to a team's roster to have such bad contracts, as it hinders teams from paying their own pending UFAs and also prevents them from chasing free agents on July 1st. When you're in a tight cap world, every player on the roster has to pull their weight. Unfortunately, these contracts make the weight too heavy to carry.
This list will have it all, so settle in and lets take a look at the worst contract on every current NHL team!
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30 Anaheim Ducks - Ryan Kesler
It is safe to say that the Anaheim Ducks have regretted this contract since it was signed. Ryan Kesler is far from the player that he was with the Canucks, Back during the 2010-11 NHL season Kesler reached his career high thus far with 41 goals as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Last season Ryan Kesler had 21 goals, 32 assists for 53 points in 79 games. Ryan Kesler is an okay 2nd line secondary scorer, unfortunately he makes $6.875 million a year for the next six years.
It hurts the Ducks now and it is going to hurt even more as more of their young defenseman need contracts. It's also a hinderance to the Ducks in regards to free agency, as they could have used that $6.875 in signing a far more productive player. Instead they traded away Nick Bonino to land Kesler from the Canucks a couple of offseasons ago.
29 Arizona Coyotes - Mike Smith
Mike Smith improved immensely last season over his season before. That is pretty sad when you look at his stats from last season and see they are fairly average for a goalie in the NHL. Mike Smith had a record of 15-13-2 with a 2.64 GAA and a .916 save percentage last season. Decent numbers but they look truly elite when compared to Smith's stats in 2014-15. Smith had one of the worst statistical seasons in NHL history. Smith struggled to a record of 14-42-5 and a 3.16 GAA.
If Smith doesn't improve, The Coyotes will be stuck with Smith and his $5.66 million salary for the next three seasons. The good news is the Coyotes don't appear to be a team that's going to contend for the next few years anyway. By the time Smith's contract does expire, it could coincide with Arizona actually emerging as a legitimate contender.
28 Boston Bruins - Matt Beleskey
Talk about a player cashing in on one good season. Matt Beleskey became a highly sought after free agent after the 2014-15 NHL season. Playing for the Anaheim Ducks, Beleskey reached career highs (up to that point) with 22 goals, 10 assists and 32 points in 65 games. The Boston Bruins decided Beleskey was their future and needing to replace Milan Lucic, they signed Beleskey to a 5 year deal woth an average of $3.8 million a season. For all that money, Beleskey rewarded the Bruins with a paltry (but new career high) 37 points in 80 games. If this is the type of production the Bruins have to look forward too it could be a long four years in Beantown.
The Bruins have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and it's in part due to several guys on the team being overpaid for what they produce.
27 Buffalo Sabres - Matt Moulson
Matt Moulson was signed as a free agent by the Buffalo Sabres on July 1st, 2014. It is safe to say the Sabres regret this deal. Moulson managed just 13 goals and 41 points in 77 games in 2014-15. The steep decline continued last season, as he managed only eight goals and 21 points in 81 games. Moulson is no longer capable of reaching his previous offensive numbers. With the Sabres stocking up with younger talent his role is getting more diminished yet he eats up so much of the cap.
The Sabres are now paying Moulson $5 million a season for the next three seasons for a player with 3rd line stats at best. It's not a hindrance to them now, but Moulson's annual cap hit could hinder the Sabres when it comes time to sign their young talent. They might have to buy out Moulson before then so they can get some of their young stars signed to longterm deals.
26 Calgary Flames - Ladislav Smid
Multiple injuries have derailed defenseman Ladislav Smid from becoming a solid defenseman in the NHL. Smid is basically a 2nd/3rd pairing defenseman who can block shots when he is healthy. Smid only got into 22 games last season and added no points to the team. Smid counts $3.5 million against the cap and does very little to earn that money. At one point in his career Smid was a solid stay at home defenseman but as the injuries and age have piled up against him he has become a liability at both ends of the ice.
Luckily for the Flames this is the last year of Smid's deal and they can move on from this contract. It kind of times out perfectly for the Flames as they have several young emerging stars on the team. They can take this opportunity to lock them all up for the long term while they're still cheap.
25 Carolina Hurricanes - Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal has seven years left on his deal that pays him $6 million a year. He joined the Hurricanes after a fairly successful run as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was brought on to the Hurricanes to take a leadership role and to lead the team offensively. That definitely hasn't happened thus far. In four years with the team Staal has scored 20 goals only once which was last season. He had 48 points last year, which is less than he had as a 3rd line player with the Pens. It's easy to say that the Hurricanes vastly overpaid for Staal and if he doesn't improve this will be a hard contract to get out from underneath.
The Canes also brought Staal in thinking he would form instant chemistry with his brother Eric, but now the elder Staal is in Minnesota, after the Canes traded him around last season's deadline.
24 Chicago Blackhawks - Marin Hossa
The 12-year, $63.3 million contract inked by Marian Hossa with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, 2009 may have made sense at the time but now it is killing the Hawks' salary cap payroll. Up until last season, the Blackhawks got a great value in Hossa. He was consistently one of their top forwards, helping them win three Stanley Cup championships. Despite being hampered by injuries, Hossa has still managed five 50-plus point campaigns over the last seven years.
Last season, however, the 37-year-old Hossa struggled through a 33-point effort in 64 games. At an annual salary cap hit of $5.275 million, Hossa's contract eats up valuable cap space. That money could've been used to keep Andrew Shaw.
As bad as the contract is, with three Stanley Cups since signing Hossa, it was definitely a sacrifice worth making. Who knows, maybe a team like Arizona will take on Hossa's contract when he inevitably retires while still under this massive deal.
23 Colorado Avalanche - Semyon Varlamov
On January 30, 2014, the Colorado Avalanche re-signed goaltender Semyon Varlamov to a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension. The annual salary cap hit is $5.9 million. At the time, Varlamov was having his career-best season which is an awful time for a team to negotiate a long-term deal. He went on to win 41 games posting a .927 save percentage while leading the Avalanche to their first postseason appearance since 2010. He led all NHL netminders in victories, shots against (2,013) and saves (1,867). Since then, Varlamov has struggled to replicate those stats. His save percentage fell to .921 in 2014-15 and .914 in 2015-16. His goals-against average rose from 2.41 in 2013-14 to 2.56 the following season. In 2015-16, it was a bloated 2.81.
Varlamov is among the NHL's highest-paid goaltenders, but his performance over the last two seasons doesn't match his elite salary.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets - David Clarkson
David Clarkson is heading into the fourth season of a seven-year, $36.75 million contract that he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A physical, agitating forward with a decent scoring touch, Clarkson scored 30 goals with the New Jersey Devils in 2011-12. However, he hasn't come close to returning to those heights. Over the last three seasons, Clarkson's managed a combined 30 points. His average cap hit is $5.25 million, which is ideally the type of deal you would pay to a consistent 25-goal scorer. It's very hard to imagine Clarkson coming anywhere close to 30 goals again, especially if John Tortorella is going to be his head coach for the foreseeable future.
The Blue Jackets only took on this contract because they wanted an active player in place of Nathan Horton. Hopefully Clarkson is able to at least find a role that suits him on this Blue Jackets team.
21 Dallas Stars - Kari Lehtonen
The Dallas Stars' goalie Kari Lehtonen has two years remaining on his five year deal that costs the team $5.9 million a season. Thus far he has been so disappointing that the Stars felt the need to bring in Antti Niemi at a rate of $4.5 million. Last season he played in 43 games with a record of 25-10-2 with a GAA of 2.76. His salary puts him in the same market as Marc-Andre Fleury, Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby. It is safe to say his stats are nowhere near as great as Holtby and the Stars must agree seeing how they have tried to minimize Lehtonen's role on the team.
We saw the Stars' goaltending depth come back to bite them in their second round series against the St. Louis Blues and it will likely continue to haunt them until they can find an upgrade between the pipes.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Jimmy Howard
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is entering the fourth season of a six-year, $31.75 million contract. Howard's solid play in his career earned him that lucrative deal. In three of those seasons, his save percentage was .920 or better, along with three 35-plus win performance. Since the first year of his current deal (2013-14), however, Howard's game has started to suffer. Last season was his worst as a starting goalie, with a 2.80 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. He eventually lost the starter's job to young Petr Mrazek.
It's hard to see Jimmy Howard regaiing the starting job, especially after Mrazek just got a contract extension this offseason from the Wings. Howard's future may be on another team, as there's no indication he's ever going to play a vital role in Detroit. The only way Howard will play a lot this season is through a Mrazek injury. That's a big price to pay for a backup.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Andrew Ference
The Edmonton Oilers have struggled near the bottom of the standings for a decade now. A big reason for that is overpayments like this one. Andrew Ference has been a huge disappointment to his hometown Edmonton Oilers. He signed a four year deal on July 5th 2013 and was named Captain after the trade of Shawn Horcoff. Ference will have a $3.25 million cap hit for the Oilers this season. Luckily for them he comes off the books after this season.
Ference only played six games last season where he contributed 6 PIMs and a lot of heart attacks to Oilers fans when he had the puck. The sum of $3.25 million will help shore up the Defense after this season. The Oilers desperately need help on the blue line and with Adam Larsson coming in, as well as a potential UFA next year, things will finally start looking up for the Oilers' back end.
18 Florida Panthers - Jakub Kindl
When I started this article, Dave Bolland was the clear choice but his trade on August 25th, 2016 made it necessary to look elsewhere. Florida doesn't really have any glaring contract problems beyond Bolland so I settled on Jakub Kindl. Kindl was an offensive defenseman in Junior and that has not translated to success in the NHL. He even spent 10 games last year in the AHL.
Kindl had 2 goals and 6 assists in 44 games between the Red Wings and Panthers. Kindl makes $2.04 million a season and doesn't contribute much to be worth that much. The good news for the Panthers is that when the worst contract on your team carries just a $2 million cap hit, you're in pretty good shape. It's not like the deal is going to cripple the Panthers when seeking free agents or signing their own players.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown cashed in after a hell of a run as a member of the L.A Kings. From 2007-2012 Brown never scored less than 22 goals in a season. He hit career highs in the 2007-08 NHL season with 33 goals and 60 points. The Kings signed Brown to an eight-year deal worth $5.875 million a season in 2013. Since signing the contract, Brown's stats have dropped significantly.
Brown has had three consecutive seasons under 30 points yet has been paid like an elite player. It got so bad that Brown was stripped of his captaincy of the L.A Kings. Brown's offensive ability seems to have dried up and the older he gets the worse this contract is going to be for the Kings. The Kings are on the hook for another six years for their former captain. They're very unlikely to find any takers for a deal like this.
16 Minnesota Wild - Jason Pominville
On Oct. 3, 2013, the Minnesota Wild re-signed right wing Jason Pominville to a five-year, $28 million contract extension. At the time, he had six seasons of 50-plus points between 2006-07 and 2013-14. In 2015-16, however, his stats fell off a cliff. He managed only 36 points in 75 games. It was his worst effort in a non-lockout season since his 30-rookie season in 2005-06. At 33, Pominville's now at the point in his career where performance inevitably declines. Pominville carries an annual salary-cap hit of $5.6 million. If his stats keep on the downward spiral, the Wild will have an expensive, rapidly declining veteran on their hands.
When you consider that the Wild have several contracts that go beyond the year 2020, it's pretty significant that Pominville finds himself on the list. While Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are on very big contracts, they've been the team's key contributors since signing those 13-year deals.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Shea Weber
Shea Weber is truly an elite player in the NHL. There is no doubting that. He scored 20 goals last season and has a rocket shot from the point. However, at 31 how much longer can he keep this up? Shea Weber is set to make $7.85 million a season until becoming a free agent after the 2025-26 NHL season. In actual cost to the owners, Weber will cost the Canadiens $20 million this season and the next ($12 million base pay with an $8 million bonus).
This was a huge gamble by Montreal thinking that Weber is the missing piece. I hope they are right because if they aren't a contract like this prevents teams from doing much to tinker with the team. Not to mention they had to trade arguably the team's most popular player among their fan base in Carey Price to get him. There's definitely more pressure on Weber than he's ever seen.
14 Nashville Predators - Mike Fisher
Mike Fisher has had a long career thus far in the NHL. He made his debut during the 1999-00 NHL season. To say he is on the back nine of his career is an understatement. The fact that he made $4 million last season yet only contributed 10 goals and 13 assists in 70 games. Fisher is a solid defensive center for the Predators but his offensive skills are obviously limited. The Predators are paying a premium for his defensive reliability however this season is the last season on his contract. It is safe to say if he doesn't retire he will be in line for a hell of a pay cut.
The Predators demonstrated through the trade for P.K. Subban that they want to get younger and more dynamic. With Fisher aging the way he is, it's hard to see him in the Preds' plans beyond the 2016-17 season.
13 New Jersey Devils - Mike Cammalleri
Mike Cammalleri cashed in after a solid season with the Calgary Flames during the 2013-14 NHL season. Cammalleri had 26 goals that season and 50 points total. Not breathtaking numbers but much better than he is doing now. The offensively challenged Devils opened their purse strings and signed Camalleri to a four year deal.
The first season was a success but last year Cammalleri struggled with 14 goals and 24 assists in 42 games. Now with Taylor Hall in the picture Cammalleri will likely get even less time on the ice. This contract looks worse and worse as it goes n and the Devils are still on the hook for three more seasons. The Devils have several aging players on their roster and Cammalleri's scoring touch is definitely fading. That's not a good omen, knowing that the Devils have such a long way to go in paying him.
12 New York Islanders - Mikhail Grabovski
Garth Snow has made a lot of great moves while being the GM of the New York Islanders, particularly in the last couple of seasons. It is a safe bet that Mikhali Grabovski definitely wasn't one of them. Grabovski signed as a free agent in 2014 and since then has failed to live up to his 5 million a year price tag. Grabovski struggled last season contributing only 9 goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 58 games. That is a far cry from his career high of 29 goals and 58 points during the 2010-11 season. The only good thing is at least this contract only has two seasons left on it.
Andrew Ladd was a strong candidate for this list, as the Isles just signed him to a seven-year, $38.5 million deal this offseason, but we'd like to see him play first before we really judge the contract.
11 New York Rangers - Rick Nash
I didn't think Rick Nash would be my pick when I came up with the idea to do this article. The stats don't lie however. In two of the last three seasons Nash hasn't even hit the 40 point plateau. For $7.9 million a season that is just not good enough. Rick Nash makes more than Vladimir Tarasenko which makes you cringe when looking at the stats (Tarasenko outscored Nash 74 to 36).
If Nash can't get it together this contract will effectively slam shut the championship window of the New York Rangers. Having almost $8 million tied up in an underperforming vet will crush the teams salary cap. What is it with the Rangers and finding themselves paying terrible contracts to fading players?
If the Rangers somehow find any takers for Nash, you can bet they'd pounce on the opportunity to unload his contract.
10 Ottawa Senators - Dion Phaneuf
On Feb. 9, the Ottawa Senators acquired defenseman Dion Phaneuf in a multiplayer trade. They also picked up the full cap hit of his contract ($7 million annually) through 2020-21. Phaneuf is a solid second-pairing defenseman earning top pairing money. If Senators management thought a change of scenery would improve Phaneuf's game last season, it was mistaken. Phaneuf remains among the NHL's highest-paid blueliners. His cap hit is actually more than Senators superstar blueliner Erik Karlsson ($6.5 million). Phaneuf is likely going to play a reduced role in Ottawa, but it's still baffling to believe why the Sens would want Phaneuf's contract on the books. You would think they perhaps would have tried pursuing a UFA in July or perhaps wait for a top defenceman to hit the trade market.
9 Philadelphia Flyers - Andrew MacDonald
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald spent most of last season in the AHL. His contract was a significant reason, as the Flyers needed the salary-cap room. He's a great example of a bad contract actually hurting an NHL career. Kind of like what happened with Wade Redden with the Rangers. In the second season of a six-year, $30 million contract, MacDonald's $5 million cap hit makes him the Flyers' second-highest paid defenseman. Andrew MacDonald only played 28 games last season and contributed 8 points and 6 PIMs. Not a hell of a lot of production for $5 million!
The Flyers have a bad habit of getting stuck in bad contracts. Mark Streit could have been the entry on this list, but his four year, $21 million deal is set to expire at the end of this season. Jakub Voracek can also be a future entry on this list if he doesn't turn his game around this season.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - Chris Kunitz
Chris Kunitz is the long time running mate of one of the greatest players in hockey history Sidney Crosby. This season however we started to notice how Kunitz was starting to show huge signs of regression. He lost the coveted spot on Crosby's line for much of the season and his stats have nosedived the last two seasons. Kunitz has scored 17 goals and added 23 assists in each of the last two seasons. He has less goals in the last two seasons than he had in the 2013-14 season alone. Kunitz is on the last year of his deal which counts as $3.85 million towards the cap. At least for the Penguins, even if Kunitz doesn't find his game his salary expires at the end of the year.
The Penguins will be thrilled to have that salary off their books as they can focus on finding a new winger to play next to Sidney Crosby.
7 San Jose Sharks - Brenden Dillon
Brenden Dillon likely has one of the best contracts to make this list by far. A younger defenseman locked in long-term at a cap hit of $3.27 million for the next four years. Luckily for the Sharks, they have done such a good job limiting bad contracts that this qualifies as the "worst". All their high-end talent still produce high-end stats. Dillon on the other hand has seen a stall in his development. Acquired from the Dallas Stars on November 21st, 2014, Dillon was expected to join a very talented offensively minded San Jose Sharks defense and chip in with the same amount of promise he showed in the AHL. That hasn't happened however.
Dillon had 2 goals and 9 assists in 76 games played last season and only chipped in 2 assists in 24 playoff games. Not quite what you expect for $3.27 million a season. It should be interesting to see if he can rebound.
6 St. Louis Blues- Paul Stastny
Paul Stastny was brought to the Blues as a free agent on July 1st, 2014. Stastny signed a four year deal worth $7 million a season. For all that money Stastny has been very underwhelming. Last season Stastny had 10 goals and 39 assists in 64 games. He added 13 points in 20 games during the Blues deep playoff run. With $7 million a year comes expectations of elite scoring or at least strong two way play. Stastny has been a disappointment at both ends of the ice and the Blues are stuck for another two years unless Stastny can turn it around.
The Blues are in a very tight window in trying to win the Stanley Cup, so having a bad contract like this has really held them back. You shudder to think of where else that money could have gone. As said before, $7 million a year could land you a first line winger easily, and perhaps even a first line center.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning- Ryan Callahan
On June 25, 2014, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed right winger Ryan Callahan to a six-year, $34.8 million contract. The annual average salary is $5.8 million, making him the Lightning's second-highest paid forward. His defensive game is still as solid as ever however his offensive stats seem to be in a steep decline. He had a solid season during the 2014-15 NHL season with 24 goals and 30 assists in 77 games. Last season however he only had 10 goals and 18 assists in 73 games. If he doesn't rebound this cap hit could hinder the Lightning keeping their core group together. Callahan's $5.8 million could go to better use resigning Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson or Ondrej Palat.
The Lightning should definitely begin shopping Callahan around but it's going to be very difficult for them to find a taker. It might have to be on a bottom feeder.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs- Brooks Laich
Let's be honest, the Leafs acquired Brooks Laich because the Capitals were offering up prospect Connor Carrick and a 2nd round pick. It sure as hell wasn't for Laich's stats. Laich was once an offensive force as a member of the Capitals but that time was long ago. In 81 games last season, Brooks Laich had 2 goals and 12 assists along with 18 PIMs. That is a far cry from the player he used to be. The Leafs didn't sign Laich to this contract but they will happily see it expire at the end of this season.
The Leafs have mostly spent the last two seasons unloading the bad contracts on their roster, having traded away the likes of Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and David Clarkson the last few seasons. That means they're not left with many more. Laich will just be expected to teach the Leafs' young core a few things before he likely retires following the 2016-17 season.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Brandon Sutter
A lot of people will expect to see someone like Alex Burrows to be placed here but at least his contract expires at the end of the season. Brandon Sutter on the other hand has five years remaining on a deal that is worth $4.38 million a season. What was the Canucks management thinking? Sutter's best season was a 21 goal, 19 assist season in 2009-10 with the Hurricanes. He struggled mightily as a Canuck last season getting into only 20 games with 5 goals and 4 assists. Sutter is still young enough that he could recover but if he doesn't, this is going to be a long five years in Vancouver.
The Canucks don't seem to know whether they want to rebuild or try contending for a playoff spot and deals like this is what leaves many Canucks fans dumbfounded.
2 Washington Capitals - Brooks Orpik
Brooks Orpik is a reliable defensive defenseman. However his injury trouble plus the fact that he is 35 heading into this season brings into question just how long he will still be a serviceable player. Orpik has 3 years remaining at a cap hit of $5.5 million. Orpik already showed signs of regression last season as his foot speed was noticeable slower and he struggled to stay healthy. Brooks Orpik only played in 41 games and he had 3 goals and 7 assists, The Capitals are pushing towards being a Stanley Cup contender and right now this contract is an anchor dragging them into the hockey abyss.
Everybody knew when Orpik signed this deal that it was eventually going to come back and bite the Capitals. Washington was hoping it would be worth it with a Stanley Cup win, but as we know, the Capitals have kept falling short.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Mark Stuart
On a team full of young talent, Mark Stuart sticks out as one of the old guys in the dressing room. Stuart is a solid backend defenseman with not a lot of offensive upside. Stuart played in 64 games last season where he scored 1 goal and added 2 assists. Mark Stuart makes $2.625 million a season for the next two years. It is a reasonable amount but on a team where all the big money players put up big stats it makes Stuart the worst contract on the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets are set to embark on the Patrik Laine era and they likely won't contend for the Stanley Cup any time soon. By the time Stuart's contract is off the books, Winnipeg will be much improved as a team by the time Stuart's contract expires and the Jets should be able to use that money elsewhere.
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