There are many different types of player archetypes in the league and they all contribute to their respective teams in a significant way. After all, as many players have often reminded us of the age old cliché, it is a team game anyway.
Not all players can contribute at the same level though. Each team has their designated hierarchy: for forwards you have the leading point getters, the defensively sound players, the energy guys, etc. For defensemen you have the ones that can also contribute offensively or the stay at home defenders that goes unnoticed because they make few mistakes. For goalies, a team can be lucky to have an elite goalie that can stand on their head more often than not, or you have that goalie that’s just “good enough” but fits a team style well.
That being said, there’s always at least one player that just doesn’t belong. Sometimes the cliché of being a team game doesn’t work in their case, since the team would be better without them there in the first place. A lot of things can come into play in that case. Maybe the player has gotten into the later stages of his career and has regressed past the point of being useful, usually due to lack of speed. Or maybe they’re just paid far too much and could be replaced by a much cheaper player, alleviating cap space to improve the team. In the most honest form, the player can just be plain bad and the team can’t yet replace him (usually the case for rebuilding teams).
31. Anaheim Ducks: Kevin Bieksa
After 10 seasons with the Canucks, Bieksa has come a long way from being a top end defender on a once great team in Vancouver. He prided himself on being aggressive and physical, while still being capable of producing offensively mainly due to a booming shot. Injuries were a main reason he only hit 40+ points three times in his prime, and age certainly hasn’t done him any favors. His point totals are a shadow of what they once were even though he still gets power play time in Anaheim (14 points in 81 games this season).
Luckily for the Ducks, he’s entering the final year of his deal which will see him make $4M. At 36 years old he quickly got pushed down the depth chart considering just how good Anaheim’s defensive core is overall.
30. Arizona Coyotes: Lawson Crouse
The 11th overall pick in 2015 was given no chance with Florida before being dealt to Arizona in order to get rid of Dave Bolland’s terrible contract. Still, on a relatively inexperienced and rebuilding Coyotes’ roster, the 20 year old power forward was particularly bad, especially considering his apparent skill set. In 72 games this season as a rookie he had only 12 points. Relegated to the fourth line and tasked mostly with defensive assignments due to his line mates playing styles and duties, Crouse never gave Arizona an option of being promoted based on his offense. Of all the rookies and prospects on Arizona, it looks like Crouse is the one who won’t be able to meet the expectations of his scouting profile.
29. Boston Bruins: David Backes
The Bruins had the right idea when they poached Backes from St. Louis via free agency in 2016. The veteran power forward had enjoyed a very successful career up until then, being not only the captain for the Blues but contributing offensively as well. In the decade he spent with the Blues, Backes had amassed 206 goals and 460 points in 727 games. He was also capable of playing every situation on the ice and was good at faceoffs only a few years into his career. The Bruins foamed at the mouth when a tough leader with endless character hit free agency, so they offered the then 32-year-old Backes a six year contract worth $6M per year. To no one’s surprise, his first year was terrible. In 74 games he had only 38 points, saw decreased power play time, and a decrease in his overall time on ice per game.
28. Buffalo Sabres: Benoit Pouliot
Pouliot was a great depth player on multiple teams for some time now. However everyone pretty much agreed that paying him over $4 million a year was far too much in Edmonton. He had 70 points in 113 games going into this past season. He also would have the opportunity to play alongside superstar Connor McDavid should anything happen on the left wing side of the depth chart. Everything unraveled for Pouliot this season though. He had only 14 points in 67 games on an Oilers team undergoing a resurgence, having made the playoffs for the first time in a decade with a finally capable team. He was a healthy scratch at times and was bought out in the offseason. Buffalo signed him on day one of free agency for only one year at $1.15M.
27. Calgary Flames: Eddie Lack
Lack was a great addition for Vancouver a few years ago. The undrafted goalie was good value for the team, especially when they traded away then starting goaltender Roberto Luongo. Lack shared the crease with Markstrom that season, and with Miller the following one. He was even better as Miller’s backup and had his best season to date, with a 2.45 GAA and .921 SV% to go along with 18 wins in 41 games. His decline began when he was traded to Carolina. His role as a backup continued with the Hurricanes, but his numbers were much worse. In two seasons he only started in 54 games and posted far from desirable stats with a 2.75 GAA and .902 SV%.
26. Carolina Hurricanes: Joakim Nordstrom
It’s weird to look at a Hurricanes roster that isn’t riddled with bad players strewn along the lineup. Good drafting and taking advantage of teams in need of relieving some cap hit has done wonders for Carolina. They’ll also be one of the more underrated teams, since, apart from Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner, there aren’t many household names on this team. That being said, one player was particularly disappointing this past season and doesn’t look like he has much to offer down the line either. Nordstrom had somewhat of a breakout year and showed he could be a capable depth scorer for Carolina, with 24 points in 71 games in 2015-16. This season however, he was nowhere to be found, with only 12 points in 82 games.
25. Chicago Blackhawks: Brent Seabrook
The three cup victories and endless dominance of the Hawks looks to be coming to an end. With the underrated consistency of Niklas Hjalmarsson and the offensive flair of Artemi Panarin gone, hall of famer Marian Hossa probably retiring due to allergies, and Corey Crawford unlikely to repeat his carrying of the team, things are looking tough for the forever cap strained team. This was bound to happen though, with so much cap hit allocated to a handful of players. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane surely earned that money and are still under 30, and Crawford is a bargain compared to other goalies.
The main problem is Seabrook. He’s 32 making almost $7M per year for the next 7 years (no-movement clause for 5 of those). He had a career year in 2015-16 filling in for the injured Duncan Keith, and then regressed to his normal production with Keith healthy this year.
24. Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene
The 3rd overall pick in 2009 erupted onto the scene without any seasoning in the AHL. He had 24 goals and 55 points in his rookie season and continued to build on those totals the following years. He kept creeping up to point per game production and that helped convinced everyone he was on his way to becoming an elite player. He regressed a bit, going from 70 points to 55 and then 59 points, but his speed and stick handling helped make the argument that it was the product of playing for a bad team. This past year his production screeched to a halt though.
With only 41 points in 77 games and on a team that’s consistently at the bottom of the standings, Colorado needs players like Duchene to step up. Making $6M per year, it looks like the best way to deal with the disappointing forward is to trade him along with other members of a still relatively young core and rebuild. Again.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets: Boone Jenner
There’s something weird with Jenner’s game. On a good but otherwise ordinary Blue Jackets’ season he has 30 goals and looks to be among the best power forwards in the game. The following year, the Blue Jackets’ grow offensively and show glimpses of being one of the best forward groups in the game and Jenner is nowhere to be seen. He played most of the season with Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky but during his struggles he was moved up and down the lineup with no nonsense head coach John Tortarella at the helm of the team.
He barely saw any time on Columbus’ magical top power play unit due to how good additions like Sam Gagner were. As a result he went from 14 power play points down to just 1. He’s still 24 and could get back to his offensive ways, but in terms of expectations it was a pretty disappointing season for Jenner.
22. Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen
What a mess of a season Dallas had this year. The tandem of Lehtonen and Anti Niemi is thankfully no more for the Stars. With the addition of Ben Bishop, Lehtonen likely gets demoted to a backup role, hopefully playing no more than 30 games next season. The Stars’ general manager, Jim Nill, turned some heads by signing Niemi two seasons ago. In doing so, he made his goaltenders combine for a cap hit of $10.4M. Ridiculous considering how bad both of them have been.
The higher paid Lehtonen is making $5.9M per year going into the final year of his 5 year contract. He’s been abysmal for all but one of those seasons, when he posted a .919 SV% and had a 2.41 GAA, helping Dallas reach the playoffs for the first time in a while. The three other years of this contract saw him post no more than a .906% SV% and nothing under a 2.76 GAA.
21. Detroit Red Wings: Niklas Kronwall
When it rains it pours in Detroit. From losing their longtime superstar Pavel Datsyuk to the KHL, to ending their 25 year playoff streak, how bad the team was is just adding insult to injury for Detroit fans. On most nights, if the name of Henrik Zetterberg or Jimmy Howard weren’t being mentioned, chances are there wasn’t much to pay attention to anyway. This couldn’t have been more the case than for Kronwall. Gone are the days of being a skillful general at the blue line of a power play, or bone crushing body checks. He may have missed significant time these past two seasons (playing only in 121 out of a possible 164 games), but 13 points in 57 games this year is definitely uncharted territory for the now 36-year-old defenseman.
20. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
The Nuge should be the next first round draft pick traded away from Edmonton. Between Oilers’ general manager Peter Chiarelli’s love of trading top draft picks, and the Oilers’ tradition of stunting the development of their draft picks, it looks like the 1st overall pick in 2011 will be the next domino to fall after Jordan Eberle was traded away recently. After only two seasons (52 points in 62 games, and 24 points in 40 games), Edmonton felt the need to sign Nugent-Hopkins to a 7 year deal right away, with an average cap hit of 6M$ per year. Since then he’s been incapable of reaching even the 60 point plateau, topping out at 56 points two years in a row a few seasons back. This year he had only 42 points in 82 games and is now finally off the 1st line due to Connor McDavid’s ascension. Maybe a change of scenery will work wonders, seeing as he’s still only 24.
19. Florida Panthers: Derek MacKenzie
A ton of injuries for the Panthers this year meant they didn’t capitalize on what could have been one of their best seasons in recent history. Unfortunately for them, they may not have the chance to tap into the potential of this lost season due to several questionable roster and personnel moves. Between not re-signing Jaromir Jagr and buying out Jussi Jokinen, to letting Jonathan Marchessault get drafted by Las Vegas at the expansion draft, a once promising team has dropped quite a bit in only a few short months.
Their choice of captain (over the obvious likes of Aleksander Barkov or Aaron Ekblad) is also the worst player on the team. A career fourth liner, the 36-year-old MacKenzie offers next to nothing for the team other than decent faceoff numbers.
18. Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown
It wasn’t too long ago that Brown was considered one of the best power forwards in the league. He was named captain at only 23 years old after a season that saw him score 33 goals and 60 points in only his third year in the NHL. He then went on to post 53 or more points in the next four seasons, one of which saw him extend his success to the playoffs and helped the Kings win their first Stanley Cup. A second cup followed suit only two years later, but Brown’s production was tapering off. He had gone from a consistent 50 point player to not even a 30 point player. To make matters worse for Brown, his captaincy was revoked last offseason. He had an uptick in points with 36 this year and is still capable of throwing the body around that helped alleviate just how bad his contract is, at just under $6M per year until he’s 36.
17. Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise
It’s quite a scary sight looking at the contract details for Parise. Only five years have passed of his 13 year, $98M contract that has a no-movement clause the entire way. Parise was amazing in his time with the Devils but that seems like a lifetime ago. The worst part of Parise isn’t his lack of talent or his regression. It’s something mostly out of his control in how injury prone he is. He hasn’t had a full season since the lockout shortened one in 2012-13. His point per game averages are still respectable (0.77 with Minnesota) but overall production isn’t attainable when Parise has missed, on average, a dozen games per season these past four years. The Wild would love nothing more than to have Parise contribute like he once did, especially considering all the offensive talent they now possess. But with his age and injury history, it’s difficult to see how he can get back to that level.
16. Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec
A lot of people were right to be critical of Marc Bergevin offering a 2 year contract worth $12M to a 32-year-old Plekanec. But Plekanec’ play that season quickly silenced all critics as he had 14 goals and 40 assists in 82 games and was instrumental in the success of that top line, along with wingers Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. Unfortunately, the first year of his newly signed contract saw an uncharacteristic dip in an otherwise consistent career in terms of offensive output. He had only 10 goals and 28 points in 78 games, where he had 7 power play points (about half his usual amount). His shot volume also disappeared, going from his usual 220+ shots per season to only 139 (189 last season as well).
15. Nashville Predators: Alexei Emelin
Emelin was a bruising force with Montreal for many years before George McPhee (somehow) took him in the expansion draft. The physical defenseman has since been flipped to Nashville for a 3rd round pick and $1.2M retained salary. On the final year of his contract, he now fills in a bottom pairing role on an already ridiculous defense core for the Preds. He was never known for his offense, maxing out at 17 points in 59 games in 2013-14. The main problem with Emelin is how much he’s slowed down in recent years. He’s never played a full season due to injuries, so that’s one explanation to how his game has regressed. Luckily for Nashville, this is a minor hole on an otherwise fantastic roster, and at a discount price until his contract ends after next season.
14. New Jersey Devils: Ben Lovejoy
It’d be easy to pick about half the players from this roster and claim that they’re the worst player for the Devils. An improved top 6 after the drafting of Nico Hischier 1st overall and trading for Marcus Johansson is met by a totally barren bottom 6 apart from rookie Pavel Zacha and depth player Brian Boyle. It doesn’t get much better on defense, either. Apart from 22 year old Damon Severson and 26-year-old John Moore, it’s a lost cause for the Devils. Lovejoy is by far the worst defenseman though, since he was near the team lead in giveaways, and terrible for the team in terms of shot suppression and possession. With no offensive upside to mask his defensive liabilities, the 33 year old defenseman was better for his team while on the bench than on the ice.
13. New York Islanders: Andrew Ladd
One of the bigger names signed during free agency last offseason, and one that scratched a lot of heads for its ridiculous term. As if $5.5M per year may not have seemed that bad for a player with the pedigree Ladd has, but at 7 years it was bound to quickly become one of the worst contracts in the league. Not even one year of his new deal had passed and it had already become a regrettable signing. Ladd was quickly dropped down from the first line due to his miniscule point production even while playing alongside John Tavares. With only 3 points in his first 20 games, the two time cup winner and typical NHL leader quickly became a secondary player after years of making an impact. Thankfully for the Islanders, a player like Anders Lee jumped at the opportunity and picked up the slack, replacing Ladd as the big bodied presence on the top line.
12. New York Rangers: Marc Staal
With the long awaited buyout of Dan Girardi occurring this offseason, the Rangers now just have to deal with one remaining and expensive ineffective defenseman. Not one known for his offense, Staal managed only 10 points in 72 games. This is from a defenseman making $5.7M for the next four seasons, and with a no-movement clause for every one of those seasons. Apart from slowing down and losing much of his positional soundness that made him somewhat deserving of that contract in the first place, some of his underlying stats can also be worrisome. His takeaways were half of what they usually are these past two seasons.
Having possession of the puck was also an issue for Staal, where he is near the bottom of the Rangers’ defensemen’s shot suppression. Thankfully for the Rangers, a changing of the guards has begun with the promotion of Brady Skjei and signing of Kevin Shattenkirk to help out Ryan McDonaugh.
11. Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan
For a team that has an owner infamous for being cheap, who runs the Senators on a tight budget, the contract extension Bobby Ryan signed in 2014 sure was an interesting one. Making more than teammate and best defenseman in the league Erik Karlsson, Ryan’s contract sees him making $7.25M per year until he’s 35. An awful contract to give someone who hadn’t gotten close to his career best of 71 points in 82 games while playing on a line in Anaheim with the best duo in hockey at the time, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. This year was an even bigger step back with his point production. He may have missed 20 games with an injury, but 25 points in 62 games is not what any team wants from their highest paid forward.
10. Philadelphia Flyers: Jori Lehtera
Lehtera never really panned out as a productive centerman for the Blues after his rookie season of 44 points in 75 games. At the time, he was playing with Blues’ elite sniper Vladimir Tarasenko (73 points that year) and Jaden Schwartz (63 points). The following two seasons saw a consistent dip in Lehtera’s production and a subsequent drop down the depth chart, even after plenty of opportunities centering those two wingers. This offseason, he was traded for Brayden Schenn and looks like he’ll only be capable of centering the fourth line.
With Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux and recently drafted Nolan Patrick hogging the top two lines, and the great defensive minded Sean Couturier on the third line, Lehtera’s productive redemption is unlikely to happen. Terrible considering he’s making $4.7M per year for the next two seasons.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins: Antti Niemi
Thankfully the buyout exists because it’s been a rough two years in Dallas for Niemi. Somehow a cup winner in Niemi, his numbers have been putrid the past two seasons on a team desperate for good goaltending. Since arriving in Dallas from San Jose, Niemi posted a 2.92 GAA and .900 SV%, numbers far worse than during his time spent in Chicago and San Jose. The Penguins signed him after he was bought out just so they can have a backup with NHL experience behind their young franchise goalie Matt Murray. He also fits their salary cap well since they’re going to need all the bargains they can get at this point. From making $4.5M with Dallas to only $700k per year with Pittsburgh, it just proves how bad of a goalie he’s become.
8. San Jose Sharks: Mikkel Boedker
Boedker had the opportunity to play big minutes alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski this season with Patrick Marleau getting up there in age. He was always a bit of a disappointment for Arizona considering they took him 8th overall in 2008, but put up decent numbers. Boedkker posted two seasons of 51 points which were separated by a season that saw him miss nearly 40 games, but still have 28 points in 45 games (which would have given him three consecutive 51 point seasons had he played 82 games). Unfortunately for San Jose, what they thought they’d be getting as a bargain forward at only $4M per year (still 27 years old as well) has so far been a flop. He only had 26 points in 81 games playing on a team that is much more talented and experienced than Arizona.
7. St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester
St. Louis’ only real quality defenseman with a left hand shot these past few years has been Bouwmeester. Unfortunately for the Blues, the veteran defenseman’s game has really trailed off, especially in the past three seasons. More dependable than flashy, and one of the best skaters in the league considering his height, Bouwmeester was always good for about 30 points per season since leaving Florida nearly a decade ago. With great passing to go along with a good hockey IQ as well, Bouwmeester was the whole package.
Unfortunately for the Blues, too much stock has been put into him on the top pairing to play alongside Alex Pietrangelo. His point production dipped to only 15 points in 81 games and only 1 power play point. At 33 years old, he’ll still be making $5.4M per year for the next two seasons.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning: Dan Girardi
Girardi probably has the best agent in the league at this point, considering what he’s gotten as his past two contracts. Only weeks after being bought out of his $5.5M per year contract with the Rangers, Tampa signed him to a 2 year deal worth $3M per year. He was a deer with skates for New York since signing that extension three years ago, and nothing is likely to change in Tampa. Girardi is a giveaway machine but praised for his high volumes of blocks, even though these block opportunities could easily be prevented if he were better with the puck. A great defenseman in Ryan McDonaugh will now see improved possession metrics next season without Girardi weighing him down. It remains to be seen which Tampa defenseman draws the shortest straw next season and ends up on a pairing with the soon to be 34-year-old defender.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Martin
It’s really odd to see a good Toronto team again. At least for now, until the cap constraints of having so many good players comes into play, Leafs fans must love having the best potential Canadian team at the moment. The worst player on this team is luckily stuck to fourth line minutes in Matt Martin. A character guy who instills fear in the opposition every game with just how often and how hard he hits, he isn’t the same role player he once was with the Islanders. Usually capable of mustering over a dozen points for the Isles, he failed to even reach 10 this season with 9 points in 82 games for Toronto. At $2.5M per year and making double what he once was with the Islanders, he’s essentially getting paid to body check.
4. Vancouver Canucks: Loui Eriksson
The Sedin twins regressing and the lack of a consistent performance from their starting goalie have played a huge part is just how bad Vancouver is. That being said, they surely don’t need the likes of Eriksson playing on par with the lower tier forwards in the league. He’s yet another 30+ year old player making $6M per year, only to under perform. That contract, which lasts for another five seasons, also has a no-movement clause for one more year.
At 31, he followed a 63 point season with Boston with a 24 point one (65 games) in the first year of his contract with Vancouver. He was well insulated with the Bruins playing behind players like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Now on a first line with a declining Daniel Sedin and the continuing regression of his brother Henrik, this Swedish trio won’t help the Canucks rebuild much.
3. Vegas Golden Knights: Jason Garrison
It’s the first season for the freshly drafted Golden Knights and it still remains to be seen just how good or bad they did. They’re doubtful to make the playoffs, but could still be an entertaining and competitive team. Where this team is really lacking is their bottom pair of Luca Sbisa and Garrison. Sbisa is still 27 and though he may have been badly scouted by Philly, Anaheim, and Vancouver, he’ll still be serviceable as a 5th/6th defenseman. The main problem here is Garrison. He is only two seasons removed from yet another 30 point season for the 32-year-old defenseman. But these past two seasons with the Lightning have been noticeably bad. He’s only had 20 points in 142 games with Tampa and was pushed down the lineup with the emergence of the good defensive prospects Tampa piled up.
2. Washington Capitals: Brooks Orpik
At 36 years old, Orpik has logged several great years for both Pittsburgh and Washington. He was a calming force on the two teams for years, offering a good physical style of hockey combined with smart puck movement and great play in his own end. He was the epitome of consistent, especially in Pittsburgh’s cup run in 2009. He would still be fantastic value as a depth defenseman with his experience and despite his slow foot speed, he is still positionally sound. But then you look at his contract and it’s easy to see why Washington has quickly become a team that’s tied to the cap. He still has two years left on his 5 year deal that sees him making $5.5M per year. It’s a steep price to pay for a bottom pair defenseman who doesn’t offer any offense.
1. Winnipeg Jets: Toby Enstrom
The long time member of the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets did his team a favor by waving his no-movement clause ahead of the expansion draft. Opting instead to hopefully get value down the line for the veteran, the Jets instead traded the 13th overall pick in 2017 and 3rd round selection in 2019 to have Vegas take pending unrestricted free agent Chris Thorburn (Jets also received 24th overall pick). Enstrom was once regarded as one of the better offensive defenseman in the league, posting 51 and 50 point seasons while the team was still in Atlanta.
Now 32, he is set to make another $5.7M per year in the final year of his contract. Injuries haven’t done him any favors as he got older, missing 54 games in three years and as a result, and only posting 53 points across that span.
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