When the salary cap was first introduced into the NHL coming out of the 2004-05 lockout, it dramatically changed the league. No longer could the rich teams like the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs just buy every player they wanted without any consequences. Every contract given out to a player now had to be carefully thought out. However, there was a loophole that allowed teams to get rid of bad contracts by sending them down to the minors. If a player was sent down the team still had to pay their salary but their contract was taken off the salary cap.
While in today's NHL you can't bury a players entire contract, you can still save about $1 million on the cap. That may not seem like a whole lot of money, but it is for a team that is right up against the cap.
A players salary is only one reason why burying a player in the minors is a great option. Another reason is simply that your team is better on the ice without them. These players are just waste of a roster space and taking opportunities away from much better players.
Making this list was a bit of a challenge considering some teams are solid throughout their roster. So with a few exceptions, here is one player from each NHL team that is nothing but dead weight and should be buried in minors.
31 Anaheim Ducks: Jared Boll
It's hard to believe a player like Jared Boll still has a job in the NHL. The role of an enforcer has slowly died out in recent years. In today's NHL, every player in the lineup has to be able to chip in at least a bit offensively, something Boll hasn't done since his first couple of seasons in the league.
What makes the inclusion of Boll on the Ducks roster even more puzzling, is the fact that he's usually on the loser end of his bouts. Boll is due to make just under $1 million next season and that's money the Ducks could have spent elsewhere. Surprisingly Boll has never played a single game in the minors during his career, but he wants it to continue, playing in the AHL may be his only option.
30 Arizona Coyotes: Jamie McGinn
The Coyotes signed Jamie McGinn in 2016 to a three-year, $10 million contract. The forward was coming off a career season with 22 goals and 39 points. Maybe even more important than his stats was the fact McGinn was able to do something that he hasn't been able to do for most of his career, and that is to stay healthy.
While McGinn was able once again avoid injury in his first season in the desert, he was an inconsistent player, to say the least. He only managed to score nine goals and had a dreadful minus 23 rating. The Coyotes will be one of the youngest team's in the NHL next season and they are going to need the veteran McGinn to step it up and start earning his contract.
29 Boston Bruins: Matt Beleskey
When the Boston Bruins signed Matt Beleskey in 2015, you knew there was a decent chance the contract would come back to haunt the Bruins. In 2014-15, Beleskey had a career year with the Anaheim Ducks, netting a career-high 22 goals in just 65 games. His previous career high was just 11 goals during the 2009-10 season.
There was a good possibility that Beleskey's career season was just a fluke. After two years with the Bruins, that is exactly what it looks like. Beleskey scored a decent 15 goals during his first year with the Bruins, but only managed three goals in 49 games this past season. Beleskey and his $3.8 million cap hit is going to haunt the Bruins for the next few seasons.
28 Buffalo Sabres: Josh Gorges
There was a time where Josh Gorges was considered one of the top shutdown defenseman in the league. However, since joining the Sabres in 2014 he has been on a steady decline. In his first season with Sabres in 2014-15, he finished with an embarrassing minus 28 rating in just 46 games.
While Gorges has been a bit better the last couple seasons, that's not saying much. He has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career and that hasn't changed. Gorges best trait at this point in his career is his leadership skills. Although his near $4 million salary is a lot to pay for someone who just is great locker room guy.
27 Calgary Flames: Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer was one of the bigger names in the 2016 NHL free agent class. The big power forward had been a consistent near twenty goal scorer while still being a pain to play against. He was also coming off a great 2016 playoffs with the St.Louis Blues where he finished second on the team with eight goals.
The Flames locked Brouwer up to a four-year contract worth average of $4.5 million per year. His first year with the Flames ended up being a terrible one as his 13 goals and 25 points were his lowest totals since his rookie season. At the age of 31, it wouldn't be shocking if Brouwer was started to go on the decline.
26 Carolina Hurricanes: Klas Dahlbeck
The Carolina Hurricanes are the first team on this list where they don't really have any players that are dead weight. They don't have any true superstar players but they also don't have any obvious weak ones either. Last year the Hurricanes dressed rather useless players like Jay McClement, Ryan Murphy, and Bryan Bickell, but they thankfully cut them loose.
If you had to choose one player to single out who would be better off next year playing in the minors, it's Klas Dahlbeck. After playing a career high 71 games with Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16, the defenseman managed to get into just 43 games with Hurricanes last season. While Dahlbeck isn't a terrible player, he just doesn't do enough good things to warrant a full-time spot in an NHL lineup.
25 Chicago Blackhawks: Jordin Tootoo
Jordin Tootoo has overcome a lot in order to make it to the NHL. He was the first player to grow up in Nunavut and lace up his skates in the NHL. After establishing himself as one biggest pests in the league, Tootoo found his career in jeopardy due to substance abuse.
Fortunately, Tootoo was able to get life and career together in recent years. While it's a nice story, it doesn't necessarily mean that he deserves a spot in the NHL. Tootoo played last season for the Blackhawks and he played well enough to earn a one-year contract extension. While Tootoo has shown glimpses of offensive talent in the past, he only recorded three points last season. The Blackhawks would better of with a player cheaper and younger than Tootoo.
24 Colorado Avalanche: Joe Colborne
The Colorado Avalanche were an absolute disaster in 2016-17, finishing with a league low 48 points. It's not hard finding a player who disappointed last year. However, while a player like Matt Duchene should bounce back, a player like Joe Colborne and his $2.5 contract deserves to be in the minors.
Colborne had a career season with the Flames in 2015-16, scoring a career-high 19 goals and 44 points. That season earned Colborne a two-year, $5 million contract with the Avalanche. In his first season in Denver, Colborne had by far the worst season of his career registering just eight points. To make matters worse, he was a huge defensive liability on the ice, with a minus 21 rating. If the Avalanche want to start to rise in the standings, they need to get rid of players like Colborne.
23 Columbus Blue Jackets: Jack Johnson
With the Columbus Blue Jackets getting rid of dead weight players like Fedor Tyutin last year and buying out Scott Hartnell this year, it was a real challenge to find someone worthy of making this list. The Blue Jackets were one of the best team's in the league last year and don't have many weak links.
If you had to pick one player to take off their team it would be Jack Johnson. Don't get me wrong, Johnson is still a solid defenseman who is a valuable leader. However, there is no denying that at the age of thirty Johnson seems to be on the decline. He was once good for at least thirty points a season but is more of a twenty point player right now.
22 Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen
When the Dallas Stars acquired Kari Lehtonen in 2010, they were hoping that they got their starting goalie of the future. While Lehtonen would go on to start the majority of the team's games during the next seven seasons, his play was inconsistent, to say the least.
Even when Lehtonen put up solid numbers in the regular season, he faltered when it mattered the most in the playoffs. In May of 2016, the Stars signed Ben Bishop to a long term contract to be the team's new starting goalie. While Lehtonen would be a more than capable backup goalie, his $5.9 million cap hit is just too much for a guy to play second fiddle.
21 Detroit Red Wings: Jonathan Ericsson
Jonathan Ericsson has played his entire ten season NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings franchise. While his career got off to a promising start, he's been really lackluster the last few seasons. Early on in his career the big defenseman shown he had an offensive side to his game while playing in the minors. While the scoring didn't translate to the NHL, he could still skate great and was a great shutdown defenseman.
In 2013, Ericsson was given a massive six year, $25.5 million contract. It seems that almost since the day he signed the contract, his play has gone downhill. Ericsson has not been able to stay healthy for the life of him and he has seemed to get even slower on the ice as each year goes by. While the Wings won't get much cap room sending him down to minors at this point, the team would probably be better off without him in the lineup.
20 Edmonton Oilers: Eric Gryba
Last season the Edmonton Oilers took a step in the right direction by making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. However, the team is far from perfect. While the team had no trouble putting the puck in the net, they could still use some more help on the back end.
The Oilers acquired Adam Larsson which helped shore up their top pairing, but they still lack depth on their blueline. The one defenseman who ended up playing too much for the Oilers was Eric Gryba. While he certainly has great size, he contributes almost nothing else. He can be a giveaway machine at times and provides almost no offense. Long story short, the Oilers are a better team without Gryba in the lineup.
19 Florida Panthers: Micheal Haley
The Florida Panthers have had a very busy offseason which included making some puzzling moves. They basically gave away talented goal scorers in Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith for a bag of pucks. Another puzzling move the Panthers did was sign unrestricted free agent Micheal Haley to a two-year contract.
The 2016-17 season was Haley's first full season in the NHL. It's not surprising it took the 31-year-old so long to find a permanent spot in the NHL considering he doesn't bring a whole lot to the table. Haley is nothing more than an old school enforcer and adds nothing but some sandpaper to the Panthers lineup. Florida just finally rid themselves of a goon in Shawn Thornton, only to replace him another ineffective player in Haley.
18 Los Angeles Kings: Marian Gaborik
There was a time where Marian Gaborik was considered one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the league, but that time has long since passed. The Los Angeles Kings acquired the then pending free agent Gaborik in a 2014 trade with Columbus. Gaborik went on to play a huge role in the Kings Stanley Cup victory, leading the team with 14 goals.
That playoff performance earned Gaborik a mammoth seven-year, $34.1 million contract with the Kings. Since that season, Gaborik has had just one decent season with L.A. The rest of his time with the franchise has been plagued by his usual injury troubles and inconsistency. With four more years still left on his contract, the Kings are going to have to figure out something to do with his large cap hit.
17 Minnesota Wild: Landon Ferraro
The Minnesota Wild were great team last year with few holes. However, the one aspect they could probably have improved on was their overall depth, especially at the forward position. The Wild tried to address their depth this offseason by acquiring both Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno from Buffalo. Although if injuries do occur they don't have much to turn to.
The one player the Wild signed this summer for mostly insurance purposes was Landon Ferraro. While Ferraro has shown he can be a decent scorer in the minors, he hasn't been able to translate that to the NHL. The problem is if Ferraro isn't providing offense, he's not good for much else. Besides being a good forechecker, Ferraro lacks the size needed to be a bottom six winger in the NHL.
16 Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec
After playing over a decade in a Montreal Canadiens jersey, Tomas Plekanec has earned the respect of Habs fans everywhere. However, it's not about what you did in the past, it's about what you are doing now. Today, Plekanec is no longer the excellent two-way forward that he was in his prime.
Plekanec has been declining the last couple of seasons, but he hit rock bottom last year. He had the worst statical season of his career in 2016-17, recording just 28 points. Plekanec has a $6 million cap hit, so that kind of production is just not acceptable. The only saving grace for the Canadiens is that they are not right against the cap. Although if they can get rid of Plekanec's contract they can afford to acquire a player like Matt Duchene.
15 Nashville Predators: Cody McLeod
Cody McLeod's journey to the NHL wasn't an easy one. He was never drafted by an NHL team and spent years grinding in the minors before getting his shot with the Colorado Avalanche in 2007-08. McLeod never looked back and played in an energy guy role with the Colorado up until his trade to the Predators this past season.
While McLeod brought some leadership to the Predators, he brought little else. Like he has done for pretty much his entire career, McLeod did little offensively. While he did bring some grit to the team, he was also was guilty of taking some dumb penalties. McLeod should feel nothing but pride looking back at his NHL career, but at this point, he is more suited to a minor league role helping the future Preds grow.
14 New Jersey Devils: Ben Lovejoy
The New Jersey Devils have been a downright terrible team the last few seasons. While they did help their struggling offense by acquiring Taylor Hall from the Oilers, they depleted their already thin defense corps by trading away Adam Larsson. This meant they had to heavily rely on guys who just frankly weren't able to handle playing big minutes.
The one defenseman the Devils had playing way too much in 2016-17 was Ben Lovejoy. They signed the former Stanley Cup Champion in 2016 to a three-year contract, worth $2.6 million a season. While Lovejoy was able to hide behind more talented defensemen in Pittsburgh, he was exposed in his first season with the Devils. Lovejoy averaged over twenty minutes with New Jersey but it's not like he earned the playing time. He was very inconsistent defensively and he did nothing to help the Devils offense. After just one season in New Jersey, the Devils fans have already seen enough of Lovejoy.
13 New York Islanders: Nikolay Kulemin
Early on in his NHL career, it looked like Nikolay Kulemin could become one of the best two-way forwards in the game. In 2010-11, Kulemin scored thirty goals with the Maple Leafs while still being reliable defensively. However, when the Islanders signed him in 2014 to fairly pricey four-year contract, Kulemin was coming off a disappointing nine goal campaign.
It seems like Toronto made the right decision by letting Kulemin walk, as he has not come close to becoming a twenty goal player, never mind a thirty goal one. While Kulemin is still a decent penalty killer, the Islanders are expecting a bit more out of him considering they are paying him over $5 million a season.
12 New York Rangers: Marc Staal
Marc Staal's NHL career got off to a great start with the New York Rangers, as after just a few seasons in he was considered a fantastic two-way defender. However, at just the age of 30, Staal seems to already be in a bit of a decline. While Staal was never known for his offensive skills, he still has put up some solid numbers in the past. This past season, Staal managed to record a paltry ten points while averaging nineteen minutes a night.
The decline in his offensive game wouldn't be that hard to swallow if his defensive game wasn't declining too. Staal found himself way out of position at times which in turn cost the Rangers some games. At $5.7 million dollars a season, Staal was the highest paid defenseman on the Rangers last season. If New York could bury Staal's entire contract like they had with previously done with Wade Redden, they would probably do it in a heart beat.
11 Ottawa Senators: Andrew Hammond
During the 2014-15 season, Andrew Hammond was absolutely stellar for the Ottawa Senators. The former college hockey star posted mind boggling numbers in his 24 games in goal for the Senators. He finished with a 1.79 GAA and a sparkling .948 save percentage. That fairly small sample size earned Hammond a three-year contract extension with Ottawa.
In the past couple of seasons since signing the contract, Hammond has been mediocre at best and just plain terrible at the worst of times. Last season he lost the backup role to journeyman Mike Condon and barring injury he will play next season in the minors, where he probably belongs.
10 Philadelphia Flyers: Andrew MacDonald
It feels like a minor miracle that Andrew MacDonald remains a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. Ever since he signed a massive six-year, $30 contract with Flyers he seemed like a very likely buyout candidate. His play had got so bad that he actually spent the majority of the 2015-16 season playing for the Flyers AHL affiliate.
In 2016-17, MacDonald had a bit of a bounce back year as played some big minutes for the Flyers. However, no matter what McDonald does at this point, it seems like he will never get in the good graces of Flyers fans. MacDonald isn't a terrible defenseman, but he's not particularly good at anything. Flyers fans probably wouldn't have a huge problem if MacDonald found himself back in minors in favor of one of their many up and coming defenders.
9 Pittsburgh Penguins: Derrick Pouliot
With the Pittsburgh Penguins fresh off another Stanley Cup victory, you might think it would be hard to find a player that is dead weight, but that is not the case. Derrick Pouliot was supposed to be the next Kris Letang, but the defenseman has only been able to put up those type of offensive numbers in the minors.
It has to be concerning for Pouliot's career considering since his rookie season in 2014-15, he played less NHL games every year. This past season when the Penguins were seeing their defenseman drop like flies, instead of giving Pouliot a shot they kept him in the minors and acquired other blueliners. When given the chance he just has shown the ability to be a reliable NHL defender, and he might be stuck in the minors once again next season.
8 San Jose Sharks: Joel Ward
It was a tough choice to choose a player for this entry as the San Jose Sharks do not have any players that aren't worthy of a spot in their lineup. Last season the Sharks dressed Micheal Haley who was dead weight on their roster as he was nothing more than an enforcer. If you had to take one player off of their roster and bury them in the minors it would have to be Joel Ward.
I know what your thinking, and you would correct, Joel Ward is a solid player. The 36-year-old is one of the hardest workers on the team and provides grit as well as some decent scoring. However, Ward did have a down year last season recording his lowest point total since 2011-12. More important than Ward's decline is the fact that he's potentially taking up valuable ice time from the Sharks up and coming forwards like Timo Meier and Kevin LaBanc.
7 St. Louis Blues: Chris Thorburn
When Chris Thorburn's tenure as a Winnipeg Jet ended when he was selected in the expansion by the Vegas Golden Knights, it looked like his NHL career might be over. While Vegas never offered Thorburn a contract, the St.Louis Blues did. What makes it even more surprising is that the Blues gave the 34-year-old a two-year contract.
The Blues signed Thorburn as a replacement for Ryan Reaves. The problem is that Chris Thorburn is not Ryan Reaves. He puts almost nothing up on the scoresheet. Also when it comes to fighting, he usually gets hit butt kicked. There is a reason why the Jets never resigned Thorburn as he just doesn't cut it in the NHL anymore.
6 Tampa Bay Lightning: Dan Girardi
Dan Girardi spent eleven seasons as a New York Ranger, with most years being great. However, in recent years he has been steadily on a decline. At his best Girardi was a shot blocking machine who could still put up a decent amount of points from the backend. Last season not only did his point production take a dip but so did his overall game. The fact that his advanced stats were worse than Marc Staal says something.
Girardi's decline probably has to do with that fact as he has gotten older, his body has deteriorated. When the Rangers bought out the remaining three years on his contract it wasn't a total surprise, but what was a surprise was that the Lightning were so quick to snatch him up. Tampa Bay is right up against the cap and paying a declining, injury prone defenseman $3.3 seems like a bad business decision.
5 Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Martin
The Leafs have a couple players who qualify as dead weight in Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul. Fortunately, the Leafs are able to get their contracts off the cap by putting both players on the long term injury list. That means by default Matt Martin is the player that makes the most sense for this list.
Matt Martin is definitely not a useless player as he's an elite body checker who also kills penalties. However, he is not quite worth his $2.5 million dollar price tag. Thankfully the Leafs best players are still on cheap entry level contracts because if they weren't, Matt Martin's contract could be a real pain for the Leafs.
4 Vancouver Canucks: Brandon Sutter
When Vancouver acquired Brandon Sutter in a 2015 trade with Pittsburgh, Canucks GM Jim Benning called him a "foundation piece". Benning liked him so much that he immediately signed Sutter to a five-year contract extension worth $4.3 million a season. While Sutter hasn't been a terrible player for the Canucks, to say he is the foundation of the Canucks going forward would be a huge lie.
Prior to joining the Canucks, Sutter was used mostly as a third line center, a role in which he thrived in. When he joined the Canucks he was immediately pushed into a top six role. Sutter was also given a ton of powerplay time with the Canucks but produced little results. Sutter just doesn't have the skills to be a top six player in the NHL. Unfortunately, Canucks fans are most likely stuck with him in that role, unless they can find another team willing to take him off their hands.
3 Vegas Golden Knights: Jason Garrison
There was a time where Jason Garrison looked like the next Sheldon Souray. He had an absolute cannon of a slap shot, a shot that netted him a career-high 16 goals with the Florida Panthers in 2011-12. Garrison's career year earned him a hefty six-year contract, $27.6 million contracts with the Vancouver Canucks.
Garrison failed to live up to expectations with the Canucks and he only declined even further when he joined Tampa Bay. In 2016-17, the once feared powerplay specialist scored just one goal all season. Garrison was picked by Vegas in the expansion draft. Right now Garrison is predicted to be a bottom pairing defender for the Knights. Based on the way his play is trending, it wouldn't be too crazy if Garrison found himself in the minors at some point this year.
2 Washington Capitals: Brooks Orpik
When the Washington Capitals signed Brooks Orpik to a five-year, $27.5 contract in 2014, they knew exactly what they were getting. Orpik was already 33 years old at the time, so realistically he was going to provide a couple of solid years of service before going into a decline. Well, that decline has begun.
While Orpik was still solid defensively last season, it probably helped that he saw a reduced role. Orpik found himself playing on the Capitals third pairing. At this point in his career, Orpik is a more than serviceable bottom pairing defenseman. The problem is that he's a very pricey for the role he is now playing.
1 Winnipeg Jets: Dmitry Kulikov
With the Jets getting rid of both Mark Stuart and Chris Thorburn, the team does not have any obvious weak links at this point. However, if there one player who may quickly become the Jets' new scapegoat it's Dmitry Kulikov. The Jets signed the defenseman this summer to a pretty hefty contract worth $4.3 a season for three years.
While Kulikov has shown in the past he can be a great two-way defenseman, he coming off by far the worst season of his NHL career. In 2016-17 while with Buffalo Sabres, Kulikov recorded just five points and he was an atrocious minus twenty-eight. If Kulikov's first season with the Jets is anywhere near as terrible as his last was, it won't be long before Jet's fans will be wishing he was in the minors.