Every NHL team has their franchise players who are the reasons behind their success. As fans, we learn to love and/or hate these players because they are either helping our team win, or absolutely dominating us. Yet, as the years continue to pass, these players tend to become human again and drop in skill. This is normally a very tough time for hockey fans to see because it shows that their franchises are now due for major changes. A lot of the time, these type of players start to fizzle out when they are given brand new extensions and sign deals with a new team. It is extremely frustrating when this happens, yet it is just a part of the NHL that every team faces at least once.
With that said, in this article, we will be looking at fifteen players who were once considered franchise players, but now are only hurting their franchises. It is important to note that some of these players completely dropped in skill with their new teams, but were franchise players on their previous ones. Keep that in mind when you read this. Also, a very evident fact behind all of this is that these players have fallen off due to age or consistent health issues. These players are prime examples as to why general managers need to think before giving players near the end of their primes major deals. The future is far more important than the present sometimes in hockey.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the fifteen former franchise players who now are hurting their teams badly.
15 Rick Nash
When the New York Rangers picked up Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was supposed to be a game changing move for them. The Rangers were expected to be Stanley Cup favourites from the move and many thought he would be the guy who would carry them to it. Nash was a fantastic player for the Rangers for the first few years, but now things have changed.
The New York Rangers are very lucky that Rick Nash’s contract is set to expire this summer because he is nowhere close to being the same player he was in the past. Nash’s drop in skill is definitely because of the fact that the NHL is gaining in speed and he cannot keep up. Nash is just not the same player he once was and that is hurting the Rangers chances of winning any time soon.
14 Milan Lucic
The Edmonton Oilers made a big mistake when they opted to trade Taylor Hall to get the money to bring in Milan Lucic. Hall is a far better than Lucic and should have been given the chance to play with the good Oilers. Yet, the Oilers now have Lucic and this contract is already showing signs of being a major mistake by the club.
Now, I am not necessarily saying that Milan Lucic is a bad hockey player. In fact, he would be someone who any hockey team would like to have because of his grit. Yet, his contract is so abysmal and is on the books for six more seasons. In this time period, Lucic will only drop in skill and slow down immensely. This will hurt the Oilers in bringing in new talent to become contenders.
13 Henrik Zetterberg
Henrik Zetterberg is an absolute legend and one of the main reasons why the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup back in 2008. Yet, as the years have passed by, Zetterberg has slowly gotten worse and his contract is not ending anytime soon. With that said, Zetterberg is prolonging the rebuild that the Red Wings desperately need.
It is hard to say that Henrik Zetterberg is hurting the Detroit Red Wings if you look at his stats. He still is a very productive player in the NHL and is a top-6 forward on any club. Yet, financially his contract is truly a burden and will continue to get worse as each year passes. The Red Wings will lose players because of contracts like his and they cannot do much about it.
12 Ryan Callahan
Like so many veteran grinders in the NHL today, Ryan Callahan’s skill has dropped out dramatically over the past few seasons. This is a major issue because the Tampa Bay Lightning signed him long term in hopes that he would be the same player he was for the New York Rangers. Today, Callahan is playing fourth line minutes and is always injured.
There is no doubt that Ryan Callahan is a positive figure in the locker room, but his contract is hurting the Lightning immensely. They could use the money from his deal to bring in another superstar for their roster, yet they simply cannot because of it. Callahan is nowhere near the player he once was and the argument can even be made that he does not belong in the NHL anymore.
11 Joe Thornton
This one may be a bit of surprise, but if you evaluate the San Jose Sharks in depth, Joe Thornton is hurting their chances of winning the Stanley Cup. Instead of taking the hometown discount this offseason, Thornton was given $8 million, which is a raise from his previous salary. The Sharks could have used that cash to bring in two players of Thornton’s caliber.
Joe Thornton is also getting extremely old so his decline in play will be coming shortly. The Sharks simply do not have a team that can help back up Thornton, so there is no way that they will be able to win a Stanley Cup soon. Keeping Thornton on this ridiculous contract is forcing the Sharks to be an in-between club. This is detrimental as their core players are getting old.
10 Shea Weber
The Montreal Canadiens made one of the worst deals in recent memory when they shipped P.K. Subban out to Nashville for Shea Weber. Now, that is not to say that Weber is not a great player, but his contract is horrible. The Canadiens will have Weber on their roster until he is 40 years and his cap hit does not change at all, This will end up killing the Canadiens.
There will always be a lot of negativity toward Shea Weber by Montreal fans because he was the guy they got for P.K. Subban. He still has many more years left in his prime, while Weber will inevitably drop in skill over the next few seasons. Weber’s cap hit and term will not allow the Canadiens to build a roster full of champions anytime soon as well.
9 Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr has been one of the best players in the NHL for so long and it is truly remarkable that he has been able to stay in the league this long. Yet, this season in particular, Jagr has shown us that he finally has slowed down and no longer should be in the NHL. With that said, this is a monumental hit for the Flames because they needed him to be a top-6 guy for them.
When the Troy Brouwer experiment failed, the Calgary Flames thought that Jaromir Jagr would be a good alternative option. Yet, since the signing, Jagr has been averaging extremely poor point totals and mainly is on the bench. It has been reported that Jagr wants to be moved by Calgary so he can have another shot to play big minutes, but that is unlikely.
8 Loui Eriksson
Loui Eriksson has been an absolute bust for the Vancouver Canucks since joining them and clearly is no longer a top-6 forward. The issue with that is he is heavily paid to be one and it appears that his skill is only dropping from here. It is absolutely a no brainer that the Canucks will eventually buyout Eriksson because he is doing nothing except hurting the team.
The Vancouver Canucks are in a much needed rebuild, but it can not truly start until players like Eriksson are off the roster. There is no way that Eriksson will find his game any time soon and ultimately, the Canucks made a giant mistake giving him a contract with long term. This will hurt them no matter what they decide to do with Eriksson and that is why he is hurting their team.
7 Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson is not necessarily playing poorly this season, but he he is not been given playing time to show his true worth. With that said, Johnson has openly requested a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets to help build his worth up for his free agency period. This has created a sour taste in the room for the team and even is hurting their performance a bit.
The Columbus Blue Jackets should try to move him so there is better morale in the locker room. Although it will be hard for the Blue Jackets to part ways with a player who has the skill set of Johnson, it will be better for them to get something for him than lose him for nothing. It will hurt them in the playoffs this year, but benefit them later on. They must do it.
6 Bobby Ryan
When the Ottawa Senators traded for Bobby Ryan, it was seen as a fantastic move for them because they were getting a star in his prime. Yet, Ryan has never been able to truly be the player he was on the Anaheim Ducks. The main issue with this is that the Senators, a team who never spends up to the cap, gave Ryan an abysmal deal in both term and salary.
Bobby Ryan is the victim of a bad contract, but that does not excuse that he is a major factor behind the downfall of the Ottawa Senators. No matter what they decide to do with him in the future, he will have a significant impact on their salary cap. With that said, it will be very challenging for the Senators to bring in future talent and keep their own.
5 Dion Phaneuf
The Ottawa Senators made a major blunder when they traded for Dion Phaneuf from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators management knew that this would be a gamble, but realistically, they should have been aware to stay away from him. Phaneuf had already shown signs of his decline in his final years with the Maple Leafs and is continuing to do so now.
Dion Phaneuf’s cap hit is at a whopping $7 million and he still has three more years left on the deal. Although it may not seem a lot to some, fans need to keep in mind that this could be the contract that does not allow the Senators to resign Erik Karlsson. It is a true shame that the Senators did not ask for the Leafs to retain any salary for Phaneuf. It is going to hurt them.
4 Brooks Orpik
When the Washington Capitals signed Brooks Orpik back in the 2014 NHL offseason, it already was seen as a massive mistake by every hockey analyst. Orpik was already showing immense signs of his decline, yet the Capitals brought him because of his reputation and his importance to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This would ultimately be a monumental mistake.
Brooks Orpik has been, at best, average since joining the Washington Capitals. Yet, over the past few seasons, his old age has truly shown and he has been their worst player by far. To make matters worse, the Capitals have lost a handful of talented players because they could not afford to bring them in. It is easy to believe that Orpik’s atrocious contract is a major factor behind that.
3 Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer was signed by the Calgary Flames during the 2016 offseason and many thought it was a fantastic move. Brouwer just came off a very solid season with the St. Louis Blues and was expected to be a major contributor for the Flames. Now, as we fast forward to 2018. Brouwer is barely a fourth line player at best and has yet to do much of anything.
The Troy Brouwer signing is one that hurts immensely because the Calgary Flames could have used that money to bring in a real top-6 forward. It is clear that the Flames do not have a very solid roster at the moment and offensive depth is something they truly need to find. Brouwer will be on their team for a handful of more seasons, unless the Flames opt to buy him out.
2 Brent Seabrook
Brent Seabrook was a major factor behind the Chicago Blackhawks’ modern dynasty period because he was arguably their top defenseman. Yet, as the years have passed, Seabrook is expectedly showing signs of his decline. This would not be that significant of an issue if the Blackhawks did not hand him an abysmal contract that he will be under until he is 37.
This season, Brent Seabrook has already been a healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks and that is extremely frightening. Seabrook was paid to be one of their top-2 defenders and he is failing miserably now. His $6.875 million cap hit is atrocious for the Blackhawks because they already have so many issues with their salary. This ultimately will sink them and end their chances of winning again.
1 Zach Parise
The Minnesota Wild made free agency history when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to record breaking, 13 year, $98 million deals. Although Suter has lived up to the contract and is still thriving, Parise is starting to show signs of steady decline. This is a major issue because Parise will be on their roster until the end of the 2024-25 season. Yikes.
The Minnesota Wild made a grave mistake giving Parise that much term, but at the time, it was not necessarily evident. Parise was one of the game’s top scorers and had carried the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. Yet, constant injuries has led to Parise’s downfall. There was no way the Wild could have predicted he would have fallen off this quickly. Yet, they will now suffer for many more years.