Have you ever had a co-worker in your office or place of business who you know earns way more than he actually should? He’s the guy who’s got like 30 people under him who could do the job better than he’s doing, but he’s locked in at his cushy, high-paying position because of tenure or contracts or whatever.
Well, the NHL and each of its 31 franchises are all individual businesses, and just like any other employing organization, there are players sprinkled throughout the league who are pulling down salaries that are absurdly disproportional to their level of play. Like, by millions and millions of dollars.
Sometimes these guys were simply overrated at the time they signed their contracts and never lived up to their billing, while others suddenly lost their game once the high-dollar paychecks started rolling in. Either way, it’s gotta be frustrating not only for their hard-working teammates but also the owners of the teams who have to sign these blokes’ paychecks every other Friday.
We’re sure you’ve got a few of these overpaid offenders in mind already, so here are 15 of the worst NHL players who are averaging salaries of at least $5 million a year.
15. Mikhail Grabovski – $5 Million
This one is a no-brainer. We get the fact that the 33-year-old veteran Mikhail Grabovski has dealt with severe post-concussion syndrome over the past few years, but he cashed in $5 million during this past season without ever once stepping skate on the ice.
Yes, you read that right. Grabovski missed the entire 2016-17 season and still earned his regular paycheck as if he had played all 82 games and contributed like he was expected to. We’d say that’s the definition of being overpaid pretty accurately. But thanks to the four-year, $20 million contract he signed with the Isles in 2014, with all $20 million of it guaranteed, New York’s hands are tied.
Concussion symptoms notwithstanding, that $20 million was still pretty high for a supposed first-line center who has never even been a 30-goal scorer.
14. Zach Bogosian – $5.14 Million
Speaking of injuries, former first-rounder (3rd overall in 2008) and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian just can’t seem to stay healthy. Ever. He hasn’t played in more than 64 games in a single season since 2012-13 and has never exceeded the 30-point plateau.
And yet he still pulls down an average of $5.14 million a year. Considering his modest average of just 20 points per season during his first five years in the league, we’re not exactly sure what the Winnipeg Jets were thinking by offering him a guaranteed $36 million over seven years at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
Either way, they finally wised up the following year and dumped him off to the Sabres in the 2015 Evander Kane deal, and since then, he’s posted a -35 plus/minus rating with just 42 points in parts of three seasons.
13. Joffrey Lupul – $5.25 Million
Veteran left-winger Joffrey Lupul’s story reads a lot like Grabovski’s. Lupul, despite going in the first round of the 2002 draft, was widely considered an overpaid, underperforming forward at the time of the 2012 lockout.
Up to that point, he had battled a rash of injuries and was averaging just 37 points in each of the previous three seasons. Considering he had at least 46 points in every year but one between 2005-06 and 2008-09, his production was clearly slipping.
Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs signed him to a hefty five-year, $26 million extension once the lockout ended in 2013, and he went on underperforming and missing big chunks of time due to injury over the next three seasons.
Last summer, he failed his pre-season physical due to previous abdominal issues, and he hasn’t played since, remaining on the long-term injured reserve list while collecting nearly $7 million in 2016-17.
12. David Clarkson – $5.25 Million
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but mediocre right-winger David Clarkson never deserved his massive $36.75 million contract in the first place. He signed it with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013 and only managed 26 points in 118 games as a Leaf before they got fed up enough to ship him off to Columbus for Nathan Horton in February of 2015.
There, Clarkson rode a lot of pine for parts of two seasons – suiting up just 26 times – and then failed a team physical prior to last season’s training camp because of a chronic back injury and missed all of last year.
It doesn’t look like he’ll be making a comeback, but he’s still under contract through the 2019-2020 season, and the ‘Jackets will pay him over $10 million between now and then simply to appear on the long-term IR.
11. Evander Kane – $5.25 Million
We’re sure you know the Evander Kane story by now. He’s an immature, overrated troublemaker who struggles to stay healthy and has never lived up to his lofty expectations. While he was still with the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise , who drafted him fourth overall in 2009 after he registered 96 points in 61 games for WHL Vancouver in 2008-09, he signed a six-year, $31.5 million extension despite his repeated injuries and underwhelming numbers.
The Jets wised up and sent Kane to Buffalo in 2015, and he has since continued to turn in average performances nowhere near worthy of more than $5.25 million a year. In fact, only twice in his eight years in the league has he finished with a positive plus/minus rating and is a cumulative -42 since he signed his big extension.
10. Tyler Myers – $5.5 Million
It’s like the curse of the Evander Kane trade, because Jets D-man Tyler Myers is already the third player appearing on this list who was involved in that fateful 2015 transaction. At the time, Myers was a member of the Buffalo Sabres, having been drafted by the franchise 12th overall in 2012.
Though he was ranked fourth among eligible defenseman in that draft class, he has since failed to play up to that standard. To be quite blunt and honest, at least a handful of the readers out there even forget he was still in the league.
Last year, thanks to injury, surgery and a personal issue, Myers, a third-pairing rearguard at best, only appeared in 11 games, scoring five points and serving 13 penalty minutes. He earned $4 million for his troubles and was a $5.5 million cap hit for the Jets, which equals out to $1.1 million per point. Yikes.
9. Jeff Petry – $5.5 Million
Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry finally played another full NHL schedule this past season, just the second time he’s done so since turning pro in 2010. And while he technically had a career year as far as goals (8), points (28) and plus/minus (+3), those are awfully meager numbers for a guy whose average ice time (22:07) was second-most among Montreal skaters.
Until the 2016-17 season, Petry averaged a point every four games and had a cumulative plus/minus rating of -74. He’s been more dominant in the defensive zone as of late, and his turnover numbers are vastly improved from a team-worst in 2015-16, but like it or not, the Canadiens are a mediocre team. So, while he’s probably the most improved player on the roster, it doesn’t say much for a second-pairing D-man. And at an average of $5.5 million per through 2020-2021, the Habs are far overpaying for his services.
8. Brooks Orpik – $5.5 Million
We assume the Capitals are paying Brooks Orpik for his leadership abilities and defensive-zone competence, because Lord knows the third-pairing rearguard is painfully slow and quite inept on the other side of the ice. Plus, his ice time has been declining for a while now, and the “A” on his sweater seems to be more of a gesture in recognition of his veteran presence.
Don’t get us wrong, those intangibles are all well and good, but it was surprising that, considering his declining production, the Caps signed him to a sizable five-year, $27.5 million deal in July of 2014, just months before his 35th birthday. With just five goals in his past five seasons and an average of less than 18 minutes of ice time per game, spending $5.5 million a year on him is wildly off balance and that’s especially true looking at the cap constrains Washington’s currently undergoing.
7. Ryan Callahan – $5.8 Million
When was the last time you heard of a former fourth-round draft pick signing a big ‘ol six-year, $34.8 million contract after amassing a measly 36 points in 65 games over the previous two seasons? Never, right? We thought so.
Well, the oft-injured right-winger and Rochester, New York native Ryan Callahan did exactly that back in 2014. He – or more likely, his agent – managed to swindle the Tampa Bay Lightning out the massive deal, despite the risk of him only once playing a full season since entering the league in 2006.
In fairness, Callahan did match his career-best 54 points while appearing in 77 games that first season in 2014-15, but his production dropped off a cliff the following year. And then, as you might have guessed, he battled injury all last season and only squeaked out four goals in 18 games. Based on what he earned for the year, that’s over $1.6 million per point.
6. Dustin Brown – $5.87 Million
Don’t get us wrong, Dustin Brown was a great player. After all, he led the Kings to two Stanley Cup titles and at one point had five straight 50-point seasons. But then the 2012 lockout happened, and he hasn’t since rediscovered that magical scoring touch that compliments his physical, north-south style of play so well.
Despite his declining numbers, the Kings extended Brown with an eight-year, $47 million contract in 2013, which went into effect the following year. Since signing that deal, Brown has averaged less than 30 points per season and was even stripped of his captaincy.
He had an up year in 2016-17 with 14 goals and 22 assists, but that hardly reconciles the $7 million he took home. And with his contract good through the 2021-22 season, it might be a long next five years for the Kings, unless they decide to buyout the former captain.
5. Erik Johnson – $6 Million
The one thing the Colorado Avalanche didn’t need was their prized, top-pairing defenseman turning out to be an overrated, injury-prone flub. The other one thing the Avalanche didn’t need was to re-sign him to a seven-year, $42 million contract in 2015 – which made him the highest-paid player on the roster – considering his shaky past and tendency to be made out of glass.
In 2015-16, he posted a -19 to go along with 27 points and a career-high 197 blocked shots. But he struggled all year to control the puck, serving up 45 giveaways while averaging over 23 minutes on the ice each night.
This past year, the inevitable happened. Johnson missed three months with a broken leg, and after his return in late February, he contributed all of six points in 23 games to end the season.
4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – $6 Million
Typically a guy scoring at a 0.67 points-per-game clip is pretty solid. Not all-time-great, legend-of-the-game good, but certainly not awful. The only issue with it, though, is that when he’s a former number one overall draft pick who was expected to produce much closer to point-per-game numbers and lead his team deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs on an annual basis, you begin to run into problems.
On top of that, when you pay said player $6 million per year on average for seven years with squat to show for it, you run the risk of crossing over into “overpaid” territory and – God forbid – overrated. With all that said, we present to you the vaunted British Columbia native, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his one disappointing playoff season and no seasons over 56 points.
3. Paul Stastny – $7 Million
Centerman Paul Stastny has been living off the merits of two major factors since his early days in the league, and it has, quite literally, paid off for him ever since, even though he probably doesn’t deserve the cash flow he’s earning.
Firstly, name-recognition. Stastny is the son of legendary Hall-of-Fame forward Peter Stastny, who played 15 years in the league and scored 1,239 points in 977 games in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Simply put, Paul isn’t his father, but he sure is paid like it.
The other factor is that Stastny scored 149 points during his first two seasons in the league, which inflated his stock early as a supposed high-scoring forward.
He had one other 70-point season after that, but since 2014-15, he has shown second-line talent with no more than 49 points for the Blues, who will pay him $7.5 million next year.
2. Dion Phaneuf – $7 Million
A ninth-overall draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2003, defenseman Dion Phaneuf not only held his own in the defensive zone, thanks to his large frame and willingness to mix it up physically, he scored goals at the clip of a top-six forward and looked like the saving grace the Flames had been searching for since last winning the Cup in 1989.
After bowing out of the playoffs in the first round in each of Phaneuf’s first four seasons in the league, the Flames gave up and dealt him to the Maple Leafs in early 2010. There, his game declined noticeably.
Despite that, the Leafs re-upped Phaneuf on New Year’s Eve 2013 with a seven-year, $49 million deal that takes him through 2020-21. As it turns out, the Leafs regretted paying him all that cash and traded him to the Senators three years later, where he has only managed 28 points in 101 games.
1. Bobby Ryan – $7.25 Million
Since we’re on the Senators, why not pile it on? Our top offender on this list of overpaid NHL players earning more than $5 million on average is New Jersey’s own 30-year-old forward Bobby Ryan. As the highest-paid player on the Sens, raking in well over $7 million per year for the next five years, he’s been a bit of a disappointment, especially in 2016-17.
After signing his seven-year $50.75 million deal in 2014, he has been just OK, averaging 45 points per season, but this past year was especially tough. He had a career-low 25 points in 62 games, and that’s nowhere near worth his contract, especially considering he went second in the 2005 draft, right after Sidney Crosby. Consider this, Ryan was the 29th-highest paid player on average in 2016-17 but ranked 288th among NHL players in offensive production. Ouch. Not even his post season production saved this type of contract.
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