Being an NHL GM comes with lots of fun and games.
To NHL fans, the trade deadline, the draft, and free agency are like Christmas. You get to see what your team's GM is made of. Some of them always seem to make the right move (Hello, Stan Bowman and Ken Holland) while some have always found ways to make the wrong move (Hello, Mike Gillis and Brian Burke.)
When it comes to signing players to major contracts, it's a huge gamble. You're either signing a player who'll bring success and hopefully Stanley Cups, or you're bringing a player who's a giant waste of money that your fans will scold you for signing.
Though many star players have earned major contracts, many players got huge deals but failed to live up to the value. Here are the current 15 worst contracts in the NHL.
Note: All contract details (dollars, years, cap hits, etc.) are courtesy of CapFriendly.com
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15 Travis Zajac
Travis Zajac was once one of the most gifted scorers the New Jersey Devils ever had. He's had a pair of 20 goal seasons, but the last one took place in 2009-10. But the team gave him an eight-year deal worth $46 million in 2013. He's scored no more than 48 points in a season since signing the mega contract.
Zajac is 31-years-old and doesn't have much help around him to find his old numbers again. He has five years left on his contract worth a cap hit of $5.75 million. The Devils are a cost-conscious team and don't have any promising prospects coming up any time soon. If they can find any takers for his deal, they should call it Christmas in New Jersey.
14 Kris Letang
Don't let his red-hot second half of last season that culminated in a Stanley Cup fool you. Kris Letang is still one of the most overpaid players in the NHL.
Three years ago, former GM Ray Shero awarded Letang with an eight-year extension worth $58 million. The 29-year-old is being paid like a guy who's played for Team Canada in the Winter Olympics or World Cup of Hockey. He's not a Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, P.K. Subban or Drew Doughty by any means.
Letang set a career high last season with 16 goals and 67 points. His defence is very mediocre for a guy with his cap hit, and there's zero way he's coming close to those career numbers again. He still has six years left with a cap hit of $7.25 million.
13 Brooks Orpik
The Washington Capitals had enough of seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins bully them, so they signed away Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen from their rivals. The latter has emerged as a huge part of their shutdown unit, but Orpik's contract will give this team frustration for years to come.
Orpik has never been much of a scorer. He's been a complete shutdown blueliner, and those tend to take a toll on the body much quicker than two-way defenders. Orpik signed a five-year deal worth $27.5 million in 2013 with the Caps. The 36-year-old still has three years left with a cap hit of $5.5 million.
The Capitals only have so much cap space free with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, and Marcus Johansson. It'll be interesting to see if they decide that Orpik is worth keeping for the Cup run.
12 Frans Nielsen
Just how desperate were the Detroit Red Wings to replace Pavel Datsyuk? They signed 32-year-old Frans Nielsen to a six-year contract worth $31.5 million. This is paying a guy whose career best in goals is 25 (2013-14) with 58 points. Nielsen hasn't come close to those numbers, and surely won't in Detroit.
You see, it was easier playing on an Islanders team that featured John Tavares, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo, and other young studs. This Red Wings team lacks bonafide stars, and Nielsen is no sure bet to replace what Datsyuk left behind. Nielsen is a very talented player, and a three-year deal would have made sense. He'll be 38 when his contract expires. Nielsen realistically has two strong years left max, but there's no way he'll justify his cap hit in any year of the deal he signed.
11 Marian Hossa
We would love to put this in the top-three, but the Chicago Blackhawks knew what they were getting when they signed Marian Hossa. They knew it was a huge risk, but they won three Stanley Cups and he played a huge role in all of them. So it's hard to really blame Stan Bowman for this.
Back in 2009, the Blackhawks signed Hossa to a 12-year deal worth $63.3 million. Hossa was a constant 20-goal scorer and a huge part in helping Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews bring a dynasty to Chicago. However, Hossa is 37-years-old and has five years left on his deal with a $5.275 million cap hit. He scored just 13 goals and 33 points last season, and he's not getting better as he approaches 40.
Chicago is stuck with this contract, whether they like it or not.
10 Andrew Ladd
If you were new to following the NHL, you would think Andrew Ladd is a bonafide superstar in the league, given the freshly-new seven-year deal worth $38.5 million the New York Islanders gave to him this July.
Ladd's claim to fame is a pair of Stanley Cup rings (with Carolina and Chicago) and being captain of the Winnipeg Jets. However, he was traded back to the Blackhawks this offseason, since the Jets weren't willing to meet his albatross contract demands. Ladd's career high season was 62 points in 2014-15.
He's a huge difference maker on the ice. Ladd brings experience, leadership, and excellent two-way skills. However, the Islanders have to extend John Tavares, and they've got plenty of young talent at the forward position. Ladd is 31 now, and he's not going to score more than 60 points in a season.
9 Dion Phaneuf
This would be higher on our list, but when the Ottawa Senators traded for Dion Phaneuf, he really established himself and might be a top-three defenceman, after all. But it was a huge gift for the Toronto Maple Leafs to ship out his contract.
A former 20-goal scorer with the Calgary Flames, Phaneuf failed as Leafs captain and saw his offence strongly regress while struggling in his own zone. Phaneuf was given a seven-year deal worth $49 million on New Year's Eve, 2013. He has five more seasons at a $7 million cap hit. Chances are he doesn't live up to that in Ottawa, but his play wasn't even good enough to warrant half of the dollars he was making.
Phaneuf is 31-years-old, so time is running out for him to show his worth in Ottawa.
8 Matt Moulson
Back in the day when Donald Trump wasn't even thought of being in the running for American President, Matt Moulson was a hidden gem in hockey. He posted 30-plus goals in three straight seasons with the Islanders, from 2009-10 to 2011-12. He had 44 points in 47 games in 2012-13 (the lockout shortened season).
It's all been downhill for Moulson since. The Buffalo Sabres gave him a five-year deal worth $25 million in 2014. He's scored a total of 21 goals and 41 points since signing that deal. What makes this worse for Buffalo is how franchise star Jack Eichel will one day need to sign a huge extension. Same with Sam Reinhart and other young stars. Moulson's deal only has three years left, but it certainly seems like more.
7 Jason Pominville
Few NHL players in recent memory regressed in the blink of an eye the way Jason Pominville did. From 2006-07 to 2011-12, Pominville registered 20 goals each season, including a pair of 30-goal seasons. He was a core player for the Sabres, but the rebuilding squad shipped him to the Minnesota Wild in 2013.
The Wild loved what they had in Pominville, giving him a five-year extension worth $28 million. In his first full year with Minnesota, he scored 30 goals and 60 points. The following season came the first year of his contract; he had 18 goals and 54 points.
But this past season was a disaster. He had 11 goals and 36 points. Not what you want from a guy whose cap hit is $5.6 million. Pominville is turning 34 in November, and it's difficult to envision him finding his old ways. Chances are the Wild are stuck with a toxic contract for three more years.
6 Henrik Zetterberg
The face of the Detroit Red Wings for a decade, Henrik Zetterberg has played an integral part in the team's success. The captain guided them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2008 and has helped them qualify for the playoffs every season. Zetterberg was once a bonafide superstar in the NHL. Here's the proof.
From 2005-06 to 2011-12, he scored at least 20 goals and 60 points every season. Zetterberg also had four 30-goal seasons during that frame, cementing himself among the league's elite. But it's all been downhill since.
Back in January of 2009, the Wings gave him a loaded 12-year contract worth $73 million. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was definitely too generous. Through his last three seasons, he's scored 48, 66, and 50 points, respectively. Not what you want from a guy who has a $6.083 million cap hit for five more years.
5 Zdeno Chara
Arguably the biggest impact signing of the past decade would have to be when the Boston Bruins signed Zdeno Chara in 2006. A struggling Bruins team became a perennial contender, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011. Chara's 6-feet-9 frame and power was a huge part in making Boston one of the NHL's best teams.
Chara was a Norris Trophy finalist five times with the Bruins, including in 2014. That year, his Bruins ran away with the President's Trophy before the Montreal Canadiens upset them in the first round of the playoffs. Chara has regressed since.
At 39 years of age, he's lost his offensive ability (17 goals combined in the last two years after having 17 alone in 2013-14). Players can skate around him more easily and he's less of a reliability in his defensive zone. Boston gave him a seven-year extension worth $45.5 million in 2010. That deal can't end soon enough, even if it only carries two more years.
4 Rick Nash
Rick Nash was a superstar with the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets for a decade. Fans could only imagine how great he would be with the New York Rangers. This is a man who had seven 30-goal seasons with the Jackets, so how could he struggle with the Blueshirts who were always in the playoffs?
The Rangers are stuck with the last two years of Nash's deal that carries $7.8 million. He scored just 15 goals and 36 points with New York last season. In 2013-14, he had just 26 goals and 39 points. He did score 42 in 2014-15, but recent history suggests that was his last great season.
The power forward is now 32-years-old and has seen better days. The Rangers have a thing for carrying toxic contracts. Unless they get rid of Nash's, this one will be egg all over their faces.
3 David Clarkson
David Clarkson had ONE great season in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. In 2011-12, he scored 30 goals and 46 points. In a lockout shortened season, he posted a respectable 15 goals and 24 points. The Leafs thought they had their power forward and gave him seven years worth $36.75 million.
In his first year with the Leafs, Clarkson had a whopping five goals and 11 points. The next season, he had 10 goals and 15 points before being shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton. The latter likely won't play hockey again, but the Leafs have him on long-term IR and don't have to worry about his contract costing them cap space.
The Jackets, on the other hand, have Clarkson for four more years at a $5.25 million cap hit. He has two goals and four points in 26 games with Columbus.
2 Roberto Luongo
This was widely thought of as the worst contract in the NHL when Roberto Luongo was in Vancouver. Given how nobody in Florida seems to care about hockey all that much, nobody could care less if they're stuck with Luongo's contract.
You see, he is one of the best goalies of his generation and shall make the Hockey Hall of Fame when he retires. But the fact is that Luongo has been a major underachiever in the playoffs. The Canucks failed to win a Stanley Cup thanks to plenty of his meltdowns. Nonetheless, Mike Gillis gave him a 12-year deal worth $64 million in 2009.
This is hard to believe, but Luongo is 37. He's still on the books for six more seasons at a $5.3 million cap hit. The Canucks are paying 15 percent of the remaining dollars, but Florida's stuck with the contract. And the Canucks rejoice.
1 Dustin Brown
You see, the Kings undoubtedly have no regrets in being overly-generous to Dustin Brown. He has been the leader of a team that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. However, Brown's play went from All-Star to barely a bottom-six forward in a quick amount of time.
In 2013, Dean Lombardi gave his captain an eight-year extension worth $47 million. He has six years left at $5.875 million. Brown has totaled 15-12-27, 11-16-27, and 11-17-28 in 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-15, respectively. Brown's reputation as a shutdown forward has taken a hit, going a combined minus-22 over the past two seasons.
Really, what are the Kings getting out of Brown's deal? Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jonathan Quick are also carrying heavy deals that are virtually unmovable. Good luck, L.A.
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