The National Hockey League is home to the greatest players on the planet. Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, P.K. Subban and Carey Price round out some of the biggest names of superstars.
However, some general managers have simply become too greedy when they opened up their wallets and handed out big contracts to players that did not work out. It’s safe to say they probably wish those contracts came with time machines.
However, it’s hard to blame general managers for handing out contracts to players who didn’t perform well. Sometimes players just simply don’t pan out and realize they were better off retiring while they were ahead.
Alas, some players get greedy and decide to keep playing until their body is completely finished. But some of them simply just don’t fit a system or sustain injuries and are never able to become the player their new club expected them to be. It happens every year.
I looked thoroughly into the players who had the biggest declines when they joined new teams, and it was not easy to narrow this list down to 15 players, but I managed to do it.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 NHL players who experienced a complete decline when they switch allegiances and joined new squads.
15. Brad Richards
Before joining the New York Rangers in 2011-12, Richards had eight season of 20-plus goals and had seven seasons of 70-plus points as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning (six and a half seasons,) and Dallas Stars for three and a half.
Three seasons with the New York Rangers, one with the Chicago Blackhawks and currently with the Detroit Red Wings, Richards has never regained his pre 2011 form.
He’s posted just two 20-goal seasons and has failed to top more than 66 points. It’s safe to say going to the Rangers altered his scoring for the worst.
14. David Clarkson
Clarkson would be higher on this list, but his career is far from finished. Still, it’s amazing to see how a promising player went down so fast.
Before signing a lucrative contract to join his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in the summer of 2013, Clarkson had four seasons of double-digit goals and one year of scoring 30.
He did not come anywhere close to those totals with the Leafs. He scored five goals and 11 points in 60 games with his new squad in 2013-14. He added 10 goals and 15 points the following season before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the injured Nathan Horton.
The Leafs cleared cap space because Horton is on the long-term IR, but still the Jackets were happy to take on the contract of a player who hasn’t done much of anything since leaving the New Jersey Devils.
13. Todd Bertuzzi
During his eight years with the Vancouver Canucks, “Big Bert” scored 20-plus goals five times and scored no fewer than 50 points in his final five seasons there (97 in 2002-03 and 85 in 2001-02 among his best seasons).
Bert had a short stint in Florida before getting traded to Detroit in 2006-07, played one year with the Anaheim Ducks, then the Calgary Flames before finishing his last five seasons with the Red Wings.
Bertuzzi scored no more than 18 goals (with the Wings in 2009-10,) once he left Vancouver and 45 points in 2010-11 was the best he posted before hanging them up after the 2013-14 season.
12. Dustin Penner
Penner burst onto the NHL scene out of nowhere after the lockout and was an integral part of the Anaheim Ducks championship team in 2007.
After that, he signed with the Edmonton Oilers and played fantastic there despite playing with perennially struggling squads in the Oil City. Penner had three 20-plus goal seasons plus 21 in 2010-11 before being traded to the Los Angeles at the deadline, where he managed just two goals.
Penner has played 184 games since the Oilers traded him, and he’s managed to score 25 goals since. He had 29 and 30 goal seasons under his belt.
Once he joined the Los Angeles Kings, he was their playoff hero in 2012 when they won the Stanley Cup. But he’s never been a good regular season performer since and it’s no surprise he hasn’t been offered a contract since the conclusion of 2013-14 when he left the Washington Capitals.
11. Mike Komisarek
Komisarek didn’t light up the scoreboard when he was with the Montreal Canadiens, but he was an ideal big-powered shutdown defenseman.
In his last three seasons with the Habs, he had a +/- rating of plus-seven, plus-nine and zero respectively from 2006-07 to 2008-09 and averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in his last two with the team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs handed him a five-year contract worth $4.5 million a season. Komisarek played 34, 75, and 45 games, respectively from 2009-10 to 2011-12. He never topped 20 minutes of ice time on average, was a -9, -8 and -13 over his final three seasons.
He played in just four games in 2013 for the squad before playing in 32 for the Carolina Hurricanes the following year and then retiring from the game.
He never lived up to the promise he showed in Montreal.
10. Stephen Weiss
In 11 seasons with the Florida Panthers, Weiss had seven seasons where he notched double-digit goals, including four 20-goal seasons and two years of scoring 60-point seasons.
The Detroit Red Wings saw his talents and handed him a five-year, $24.5 million contract in 2013.
In 78 games through two years with the club, he totaled 11 goals, 29 points and had a -6 rating.
The Red Wings bought him out and he’s been out of work ever since. It’s amazing how he struggled in the NHL’s most modeled franchise of the past 25 years.
9. Sheldon Souray
From 2003 to 2007, Souray established himself as one of the league’s best offensive defensemen in the NHL with a booming slapshot and huge frame on the blueline.
Coming off of a 26-goal season in his final year in Montreal, the Edmonton Oilers gave him a five-year $27 million contract.
Despite a 23-goal outing in 2008-09, Souray had combined for just seven goals and 23 points in his other two years with Edmonton.
Souray joined the Dallas Stars for one year then went to Anaheim, but combined for just 13 goals and 38 points the rest of the way.
The Oilers were stuck with a large contract before they bought him out. Safe to say, Souray was more of a one-year wonder than the elite defenseman the Oilers thought they were paying for.
8. Wade Redden
Redden was one of the league’s best defensemen and a cornerstone to a perennial playoff team during his 11-year tenure with the Ottawa Senators.
Five double-digit goal seasons, one in which he scored 17. He had four years where he had scored 40-plus points. He had a ridiculous five seasons of a +/- total of plus 20 or higher.
Then the New York Rangers handed him a six-year, $39 million contract in the summer of 2008, and the move was disastrous.
In two seasons with the Rangers, he combined for five goals and posted a plus 3 until the organization saw enough and buried him in the AHL.
Redden was bought out, played in 2013 with both the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins before retiring in 2014.
It’s amazing how one of the NHL’s most consistent defensemen joined another dangerous squad and completely flopped there.
7. Mark Messier
If there’s one blemish on the career of the NHL’s second all-time scoring leader and six-time Stanley Cup champion, it was his tenure with the Vancouver Canucks.
Mark Messier had leadership, scored a lot and did nothing but win. A sure-bet for 30 goals and 80 points, the struggling Vancouver Canucks signed him for three years in 1997.
Paying the man $7 million a year was a little too much, considering he never topped 60 points with them. He had 13 and 17 goals, respectively in his last two years with Vancouver and was a minus 37 in his three seasons with the club.
Messier returned to the Rangers, but he never regained his elite form in his last seven years in the NHL.
6. Mike Richards
Richards had it all during his six years with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was a young captain that was an elite two-way force. His team was always dangerous to play in the postseason.
He had two 30-goal seasons and was a major game-changer with the team. The only problem was his rumored partying life, which is why Philly traded away Richards and Jeff Carter in the 2011 offseason.
Richards’ first year with the Los Angeles Kings wasn’t bad: 18 goals, 71 points and a Stanley Cup championship.
But the downhill slide would eventually lead to the team terminating Richards’ contract.
5. Dany Heatley
One of the best pure-scorers the league has ever seen. Heatley was a game-changer and an absolute superstar in the NHL. No other way around it.
He had two 50-goal seasons with the Ottawa Senators, both being 100-point campaigns. On top of that, he had a 41 goal season with the Atlanta Thrashers and two 39-goal seasons with Ottawa and the San Jose Sharks respectively.
Heatley asked for a trade out of Ottawa, and got his wish in 2009. As mentioned, his first year with the Sharks was no disappointment, but his last five NHL seasons were.
He played one more year in San Jose, three in Minnesota and one in Anaheim last year (just six games,) before bolting for Europe.
Heatley could have continued to score 40-plus goals if he decided to keep playing with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, but somehow he didn’t click with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau enough.
And he never regained his old form.
4. Scott Gomez
A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils, Gomez was one of the league’s most speedy play making centers.
Two years after a career-high 2005-06 campaign that saw him score 33 goals and 84 points, the New York Rangers inked their Atlantic Division’s rival and paid him over $7 million a season.
Well, excuse me. Gomez posted consecutive 16-goal seasons before the Montreal Canadiens somehow took on his contract where his best season came with 12 goals.
They bought him out in 2013, where he’s bounced around with San Jose, Florida, New Jersey and St. Louis.
But he should have never left the Devils in the first place.
3. Chris Drury
The New York Rangers sure looked like geniuses for inking both Gomez and Chris Drury in the 2007 offseason.
Drury got a five-year deal worth $35.25 million after leading the Buffalo Sabres to consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Final. Drury had 30-goal campaigns in both those seasons, and had 20-goals in seven of his eight years in the league.
Of course, Drury posted 25, 22, 14 and 1 goal respectively in four seasons, spanning from 2007 to 2011.
He had minus ratings in three of those seasons. It seems like a potential Stanley Cup signing made the Rangers much worse.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov
After making the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 with Michael Leighton as their goalie, only to be swept out of the second round the following season, the Philadelphia Flyers knew they needed a legitimate number one goaltender.
Enter nine-year, $51 million man Ilya Bryzgalov. In his four years with the Phoenix Coyotes (Now Arizona,) he had back-to-back 26-win seasons before elevating to 42 wins, then 36 during his final year in the Desert.
He had a save percentage of .920 or better in three of four years with the Coyotes, but it got worse with the Flyers.
In two years there, his total record was 52-33-10, and he posted just a .909 and then .900 save percentage (2011-12 and 2013.)
Bryzgalov remains under contract with the Anaheim Ducks, but after a successful stint with the Coyotes, he never regained his superstar form.
1. Alexei Yashin
Yashin was a superstar player for the Ottawa Senators, the face of their franchise to be exact.
Five seasons of 70 or more points. Three seasons of goals in the 30s, and two 40-goal seasons in the Nation’s Capital.
Yashin wanted out, and the Senators traded him to the New York Islanders for Zdeno Chara and a first-round pick in 2000 which led to Jason Spezza. Quite a deal on the Senators front.
His first year with the Isles was successful. He had 32 goals and 75 points in 2001-02, but his next best was 28 goals and 66 points in 2005-06.
What’s worse is how the Islanders instantly signed him for 10 years worth $87.5 million. GM Mike Milbury made a huge mistake; Yashin was eventually bought out in 2007.
I don’t think the Islanders were hoping a star player would become someone they were happy to get rid of.
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