NHL Free Agency is less than a month away, and it’s fair to start pondering where some of the league’s pending free agents might go. Will Steven Stamkos remain in Tampa or find work elsewhere? Where will Blues captain David Backes end up? How about Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic, or Kyle Okposo?
Yes, there are a handful of attractive names available this summer, not to mention the restricted free agents who could shake loose with an offer sheet if teams don’t manage to ink their property before July 1. However, NHL free agency is also the time when teams get a little overzealous and end up overpaying for assets.
The same can be said for pending UFAs as well. Teams never want to lose an asset for nothing, so rather than risk losing them on the free agent market, they sign them to ridiculous extensions that end up handcuffing the team a few years down the road. We’ve seen it a hundred times.
Today’s list looks at the free agents (or pending free agents) who have recently signed contracts or contract extensions that already look like terrible deals for the team. I’m sure you have a few contracts on your favorite team that you’re either nervous about due to term, or perhaps you already hate how the contract has hampered your team. Perhaps I even put that player on the list.
To qualify, players had to have been signed in 2012 or later. The reasoning is this was around the time of the last NHL lockout where tweaks were made to the CBA. Contracts today now have term limits, which means we won't see a contract like Ilya Kovalchuk's or Marian Hossa's any time soon. Other than that everyone is fair game. Enjoy! Here are 15 recent contract signings that already look terrible.
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15 Jason Pominville
The Wild acquired Jason Pominville in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres back in April 2013 (the trade deadline was later that year due to the lockout). They gave up a few prospects and a couple of decent picks for Pominville (1st and 2nd rounders), and he came with just one year left on his contract. The Wild were faced with losing his services if they didn’t extend him by the summer of 2014.
Not wanting it to become a distraction come the 2013-14 trade deadline, the Wild managed to extend Pominville just before the season began.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, they inked him to a five year deal at an AAV of $5.6 million. At 33 years old, Pominville is running out of gas, as his sagging point production would lead you to believe.
14 Ryan Kesler
To be fair, the Anaheim Ducks definitely had a void to fill in the second-line center slot. They acquired Ryan Kesler in a trade with the Canucks at the 2014 draft, securing Kesler’s services through the 2015-16 season.
The only problem is that they signed him to a ridiculous extension well before his prior contract was expired. The extension kicks in for 2016-17 and will see Kesler earn an AAV of $6.875 million for the next six seasons. At 31 years old (prime age for the decline of a power forward), this contract could sting really soon in Orange County.
13 Jakub Voracek
During what was far and away a career year so far for Jakub Voracek in Philly (2014-15), the Flyers inked the winger to the max eight-year contract that kicks in for 2016-17 and comes with an AAV price tag of $8.25 million.
Voracek’s dominant performance in 2014-15 (81 points) is already starting to look like an outlier for the 26-year-old Czech, as he put up just 55 points in 73 games in 2015-16. For Philly’s sake, let’s all hope that Voracek ups his game again in 2016-17, or else it could be a long decade in the City of Brotherly Love.
12 Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi
I know this is sort of cheating, but the only reason these contracts are terrible is there are two of them. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi together represent the crease in Dallas, and they combine for an annual cap hit of $10.4 million.
The problem here is that goaltending remains an issue in Dallas (as proven by Lehtonen’s Game 7 performance in round 2 vs. the Blues). Teams who have just one starting goaltender get better goaltending at half the price. The Stars acquired Niemi’s rights last offseason via trade and quickly inked him to a three-year, $13.5 million deal. Perhaps not the best way to spend your money.
11 Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
The Minnesota Wild lured both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. This was before the new CBA had come into effect, so players were still signing those ridiculous 10-plus year contracts. Minnesota found it wise to sign not one, but two UFAs to 13-year, $98 million contracts.
Well, there are still 10 long seasons left on those deals, and it’s safe to say both players have already begun regressing. I don’t have to point out that the Wild failed to accomplish anything of note during the prime years of Parise and Suter’s careers (both already 31 years old).
10 Ryan O’Reilly
Yes, I do understand that Ryan O’Reilly brings a well-rounded game to the table, and having a guy like that locked up long term isn’t such a bad thing. The price tag, however, is a little much if you ask me.
After acquiring O’Reilly in a trade with the Avalanche last offseason, the Sabres swiftly inked him to a seven-year contract worth $52.5 million. When a player like O’Reilly makes that type of money, it really screws with the whole system. If O’Reilly makes an AAV of $7.5 million, how much does an actual elite forward command on the open market when his agent can point to that contract as an example of a player’s value?
9 Dan Girardi
Dan Girardi’s contract isn’t that crippling—he’s making $5.5 million AAV through 2019-20. However, his level of play dropped so drastically in 2015-16 that this contract now looks ugly, and it’s entirely possible it will get uglier.
I’m led to this hypothesis by the fact that Girardi found himself in the press box with a clean bill of health on multiple occasions during the Rangers’ first round against the Penguins. A bounce back season is always possible, but at 32 years old history suggests it’s unlikely.
8 Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal is a better than average NHL player, but only by a little. The average NHL salary today is approximately $2.4 million, meaning if I were an NHL GM I’d feel comfortable paying Staal around $4 million per season, long term.
Staal is currently working through a 10 year contract that sees him earn an AAV of $6 million through 2023. If the Canes are a little wary of Staal’s salary today (as they should be), how do you think they’re going to feel about it come 2021?
7 Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan is a former 30-goal scorer, so obviously he has the talent to be a top-end forward in this league. However, since he arrived in Ottawa he’s been okay, but not great or elite by any stretch of the imagination.
Ryan just completed the first year of a seven year deal that will see the winger earn over $50 million—an AAV of $7.25 million. In his three seasons with the Senators—all of which he was relatively healthy, playing at least 70 games each year—his highest season point production was just 56 points.
6 Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews
I’m definitely expecting this to be my most controversial entry, and not only because I’m using one spot for two players (you'll see that a few times). I had to, though, because teams can afford to have one $10.5 million player, but when you have two you’re going to have trouble rounding out your roster.
2015-16 was the first season the duo's steep contracts were on the cap, and Chicago’s depth suffered greatly. In fact, without landing the (temporarily) inexpensive Artemi Panarin from the KHL, they likely would have been screwed. Will the ‘Hawks win even one Cup under these contracts? Doubtful.
5 Nick Foligno
I scratch my head when I look at how the Columbus Blue Jackets are managed sometimes. At the beginning of 2014-15, Ryan Johansen and the club had a major contract dispute. Johansen was reportedly requesting a long term-ish deal worth around $6 million per season. The Jackets and Johansen settled on a bridge contract.
Then, midway through the same season, the Jackets inked captain Nick Foligno (amid a career year) to a six-year contract worth $5.5 million AAV. Of course that meant they couldn’t really afford to keep Johansen so they dealt him to Nashville this season. Dumb dumb dumb.
4 Ryan Callahan
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman acquired Ryan Callahan in the Martin St. Louis trade, so I can see why he felt the need to ink Callahan to a contract; you never want to lose your franchise player (St. Louis in this case) for what turns out to be a rental (Callahan was on an expiring contract).
Yzerman signed the 30-year-old Callahan to a six-year extension the following offseason, and it came with a hefty $5.8 million AAV. With 28 points in 73 games this season (and just four in 16 playoff games), I think it’s fair to say Stevie Y is hoping for at least a little bit more output.
3 Andrew MacDonald
Andrew MacDonald has played 400 NHL games, so it’s tough to flat out say he’s not a good NHL player. When the Flyers signed him to a six-year, $30 million deal that kicked in in the 2014-15 season, I’m sure they didn’t envision MacDonald playing more AHL games in 2015-16 than NHL games.
Yes, MacDonald played 43 of his 71 total games this year for the Leigh Valley Phantoms. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure they were hoping that he at least played well enough to stick on the NHL team for that kind of money.
2 Dustin Brown
Let’s make one thing clear: Dustin Brown is a deserving two-time Stanley Cup champion, and will go down as somewhat of a hero in L.A. for that. However, his play has undoubtedly deteriorated greatly in recent years, highlighted by his 28 point season in 2015-16 (he played all 82 games).
Brown’s extension with the club kicked in for 2014-15, and so far he’s produced a total of 55 points in 164 games of work. Yes, there is more to hockey than just points, but with an AAV of $5.875 million through 2022, I’m betting Dean Lombardi is wanting a lot more production from his now former captain.
1 David Clarkson
David Clarkson hit the UFA market in the offseason of 2013, and he definitely garnered some interest. The two teams that showed the most interest were the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and when the league’s biggest laughingstocks are gunning hard for the same player, something is likely wrong with that player.
Clarkson actually took less money than Edmonton was offering to sign in Toronto, and today Oilers fans couldn’t be happier. Luckily for Toronto, they convinced Columbus to take Clarkson in exchange for what’s left on Nathan Horton’s contract, so Clarkson is the Blue Jackets’ problem now.
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