There have been grumblings from the NHLPA that they want their contracts to remain secret from the public. Today’s NHL is so heavily influenced by cap hits it's incredible. A player like David Clarkson was loved in New Jersey, and would be loved on any team if he made just a couple million less. But that's supply and demand for you. Glen Sather knows more than anyone how crazy free agency can make you (Bobby Holik, Valeri Kamensky, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez etc...). To be fair to Clarkson, when he signed, there was a much more favorable response to the contract. The Toronto media even slapped him on the cover of the newspaper with the infamous “Wendel Clarkson” photo, there was nowhere to go but down. Defencemen like Clayton Stoner and Rob Scuderi were crucial parts to their teams' success but once they step into a higher pay rate, they become a liability preventing their team from improving. And how will we see Chicago’s two massive contracts this upcoming season? Chicago has been in a cap crunch ever since they won their first modern-era cup, no other team has contributed more to parity then the Hawks. It should be another feeding frenzy this off-season.
How far can the cap continue to rise? There are already teams that don’t pay to the maximum, and each year will continue to push that higher. The benefit of this, is that the poorer teams can take on those front-loaded contracts, utilizing their cap space and lack of real dollars. If Clarkson's contract can be traded, it gives hope to everyone on this list.
The list of bad contracts only seems to grow as free agency continues to drive up the market value unrealistically every year. This trade deadline showed just how thin the available talent is, and how many teams consider themselves in the race. Expect to see a few more names join this list July 1st 2015. This list will take into account a player's annual cap hit and the term left on the contract.
18 Andrew MacDonald - $5 million through 2019-20
17 Kari Lehtonen - $5.9 million through 2017-18
16 Stephen Weiss - $4.9 million through 2017-18
The Devils are in trouble. Their payroll is built like a Stanley Cup team, and they would be, if it was 10 years ago. Zajac has always been more about intangibles than scoring, but as the Devils float through mediocrity, they’re stuck with his large cap hit for six more years! If the Devils ever decide to rebuild, his contract would prove tough to move.
15 Bryan Bickell - $4 million through 2016-17
14 Clayton Stoner - $3.25 million through 2017-18
13 Dan Girardi - $5.5 million through 2019-20
12 The Sedins - $7 million through 2017-18
11 Nathan Horton - $5.3 million thru 2019-20
For the moment, the Toronto fan base looks at this as the greatest contract in the NHL. Their prayers were answered when Horton's uninsured contract allowed them to put a band-aid on the gaping wound of Clarkson's deal.
While Leafs-nation is overjoyed, an uninsured $30+ million for a player who unfortunately will most likely never play again is obviously a terrible value to everyone outside of the insurance company.
10 Roberto Luongo - $5.33 million through 2021-22
9 Vincent Lecavalier - $4.5 million through 2017-18
8 Dave Bolland - $5.5 million 2018-19
7 Johan Franzen - $3.9 million through 2019-20
6 Cody Hodgson - $4.25 million through 2018-19
Cody Hodgson is further proof that Alain Vigneault is a mastermind of a coach. While in Vancouver, Vigneault was criticized heavily for not playing Hodgson more, for not pushing him as one of the offensive leaders on the team. At that point, he was behind a Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler in their primes. He was too small to be a proper third line center, and couldn't find a fit as a winger. Vigneault protected Hodgson with a ridiculous amount of offensive zone starts against the weakest possible opposition. His stock was never higher in that season, which is the reason Vancouver fans were livid that they traded away what they thought was their next captain for the unknown Zack Kassian.
5 David Clarkson - $5.25 million through 2019-20
The untradeable contract... was traded! If Dave Nonis is responsible than he did well to revive his GM credibility after a poor string of signings. There have been rumors that this deal was proposed by Clarkson's agent, who has been known to make magic happen (heck he got Clarkson signed to that contract in the first place, right?). Whatever the case, Toronto just found a magical solution that every team in the league has now took notice of. And now that it’s out there as a viable solution, we will most likely be seeing more moves like this. Horton's uninsured LTR contract is a special case of course, but there are still other contracts that can benefit from this strategy. Front loaded contracts with high cap hits could be moved to poorer teams who have the cap space and not necessarily the actual dollars to pay them.
Every team wants a reliable number one goaltender and sometimes they jump on it too soon. Goaltending is a ridiculously unreliable position, and big money contracts too often come back to bite you. While Smith had three strong seasons, he has been far below acceptable for his massive cap hit. It doesn’t look to be getting any easier for Smith as two of their top defencemen were just traded at the deadline. Here are the top five after Ekman-Larsson : Michael Stone, Connor Murphy, John Moore, Brandon Gormley, and Andrew Campbell.
4 Dustin Brown - $5.875 million until he’s 37
Dustin Brown is arguably an integral part of the Kings' success. The captain and soul of the team, he is extremely valuable, but not quite as valuable as his golden contract. The contract was pushing it when he signed it in his prime, and it's getting worse every year. This absolutely reeks of Chris Drury's huge contract with the Ranger$. Another heart and soul guy that lost his effectiveness very fast, particularly when they have to give Anze Kopitar a new contract next year.
3 Mike Richards - $5.75 million through 2019-20
2 Dion Phanuef - $7 million through 2020-21
So much has been written about poor Dion. At the time of his signing it actually seemed fair value. As a young man he was a wrecking ball in Calgary, and many predicted he would continue to progress. The weight of the captaincy and number one position have taken a heavy toll on his game. Let's be fair though, as it’s been very tough to play defence in Toronto. Since he’s been there, the forwards have had a video game mentality. The defence are constantly left to fend for themselves with nary a pass option.
1 Alexander Semin - $7 million through 2017-18
Ah, $7 million, for three and a half more seasons of absolute mediocrity. Although to be fair, the Hurricanes are embracing mediocrity in their race to disgrace, and hopefully a top two pick. We've seen Clarkson moved, but Semin’s has to be even tougher. Semin provides zero value. While Kessel is criticized for his lack of leadership and defence, the man always scores, even when playing with Tyler Bozak. Semin doesn’t score, he doesn’t play defense, he’s not known for his leadership, and he's been a healthy scratch. If the KHL was in better shape, you’d have to believe Semin would already be gone, but with their financial woes, Carolina is stuck paying him the big bucks until 2018.
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