As a long suffering Vancouver Canucks fan, I know about bad contracts. I took a sip of coffee just so I could spit it out when I heard the Canucks signed Roberto Luongo to a 12-year deal that would allow him to feed ducks at his beloved Stanley Park until he’s 42. Five years and a playoff collapse later, I rejoiced when the Canucks traded Luongo to the Panthers.
A bad contract is easy to tolerate when your team is winning. It’s when times get tough that you start to take a hard look at the numbers. Every team has a bad contract in their books, but who has the worst contract in the league?
Is it the New Jersey Devils? Patrick Elias is 39 years old, has one goal, and four assists in 13 games played this year. The Devils are paying him $5.5 million – only a quarter of a million less than the Dallas Stars are paying 23-year-old All-Star and scoring leader, Tyler Seguin. Elias doesn’t crack the list of worst contracts because he only has one year remaining on his deal.
Take a deep breath and be brave as we wade through the weeds of the NHL’s 15 worst contracts of the 2015-16 season.
15. Los Angeles Kings – Dustin Brown
It’s tough to put a player who captained the LA Kings to two Stanley Cups on this list. Dustin Brown’s best offensive season came in the 2007-2008 when he scored 33 goals and added 27 assists. He came close to cracking the 30 goal mark again in 2010-2011 when he scored 28 goals. In the last two years, he’s only missed three regular season games, but only scored 26 goals – total. In 42 games played this season, he only has 4 goals and 10 assists.
Dustin Brown’s best offensive years could be behind him. Unless Brown turns it around offensively, his $5.875 million cap hit will haunt the Kings for seven more years. He could also captain the Kings to two more Stanley Cups. Then no one will care about his contract.
14. Dallas Stars – Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza’s cap hit of $7.5 million makes him the highest paid player on the Dallas Stars. That’s more than the team’s leading scorers, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Spezza’s not just a passenger on the Stars, he’s a contributor and stands 5th in the team in scoring with 14 goals and 20 assists.
He’s not just overpaid relative to his teammates, he’s overpaid compared to his younger self. In his prime, Spezza made $7 million per year when he was a threat to score 90 points with the Ottawa Senators. In the past two years, he’s registered 66 and 62 points. He’s 32 years old and doesn’t look like he’ll come close to the numbers he was putting up with Ottawa when he was making less money.
13. Carolina Hurricanes – Jordan Staal
When the Hurricanes decided to harness the power of two Staal brothers by trading for Jordan and signing him to a 10 year, $60 million deal in the summer of 2012, Jordan was coming off a season where he scored 50 points in 62 games.
He gave the fans a taste in his first year in Carolina with 31 points in 48 games in a lockout-shortened season. Staal followed that up by playing a full season where he only tallied 40 points. He broke his leg in the 2014-2015 campaign, but he was able to score 24 points in 46 games.
Staal looks like he’ll fail to top the 40 point mark this year, but maybe this is closer to the real Jordan Staal. At $6 million per year for 8 more years, that’s not something Hurricanes fans want to hear. The good news is that Staal is only 26 years old and has time to increase his offensive production.
12. Minnesota Wild – Zach Parise
Zach Parise is a great player. He’s had six seasons where he’s scored 30 plus goals. It should be seven, but he came one goal shy of the 30 goal mark in the 2013-2014 season. He’s on par with scorers who carry a similar cap hit of $7.54 million like Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash. The difference between Parise and those two players is the length of their deals. Bobby Ryan is three years younger than the 31-year-old Parise and his current contract is up in seven years. Rick Nash is the same age as Parise and his current deal expires in three years. Parise has 10 years remaining on his 13 year, $98 million contract.
11. New Jersey Devils – Travis Zajac
Travis Zajac’s most productive season came in 2009-2010 when he scored 67 points. When the Devils signed him to an 8 year, $46 million contract in 2013, they imagined he would continue to contribute at this pace while providing solid defensive play.
Since his most productive season six years ago, Zajac has yet to top 50 points in one year. This year he’s scored 6 goals and added 12 assists in 36 games. With six years remaining at a cap hit of $5.75 million per year, the Devils need more than just solid play.
10. Detroit Red Wings – Mike Green
Remember when Mike Green was the first defenseman off the board in your fantasy hockey drafts? He was a key contributor to the Capitals offensive juggernaut led by Alexander Ovechkin. The days of scoring 70 plus points per year are long gone. In his first year in Detroit on his three year, $18 million contract, he has 2 goals and 13 assists in 37 games. His $6 million cap hit makes him the 11th highest paid defenseman in the NHL, but his 15 points keeps him outside of the top 50 in scoring among defensemen.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs – Dion Phaneuf
Dion Phaneuf’s best season came in 2007-2008 when he registered 60 points with the Calgary Flames and was recognized as one of the NHL’s top defensemen with a Norris Trophy nomination. Phaneuf hasn’t been nominated for the award since.
His leadership was recently praised by GM Lou Lamoriello, but with six years remaining on his deal with a cap hit of $7 million per year, the Leafs should think about the future with their captain. Phaneuf is one of the highest paid defensemen in the league. He’s paid as much as two time Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, Drew Doughty.
8. Philadelphia Flyers – Andrew MacDonald
Andrew MacDonald sits third on the team in scoring with 5 goals and 17 assists. These are decent numbers for a defenceman. Too bad it’s for Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the American Hockey League. MacDonald signed a 6 year, $30 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014. He’s struggled so much that the Flyers sent him down to the minor leagues hoping he would find his form. MacDonald’s only played one game in the NHL this season. With 5 years remaining on his deal at $5 million per year, the Flyers can only hope he will right the ship and return to the NHL.
7. Washington Capitals – Brooks Orpik
To say that Brooks Orpik plays hockey with physicality is an understatement. Last season he was third in the league with 306 hits. Orpik also blocked 192 shots which was good for 4th in the NHL. After 12 years in the NHL, the hits, the blocked shots and the physicality seems to be catching up with the 35-year-old veteran. He’s missed 24 games this season and there’s no timetable for his return. Orpik has three years remaining on a 5-year deal worth $27.5 million that he signed with the Washington Capitals after 11 years in Pittsburgh.
6. Florida Panthers – Dave Bolland
Dave Bolland played an important role in the Chicago Blackhawks’ first two Stanley Cups. It’s part of what convinced former Chicago GM and current Florida GM, Dave Tallon, to sign the centre to a 5 year $27.5 million contract in the summer of 2014.
Bolland’s never been a 30 goal scorer because that’s simply not his game, but no one expected his production and play to fall off a cliff. In his second year in Florida, where he carries a cap hit of $5.5 million a year, Bolland has produced a disappointing 1 goal and 4 assists in 25 games.
The lack of scoring is one thing. What’s more troubling is that he was sent down to the minor leagues to improve his conditioning in December. Bolland’s been recalled back to Florida since, but now he’s injured and on the shelf until after the All-Star break.
5. Buffalo Sabres – Matt Moulson
For three seasons from 2009 to 2012, Matt Moulson played all 82 games and scored at least 30 goals. His best year came in 2011-2012 when he scored 36 goals and added 33 assists for the New York Islanders. Moulson hasn’t come close to 30 goals since. Three 30 goal seasons isn’t a fluke. It was enough for the Buffalo Sabres to sign him to a 5 year, $25 million contract, but Moulson’s struggled to find his scoring touch in Buffalo. At 32 years old and with 4 years remaining on his deal, Moulson’s play needs a serious turnaround if he’s going to justify his $5 million annual cap hit.
4. Florida Panthers – Roberto Luongo
Loooouuuuuuu will always have a special place in every Canuck fan’s heart.
He’s playing well! He’s in the top 10 among goaltenders in wins and save percentage. He’s backstopping the Panthers to the lead in the Atlantic division. Florida is getting great bang for their buck – for now. He looks like one of the best goaltenders in the league. The question is, “Can he keep this up for seven more years?”
It’s unlikely. If there’s one thing you can bet on in professional sports, it’s that “Father time is undefeated.” Luongo’s play will deteriorate over the course of his contract. Now that he’s older, it’ll be tougher for the Panthers to unload his contract on another team.
3. Chicago Blackhawks – Marian Hossa
With 8 goals and 16 assists, Marian Hossa currently sits 7th on the Blackhawks in scoring. 21 points is nothing to sneer at for a 37-year-old with two Stanley Cups to his name, but the Blackhawks had to let go of two important players last offseason. Patrick Sharp, who has two years left on his deal, was traded to Dallas. 22-year-old Brandon Saad, who was moved to Columbus, is second on the Blue Jackets with 30 points this year.
Hossa’s a bargain at a cap hit of just over $5 million this year. It’s next year, or the year after that, or the next 4 years after that worry me.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets – David Clarkson
When the Columbus Blue Jackets traded Nathan Horton for David Clarkson, they hoped to acquire a player who would benefit from a change of scenery. Since the move to Columbus, Clarkson’s lost a lot of time due to injury. In the 21 games that he’s played for the Blue Jackets, he’s scored one goal and tallied one assist.
The Blue Jackets bailed out the Leafs from this albatross of a contract. This deal was already traded once, it’s not inconceivable that it won’t move again. The Clarkson that we’ve seen in Columbus and Toronto casts a shadow on his lone 30 goal season in New Jersey. That season feels like an outlier and a mirage. Did it really happen?
It must have. He has five years remaining on his deal and over $25 million owed to him.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning – Steven Stamkos
Stamkos scored 51 goals in his second year then followed that up with a 45 goal season. Rather than locking up Stamkos for the next decade, we’re all being treated to the same song-and-dance number reminiscent of the final days of LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland.
It’s affecting Stamkos. He’s on pace for his worst season in the NHL. Where Stamkos goes, so go the Lightning. They currently sit 4th in the Atlantic division. Well off the pace from their 108 point campaign last season.
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