Every offseason NHL teams are extremely aggressive when signing top free agents, which they should be. Yet during this period a lot of teams offer deals that are far too expensive in value to players that are already showing signs that they are declining. It appears that every offseason we see this in bunches and that NHL teams do not learn from others’ mistakes. Each year there is at least one deal that every hockey fan sees as a huge mistake and it is only made worse when it is made by their own team. I have personally been there numerous times.
Throughout this article, we will be looking at fifteen players who are absolutely killing their team’s cap space. A common pattern with the players on this list is that these players are in their early to mid thirties and are already showing signs of decline. Due to the fact that their contracts are so bad, these teams basically have no chance of moving these players any time soon. The NHL salary cap is extremely unforgiving and one bad contract can ultimately sink your team’s chances of succeeding. Some teams even have more than one horrendous contract.
Nonetheless, let’s look at these 15 players and the impact that their contracts leave on the future of their franchises.
16 Bobby Ryan
When the Ottawa Senators traded for Bobby Ryan, it was met with great praise because they picked up a young and talented superstar. Yet, since coming to Ottawa, he has struggled a bit and never found his form like he had in Anaheim. However, the Senators decided to give him a seven year contract with an annual salary of $7.25 million per year. Since then, Ryan has struggled even more and it looks like an abysmal contract.
Ryan had his worst regular season to date this past year and failed to even reach thirty points. This is truly horrendous because Ryan is making so much money while barely producing. Ryan did have a spectacular playoff run this year and helped lead the Senators to the Conference Finals. If Ryan can elevate his game to that level permanently, he very well could lessen the criticism he is facing.
15 Dion Phaneuf
The Ottawa Senators made a monumental mistake when they traded for Dion Phaneuf because everyone knew that his cap hit was far too heavy. Besides the money, Phaneuf is also getting older and is clearly on the decline. With Ryan and Phaneuf’s contracts both hitting seven million, the Senators will continue to have a lot of issues when it comes to building a competitive team.
Phaneuf is a very strange case because from the start of the trade, it was apparent that this was the wrong decision made by the Senators. Although Phaneuf’s leadership is something that is greatly valued, his cap hit and no movement clause is ultimately going to hurt the Senators immensely. They will have to deal with him until the end of the 2020-21 season, until which he will continue to drop in skill.
14 Patrick Marleau
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had done a magnificent job with their current rebuild, but this offseason it is apparent that they have made their first monumental mistake. Looking for veteran leadership, the Maple Leafs signed winger Patrick Marleau to a three year, $18.75 million contract. With his old age and huge cap hit, this signing looks like one that will end up hurting the Leafs quickly.
The Maple Leafs are going to face a lot of financial troubles with this signing because many of their young superstars are going to need their raises very shortly. With players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner soon coming off their entry level deals, the Maple Leafs will quickly regret signing Marleau. Marleau will need to produce at an elite level each season or this will be ultimately be a bust.
13 David Backes
When the Boston Bruins signed David Backes last offseason, it originally announced as a one year deal and it was met with praise. Yet, it was quickly changed to a five year, $30 million deal and that changed the public’s opinion. Although Backes is a very talented two-way forward, he is at an age where a long term deal with that kind of cap hit is a huge risk. Based off his play this season, it already looks like the Bruins made a mistake.
Now, that is not to say that Backes had a terrible year or is not a good player anymore, but it is clear that he is declining a bit. His point totals over the past few seasons have slowly decreased and by the time he hits that fifth year, it is easy to believe that this is going to continue. The Bruins luckily have a decent amount of cap room, but they may face some issues later on when this deal is reaching its end.
12 Carey Price
The Montreal Canadiens made the right decision by giving Carey Price his long term extension, but the cost of the deal is going to murder their cap hit. Price signed the largest contract ever given to a goalie which will give him $84 million over eight season. If Price can maintain his skill level over the entirety of this contract, then this signing will be a slam dunk. Yet, it is very unlikely that he will remain at the top of the league into his late thirties.
The Canadiens made this signing because they are aware that without Price, their team would not have any chance of winning the cup. Yet, in the process of doing this, they also have made it apparent that their championship window is right now. They need to win in the next few seasons or this contract will end up hurting them immensely. It is going to be very challenging for them to build a strong team around Price as well.
11 Dustin Brown
It is amazing how fast NHL players can start declining. Just three years ago, Brown was at the top of the hockey world after leading the Los Angeles Kings to their second championship under his captaincy. Brown did not show many signs that he was dropping in skill until the following season when his point totals fell dramatically. This did not fit well with the Kings because they just had signed him to an eight year, $48 million dollar extension.
Since signing this contract, Brown has not been able to replicate his offensive statistics and has even lost his captaincy. It is quite apparent that the Kings are going to face a lot of issues with this contract and will never be able to move it. Their best bet is to either buy Brown out or to ship him to the minors if this continues. It is very upsetting to see how far Brown has fell, but the size of his contract makes it far worse for him.
10 Marian Gaborik
The Los Angeles King made another big blunder when they signed Marian Gaborik to a seven year, $34.125 contract extension after their second Stanley Cup championship. Since the contract, Gaborik too has seen his numbers drop off dramatically and now he is no longer in their top-six. This is horrible for the Kings because they expected Gaborik to be a superstar for them.
Gaborik is the victim of a bad contract and for that, will never have the same value he once had. It is very unlikely that Gaborik will be able to turn his numbers around because the past two seasons have been abysmal for him. The Kings also will never have the chance to rid of this contract, so they will be having a lot of salary cap issues for a number of years.
9 Jordan Staal
When the Carolina Hurricanes traded for Jordan Staal, it seemed like an amazing move by the club because he was a promising young centre who had already won a Stanley Cup. Shortly after the trade, the Hurricanes gave him a ten year, $60 million dollar extension and they had thought they found their new superstar. Now looking back at the deal, it is clear that it was a mistake.
Jordan Staal is not a bad player whatsoever, but he never did deliver the way that the Hurricanes envisioned he would. Staal is at best an average second line center and could even be classified as a third line centre on top teams. The term of this deal is what ultimately will hurt the Hurricanes because he will be receiving this pay until 2023 and that is a very long time to be paying an average centre big money.
8 Andrew MacDonald
During the 2014 NHL offseason, the Philadelphia Flyers surprisingly gave Andrew MacDonald a six year, $30 million contract. This looked like a big mistake from the start because MacDonald only had one good season at that time and definitely did not show enough to deserve a contract of that value. Needless to say, MacDonald has failed to meet expectations with the club and has an immovable contract.
Since signing this contract, MacDonald has been used as a depth defence-man and even spent time in the AHL to work on his skill. This is a huge disappointment because no player making five million dollars per season should have such little impact or importance with the squad. The Flyers will now live with this contract for three more seasons and they cannot wait for its absurd value to be off the books.
7 Andrew Ladd
In a desperate attempt to get superstar players to help keep John Tavares in the city, the New York Islanders signed Andrew Ladd last offseason to a ridiculous seven year deal with a cap hit of $5.5 million per season. This is by far one of the worst contracts in the NHL because after just one season, Ladd has already shown that he is declining and not at all the same player he once was.
It is very difficult to comprehend that the Islanders now need to pay Ladd that kind of money for six more seasons. It is going to be a very hard transition for the Islanders to handle because it is apparent that Ladd will never be the player he was for Winnipeg for them. From the start, this contract looked liked a disastrous contract and it is not surprising that the Islanders will now have to suffer for years because of it.
6 Justin Abdelkader
When the Detroit Red Wings signed Justin Abdelkader to a seven year, $29.75 million dollar extension, it made a lot of sense because it appeared that he blossomed into a true star for them. It looked like a match made in heaven because Abdelkader grew up in Michigan and slowly became the heart of the Red Wings. Yet, after his first season with the new extension, Abdelkader slowed down immensely.
Although Abdelkader is still young enough to turn it around, his contract now looks like it will be a rare mistake by the Red Wings. For a team that is a rebuilding phase, the Red Wings still have a lot of cap issues and this contract may be the one that hurts them the most. If Abdelkader does not turn it around soon, this will be an epic gaff by the Red Wings and could ultimately slow down their rebuild.
4 Ryan Callahan
Not too long ago, Ryan Callahan was the captain of the New York Rangers and was one of the top defensive forwards in the game. Because of this, the Tampa Bay Lightning were quick to give him a six year, $34.8 million dollar extension after acquiring him in the infamous Martin St. Louis deal. Since signing this deal however, Callahan has faced an abundance of injuries and ultimately is declining.
Callahan has a handful of seasons to try to redeem himself with the Lightning, but it is very unlikely that he will make much of an impact. Callahan is past his prime and there is no argument that injuries have derailed his career. The Lightning definitely regret giving him this contract, but at the time it made sense because he was still a very productive player. This is sadly no longer the case.
3 Evgeny Kuznetsov
Evgeny Kuznetsov is a talented young player for the Washington Capitals and will have a bright future with the team. Yet, this offseason the Capitals drastically overpaid to retain his services and it already has hurt them. The Capitals lost a handful of their top players this offseason because they could not afford to bring them back. Needless to say, Kuznetsov’s eight year, $62.4 million dollar extension was a major factor in all that.
Kuznetsov does have the chance to try to prove that he is worth this money. He already has a 77 point season under his belt, but last year he only registered 59. This is definitely something that the Capitals should have thought about before locking him up for that long and with that cap hit. This contract could end up sinking the Capitals pretty quickly if Kuznetsov does not return to his old form.
2 David Clarkson
The Vegas Golden Knights made their first giant mistake as an NHL franchise by choosing David Clarkson in the expansion draft. Although they received a first round pick for doing this, Clarkson’s contract is one that will take a lot of effort for them to get rid of and will hurt them immensely. As we all remember, the Maple Leafs stupidly gave Clarkson a seven year, $36.75 million dollar deal when he was a free agent back in 2013.
Vegas will have to carry his contract until the end of the 2019-20 season and that is a monumental burden on them. Clarkson most likely will never play a game for the Golden Knights and will most likely collect his money from the couch. At the end of the day, his atrocious contract can be marked down as arguably one of the worst in the history of the NHL.
1 Zach Parise
The Minnesota Wild made a huge splash during the 2012 offseason when they signed Zach Parise to a whopping thirteen year, $98 million dollar deal. As anyone would expect, this contract is already hurting the Wild because of the fact that it is extremely large in size. What makes matters worse is that Parise is also already declining and still has eight years left on his deal.
This contract is going to sink the Wild so quickly once their top players are due for raises. Parise is rapidly becoming more of a depth player for the Wild and easily can seen as a mistake by the club. Although Parise is still a decent NHL player, his play is definitely not worth that kind of money and will never be again. These last eight seasons will only display Parise’s decline more and hurt the Wild.