The NHL is a league that is notorious for its ugly, bad, and sometimes mind-boggling contracts.
With all of the bad contracts seemingly always in the headlines (bad news makes for better stories), it’s easy to forget that even the NHL has its fair share of deals that can be considered gems.
For this list, because it’s harder for teams to sign good long-term deals, only current players who are on deals consisting of six or more years apply.
Honourable mentions: Taylor Hall (7 years, $42M total, $6M cap hit, injury prone but an elite offensive talent), Tyler Seguin (6 years, $34.5M total, $5.75M cap hit, party animal wildcard with outstanding offensive flair), James Neal (6 years, $30M total, $5M cap hit, put up near point per game numbers with Penguins but is now is part of a more defensive team in Nashville ) and James van Riemsdyk (6 years, $25.5M total, $4.25M cap hit, with the Leafs he has developed into everything that the Flyers thought he could be).
So, without further ado, here are the top 10 long-term contracts in the NHL.
10. Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
Contract: 13 years, $72M total, $5.53M cap hit per season. Started 2010-11 (age 27), ends 2022-23 (age 39).
Keith is one of the top defenseman in the NHL who is a consistent point producer (above 40 points five of his last six seasons) and has played a key role in two Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championships.
For a player of his caliber, a cap hit of $5.53M is an absolute steal. Also, for those wondering, Brooks Orpik gets paid basically the same amount, so there’s that.
Sure, by the time this contract is up he will be a 39 year-old shell of his former self, but for the time being, this deal certainly helps out the cap ceiling hugging Blackhawks a tremendous amount.
9. Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers
Contract: 8 years, $66.2M total, $8.27M cap hit per season. Starts 2014-15 (age 26), ends 2021-22 (age 33).
Giroux is a steady as they come, at a position most valuable to teams, when you look at both his ability to avoid injuries and his offensive production.
Missing only four games (290 of a possible 294) in the last five years since becoming a full-time NHL’er, Giroux has managed to amass 303 total points during that span; that’s good for 1.04 points per game.
This contract keeps him in Philly through the prime of his career at an expensive, yet deserved price tag.
When you consider Patrick Kane, who plays a less valuable forward position with around the same point production, will be making $2M a year more than Giroux, you can see the true value to this deal.
Had Giroux made it to free agency, he undoubtedly would have gotten this deal or even more money from another team.
Finally, a good signing by the Flyers.
8. Max Pacioretty – Montreal Canadiens
Contract: 6 years, $27M total, $4.5M cap hit per season. Started 2013-14 (age 24), ends 2018-19 (age 29).
For the goal totals that Pacioretty has put up in the last three years, his $4.5M cap hit seems like something out of a fairytale.
Coming off his second 30+ goal season in the last three years (39 last year, good for fourth in the league), Max is one of the best goal scorers in the world at an extremely cheap price.
Still only 25, this deal carries Max right through the heart of his career at a good value to the Canadiens.
This deal would rank higher in the list if Pacioretty had a more complete game, but, $4.5M for a 30-40 goal scorer?
7. Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
Contract: 7 years, $47.6M total, $6.8M cap hit per season. Started 2009-10 (age 22), ends 2015-16 (age 28).
Despite a higher cap hit and a slightly lower point per game average this past year, Kopitar makes this list over players like Hall and Seguin for one simple reason (well two reasons), he was the number one centre on two Stanley Cup winning Kings’ teams.
Of course, his point totals are nothing to scoff at either, having totaled at least 60 points in every one of his 8 NHL seasons (except for the shortened lockout season) and 70 or more points in 5 of those seasons.
Throw in the fact that he is one of the best two-way centres in the league and is nearly a point per game player in the playoffs, added with the fact he makes less money than lesser players such as Alex Semin and the Sedins (who disappeared last season), and you have got yourself a solid player at a solid value.
6. Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins
Contract: 8 years, $52M total, $6.5M cap hit per season. Starts 2014-15 (age 29), ends 2021-22 (age 36).
Bergeron does everything well and a few things better than anybody.
As one of the top three two-way centres in the NHL (Toews first, Datsyuk second, then Bergeron), he is outstanding defensively and the most consistent face-off man on the planet.
An extremely underrated player, especially offensively, Bergeron has tallied at least 60 points two of his last three seasons.
Compare this deal to the $7M per year one that a slightly less consistent centre in Paul Stastny got with St. Louis, and the fact that Dave Bolland is only making $1M less over the next five years, and you see the Bruins worked some magic here, keeping him in Boston for what will likely be his entire career.
Oh, and he won a Stanley Cup, that helps too.
5. Ryan McDonagh – New York Rangers
Contract: 6 years, $28.2M, $4.7M cap hit per season. Started 2013-14 (age 24), ends 2018-19 (age 29).
McDonagh comes in fifth on this list because of a few different reasons.
First, he is the #1 defenseman on a team that just made the Stanley Cup final.
Second, the Rangers’ signed him to this deal, similar to the ones that other young skilled players sign, at a later age because he attended college. This means that because he was signed at an older age, the Rangers get him until he is 29 (usual end of someone’s prime) instead of 26 or 27.
Lastly, McDonagh scored 14 goals last season, doubling his previous career high, proving he is more of a two-way defenceman than originally thought.
The Rangers, who usually overspend, did very well with this signing.
4. John Tavares – New York Islanders
Contract: 6 years, $33M total, $5.5M cap hit per season. Started 2012-13 (age 22), ends 2017-18 (age 27).
I know what some of you are thinking, “How can you include Tavares if Seguin was left off?”
To answer that question, JT, to me (and to Hockey Canada), simply has that it factor that Seguin doesn’t possess at this time.
Statistically, they are similar players, but JT comes out ahead because of his more consistent play and the fact he isn’t a wildcard like Seguin.
JT has been an above point a game player for the last three seasons and will only continue to improve as the Islanders develop as a team.
For $5.5M per season, the 80 or more points Tavares will provide will be very welcomed by the Isles.
3. Erik Karlsson / Alex Pietrangelo – Ottawa Senators / St. Louis Blues
Contracts: 7 years, $45.5 M total, $6.5M cap hit per season. Karlsson started 2012-13 (age 22), ends 2018-19 (age 28). Pietrangelo started 2013-14 (age 23), ends 2019-20 (age 29).
Good defensemen are hard to come by, hence the ridiculous prices that teams are paying in free agent periods over the last couple years.
Proof comes in the forms of $5.5M per year for Brooks Orpik and Matt Carle, $5.75M for Matt Niskanen and Andrei Markov, and $2.9M for Deryk Engelland.
Getting Karlsson, who is the top offensive defenseman in the NHL, for $6.5M per season over seven years, was a huge grab for the Sens.
Karlsson’s deal then set the table for Pietrangelo to sign the exact same deal a year later with the Blues.
Both defencemen play a #1 role on their teams and are considered to be two of the top 10 defensemen in the NHL.
If they weren’t signed long-term, you are looking at $8-9M per season players on the current market.
2. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
Contract: 12 years, $104.4M total, $8.7M cap hit per season. Started 2013-14 (age 26), ends 2024-25 (age 37).
Let me say this first, the ONLY thing keeping Crosby out of the #1 spot in this list is the relation between injuries and time remaining on his deal.
Crosby is the best player on the planet, without a doubt. The fact that Pittsburgh got him under contract for a cap hit of only (only?!) $8.7M per season is purely genius when you compare his career numbers and his skill to other players.
Only five players come in with a higher cap hit (Toews and Kane at $10.5M starting in 2015-16, Ovechkin and Malkin at $9.5M, Subban at $9M) but there is no doubt that Crosby should be at the top of that list.
If Kane is worth $10.5M per season, shouldn’t that put Crosby at at least $12M?
Brilliant work by Pittsburgh, just brilliant.
Hopefully the injuries disappear and Crosby can continue to shine well into his late 30’s.
1. Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings
Contract: 8 years, $56M total, $7M cap hit per season. Started 2011-12 (age 22), ends 2018-19 (age 29).
LA certainly knows how to retain their stars at a valuable number. First Kopitar at #7, now Doughty at #1, and cases could be made for Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick and Marian Gaborik.
Doughty is an absolute beast and in many peoples opinion, the most well rounded defenseman in the NHL.
Despite not putting up elite offensive numbers during the regular season since 2009-10 when he had 59, Doughty can seemingly turn on the offensive tap come playoff time. During the Kings’ two Stanley Cup runs, Doughty was a major part, putting up 34 points in 46 games.
Still just 24 years old, Doughty’s best years are still ahead of him; and that’s saying something for a guy who’s won two Stanley Cups, two Olympic Gold Medals, a World Junior Championship and a Norris Trophy nomination.
Watch out NHL.