Every year teams sign players to contracts that are awful. It’s the nature of the business, sometimes you have to take a gamble to try to improve your team, and sometimes, those gambles backfire drastically.
For my list, the likes of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Marian Hossa, Mike Richards, Johan Franzen, Pekka Rinne and Travis Zajac, who you can definitely argue have bad contracts, aren’t included because they are still good, valuable players at this point in their careers. That said, in 3-5 years’ time, likely all of them will be on it or in Hossa’s case, might be bought out.
Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland ($2.9M per season?!), and Vinny Lecavalier (simply can’t get away from terrible contracts) were the dishonorable mentions.
So, here it is, the top 10 worst contracts heading into the 2014-15 season.
10. Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs
Contract: 7 years, $49M total, $7M cap hit per season. NMC & Modified NTC. Starts 2014-15 (age 29), ends 2020-21 (age 36).
Phaneuf is undoubtedly one of (if not the most) hated / criticized hockey players in the NHL. Captaining the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are at centre stage of everything media related, while being paid at an elite level ($7M cap hit with an actual total salary of $8M this coming season) certainly justifies the attention that Dion draws from fans and media alike.
While Phaneuf definitely isn’t as terrible as some would suggest, the number is much too high for a defenseman whose offensive production is taking a slide year after year.
Phaneuf scored 20 goals AS A ROOKIE, followed by 17 in each of the next two seasons as a member of the Calgary Flames; however, since then he has only gotten as high as 12 over the last six years. It is easy to see why Phaneuf got his first long-term deal with Calgary (six years, $39M) after that early production, but this deal with Toronto seems more like desperation than it does common sense.
9. Roberto Luongo – Florida Panthers
Contract: 12 years, $64M, $5.33M cap hit per season. Started 2010-11 (age 32), ends 2021-22 (age 44).
Ah, Roberto Luongo. This is a contract that you will find on almost every one of these lists, year after year. To summarize how bad this deal actually is, Roberto himself was quoted at one time last year during the Vancouver disaster saying, “my contract sucks.” When the player even knows it, that says it all.
To be fair, however, Luongo (the player) still has much more value than Luongo (the contract) at this stage. Despite being 35 years old, Luongo is still a quality goaltender, hence why Florida traded for him in the first place. Last season Luongo had .924 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average through 14 games with the Panthers to end the season, solid numbers that justify his pay.
With that being said, Luongo still has eight, yes eight, years left on his contract at the same cap hit, at which time he will be 43 years old. YIKES. There is a zero percent chance this contract doesn’t eventually get bought out.
8. David Bolland – Florida Panthers
Contract: 5 years, $27.5M total, $5.5 M cap hit per season. Limited NTC. Starts 2014-15 (age 28), ends 2018-19 (age 33).
Dave Bolland is a winner, that much is proven. For those of you who don’t know, Bolland won a Memorial Cup in 2005 with the London Knights, two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, and a gold medal at the 2006 World Juniors for Canada. What isn’t proven, however, is how much Bolland actually has to do with those wins (every one of those teams was stacked beyond belief).
With that in mind, I can kind of see what Florida was thinking by signing Bolland to the length and term that they did, other than “we got to get to the cap floor!”. However, this contract is still so, so bad.
Bolland is being paid at the rate of a top six forward, something in which he is not on a consistent basis. Despite occasionally showing flashes of offensive production, Bolland is best served as a third-line energy player and those types of players DO NOT make $5.5 million.
Bolland has only ever eclipsed 45 points in a season once (2008-09) and to make things worse, he rarely makes it to 45 GAMES. He is about as injury prone as they come, missing 72 regular season games over the past two years and 143 regular season games over the six years he has been a full time NHL player.
All in all Bolland is a useful player who just got massively overpaid.
7. Tyler Myers – Buffalo Sabres
Contract: 7 years, $38.5M total, $5.5M cap hit per season. NMC, Modified NTC; not eligible until 2016-17. Started 2012-13 (age 22), ends 2018-19 (age 29).
Everyone’s favourite whipping boy in Buffalo, at just 24 years old Tyler Myers is the youngest player to make this list.
Does it not seem like just yesterday Myers was being heralded as the next Zdeno Chara?! In 2009-10, the 6 foot 8 inch, 227 lbs. defenseman put up 11 goals and 37 assists in his first year in the league and went on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Myers followed that season up with 37 points in 80 games in 2010-11 and 23 points in 55 games in 2011-12 before signing this massive deal. Everything looked to be heading in the right direction for Myers and Buffalo, the deal made sense.
Fast forward two years and all of a sudden Myers’ name is found in trade speculation and the once promising defenseman now appears to have lost his groove in Buffalo. Since the deal kicked in, Myers has managed only 30 points in 101 regular season games.
I still believe his career can be salvaged, but boy, talk about a player who needs a change of scenery.
6. Nathan Horton – Columbus Blue Jackets
Contract: 7 years, $37.1M total, $5.3M cap hit per season. NMC 2013-14 through 2016-17; Limited NTC 2017-18 through 2019-20. Started 2013-14 (age 28), ends 2019-20 (age 35).
I hate having to include Horton on this list. A gifted offensive power-forward, Horton is a five-time twenty goal scorer, and a one-time 30 goal man. With that kind of production, $5.3M sounds like a fair price tag doesn’t it?
All six of those seasons in which Horton passed the 20 goal mark came within his first six years in the NHL. Horton, who is now a 9 year veteran hasn’t passed the 20 goal plateau since 2010-11 because of one major reason, he can’t seem to stay on the ice for more than 50 games anymore.
In the last three seasons, concussion and shoulder surgery have slowed what looked to be a promising NHL career in a big way.
All in all, Columbus being a team that has trouble acquiring talent, overpaid for an injury prone player last summer.
5. Ryane Clowe – New Jersey Devils
Contract: 5 years, $24.25M total, $4.85M cap hit per season. NMC. Started 2013-14 (age 31), ends 2017-18 (age 36).
I don’t even know where to begin with this one.
Last offseason, much like this offseason, the New Jersey Devils decided (rightful so) that they were in dire need of offense after Kovalchuk left them high and dry for the millions and millions of reasons in Russia. Out of desperation, the Devils signed Clowe to this ridiculous contract.
Clowe was once a budding power-forward type player in San Jose who scored around 20 goals and 50 points a season; then that suddenly stopped. Without reason, in the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, Clowe scored 3 goals in 40 games, 3.
Last year at least he had injury issues, so that gives him A BIT of an excuse, but he still only managed tp score 7 goals in 43 games. Add that together and you have a massive 10 goals in 83 games for a player paid like a second-line winger.
4. Alexander Semin – Carolina Hurricanes
Contract: 5 years, $35M total, $7M cap hit per season. Started 2013-14 (age 29), ends 2017-18 (age 34).
Alexander Semin is the definition of what could be, but never was. He is filled with offensive potential, but is heavily known as being one of the lazier players in the NHL and usually only shows up in contract years to make sure he still gets paid.
Carolina fell for the Semin charm last offseason and signed him to this contract after he had previously signed a one-year deal for them the year before and produced 44 points in 44 games.
Semin followed up his new deal with two less points (42) in 21 more games (65); not the kind of production you want for a man who is getting paid like an elite first-line winger.
It hurts my head to think back to his easy 70 point, 30 or 40 goal seasons with Washington and then see the kind of production he had last year.
Without any real incentive to elevate his play, don’t expect to see Semin at the top of the scoring list anytime soon.
3. Stephen Weiss – Detroit Red Wings
Contract: 5 years, $24.5M total, $4.9M cap hit per season. NMC, Modified NTC. Started 2013-14 (age 30), ends 2017-18 (age 35).
BREAKING NEWS: the Red Wings might have finally gotten something wrong!
An organization known for seeming never making mistakes with players (drafting essentially all their stars super late, making everyone play 80 years in the AHL before coming up) the Wings seem to have finally messed up with the Weiss signing last season.
Weiss is on the wrong side of 30 (could have sworn he was still 25) and is a consistently injured player who cashed in heavily when Detroit signed him to be their second-line centre after Valtteri Filppula left for Tampa.
Weiss rewarded the Wings with 2 goals and 2 assists in 26 games, or $1.25M per point.
It was actually the second straight year in which Weiss had 4 points, after scoring 1 goal and 3 assists for Florida in 17 games the year before.
To summarize, Weiss has 8 points in 44 games the past two seasons. Paying him $4.9M for the next four years is not going to happen.
Buyout candidate to the max.
2. David Clarkson – Toronto Maple Leafs
Contract: 7 years, $36.75M total, $5.25M cap hit per season. NMC, Modified NTC. Started 2013-14 (age 29), ends 2019-20 (age 36).
Clarkson would have been number one on this list if it weren’t for a terrible choice in this year’s free agency (you will have to wait and see who is number one).
Paid like a top six winger, despite only having scored more than 35 points in one season, Clarkson amassed a grand total of 11 points last season in 60 games. However, when he was signed last summer, Leafs GM Dave Nonis stressed to the media and fans that they weren’t paying him for goals, they were paying him to play his style of game and make the team harder to play against. NEWS FLASH, his style of play is that of a third-liner, so pay him like one.
Clarkson is still a useful player in the role he is supposed to play, but making that much money for that term, fans and media will always expect more out of him and classify him as a major bust.
The Leafs massively overpaid for the gritty bottom six forward and his contract is basically buyout proof as he’s owed over $20 million in signing bonuses according to CapGeek.
1. Brooks Orpik – Washington Capitals
Contract: 5 years, $27.5M total, $5.5M cap hit per season. Starts 2014-15 age (33), ends 2018-19 (age 38).
Brooks Orpik is making $5.5M per season for the next five years, BROOKS ORPIK. Need I say more?
I was STUNNED to see this deal when it popped up during Free Agency Frenzy on TSN. The Caps were so desperate for defensive stability that they paid a 33 year old (will be 34 come seasons start) like a first or second pairing defenseman in his prime. Say what you want about Matt Niskanen, at least he isn’t 33 years old at the start of his contract.
To give you an example of just how terrible, awful, outrageous, and disgusting this contract truly is, here is a brief list of names of other defensemen who have nearly the same cap hit as Orpik: Dan Girardi, Duncan Keith, Jay Bouwmeester, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Zach Bogosian and James Wisniewski.
Washington, what were you thinking?
This is by far the worst contract in the NHL heading into next season.
Written by Greg Stamper, who can be found on twitter @g_stamp91.