I decided to focus this week’s poll on something that’s debated a lot but, as far as I’m aware, has never been voted on here at the site, namely which players are signed to the worst contracts. Of course, when using a word like “worst” it’s not always easy to measure one player versus another; so I have a few requirements/guidelines in terms of what players I included and how you should base your voting.
First off, all players must be making $4M+ per year, since if you’re signed for less your contract can’t be all that bad. Also, I’m ignoring those who’ve yet to play an NHL game in 2019-20, so that means no LTIR guys, players buried in the minors, or those otherwise in non-NHL limbo. Plus, Beyond that, all forwards had to have scored at least 55 points in one or more previous seasons, all defensemen at least 30 points, and the goalies included had to have won at least 30 games in one or more prior campaigns. That way these all will be familiar names. Lastly, I didn’t include anyone who signed a deal this summer, as I figure we need to let the ink dry for at least a full season before lumping them in with players who’ve had a lot more time to show how bad their contracts truly are.
What constitutes “worst?” Certainly dollar amount is key; but perhaps duration matters even more so, since arguably a contract paying an underperformer $7M for four more years is worse than one paying an equally bad player $8 but for only three. Also, a player shouldn’t be assessed solely based on his fantasy numbers, as perhaps someone with a bloated salary is making “real NHL” contributions which lessen the pain of his contract. We’re looking for the worst of the worst, by all measures of the word.
In terms of voting, I’d like you to pick the five worst contracts. Why five? I figured if I just let everyone vote only once then the outcome would be too predictable, or people would see the ongoing results and let that (sub)consciously influence how they vote. This way things should be more interesting, yet still, yield what we’re looking for.
Also, please note that there was no shortage of “deserving” players. Some of the tough final cuts included the likes of: Jake Allen ($4.35M through 2020-21), David Backes ($6M through 2020-21), Nick Foligno ($5.5M through 2020-21), Erik Johnson ($6.0M through 2022-23), Nick Leddy ($5.5M through 2021-22), Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5M through 2020-21), Alexander Radulov ($6.25M through 2021-22), and Alexander Steen ($5.75M through 2020-21). Poolies who own these players in cap leagues….you have my sympathies.
With all that out of the way, listed below – with the much-appreciated input of Alex MacLean, who pens the weekly Capped column – are the 20 players (in alphabetical order and with their contract’s annual salary and years remaining) who we believe are candidates for the worst contracts in the NHL.
Jamie Benn ($9.5M per season through 2024-25)
When he inked this deal in 2016, Benn had just scored 89 points and was only one year removed from winning the Art Ross trophy. Still, he was 27 and played a very physical game, which made a contract that would pay him this much and run this long……iffy. Sure enough, as Benn now seems like a shell of the elite player he once was, this is a deal on which the team surely would like a do-over.
Aaron Ekblad ($7.5M per season through 2024-25)
Signed when he was only 20, this contract was about what Ekblad was likely to become, more so than what he’d already done. Fast forward to now, and although Ekblad is finally on pace to post 40+ points for the first time, this deal seems like it will never fully pay off for the Panthers.
Loui Eriksson ($6.0M per season through 2021-22)
After posting 71+ points in three straight seasons, Eriksson proceeded to tally just 84 points in his next 142 contests before rebounding to 63 points (30 goals) in 2015-16…..just as he was set to be a UFA. The rest is history – painful history for the Canucks, for whom Eriksson now only serves as a reminder of past spending gone wrong.
Patric Hornqvist ($5.3M per season through 2022-23)
Many eyebrows were raised when the Pens chose to extend Hornqvist for five years at age 31 and despite him having gone from 51 points in 64 games in his first Pittsburgh campaign to 95 points in his next 132 contests. But this was before the full-fledged breakout of Jake Guentzel, a player who does a lot of what Hornqvist was supposed to do. Now Hornqvist is a middle-six forward……when he manages to stay healthy.
Anze Kopitar ($10.0M per season through 2023-24)
What do you do for a player who had led your team to two Stanley Cups in the previous three seasons, had been a collective +111 in his previous six campaigns, and was on his way to a sixth 70+ point season before age 30? You give him among the first contracts that called for a player to make $10M+ per year. Since then, Kopitar’s stats have been up and down; but the team is far from the perennial Cup contender they once were and the money they owe Kopitar for four seasons yet to come will likely hurt their chances of rebuilding into one again.
Martin Jones ($5.75M per season through 2023-24)
After he won 72 games in the previous two seasons and played some of the best playoff hockey the NHL had seen among any netminder, the team decided to lock Jones up for a lot of money and a long time. While this contract might have been deserved and isn’t for a team-choking amount, the fact that Jones has been one of the worst-performing starters since signing it (including as the first goalie in ten seasons to play 60+ games with a sub-.900 SV%) gives the team a near-nightly dose of regret.
Milan Lucic ($6.0M per season through 2022-23)
Just when it seemed his contract couldn’t look any worse after he’d seen his scoring drop precipitously for two straight seasons while with the Oilers, Lucic gets swapped for James Neal in an “our headache for yours” deal, and Neal turns into the NHL’s premiere power-play sniper, while Lucic toils in the bottom six for the Flames, looking run down and unmotivated. Between him and Benn, teams have already become more reluctant about signing “bangers” to big long-term deals, so at least Lucic will remain as famous as he once was, albeit this time as a cautionary contract tale rather than for his big hits and once looming presence.
Frans Nielsen ($5.25M per season through 2021-22)
If you forgot he was even still in the NHL, don’t blame yourself, as since coming to the Red Wings he’s yet to have even one point per every other game season, has a whopping zero points for 2019-20 thus far, and, on most nights, seems like the invisible man on the ice. While the dollars and term aren’t quite as bad, truth be told Nielsen is just barely above the Lucic and Eriksson level in terms of how much of a bust he’s truly been.
Kyle Okposo ($6.0M per season through 2022-23)
When you’re a 28-year-old power forward who’d put up 184 points in 200 games in your prior three seasons, what does that get you when you hit the UFA market? In a word…paid! But the Sabres didn’t manage to trade for or clone John Tavares, which has led to them getting worse and worse production from Okposo, who seems yet again poised not to post even point per every other game numbers for Buffalo in 2019-20.
Zach Parise ($7.538M per season through 2024-25)
The Wild made arguably one of the biggest – if not the biggest – UFA splashes of all time by signing both Parise and Ryan Suter (spoiler alert, he makes the list too) to identical 13-year contracts in the summer of 2012. The team all but admitted it was paying them more and signing them for longer than might’ve been wise, but they figured the one-two punch, plus their other players, would help them hoist at least one Stanley Cup. In the several years since, Minnesota has played a total of 36 playoff games and now looks to be in danger of turning into a perennial doormat, thanks largely to the albatrosses of this contract and Suter’s.
Jonathan Quick ($5.8M per season through 2022-23)
Perhaps more so than any deal on this list, Quick’s looked like it had the making of being a bargain, as he seemed to get better by the year, winning two Jennings Trophies and helping LA to a second Stanley Cup. But oh what a difference two years can make, as since the beginning of 2018-19 Quick looks like he’d have trouble stopping a beach ball, let alone a puck. If he can’t somehow rediscover his game, it will be a very long three more years before this deal expires.
Bobby Ryan ($7.25M per season through 2021-22)
After acquiring Ryan, who’d topped 30 goals in each of his first four full seasons, the Sens didn’t hesitate to sign him to a huge multi-year deal. What’s followed is Ryan sometimes barely being able to put up a point total to match his early career goal outputs and Ottawa brass likely having a countdown clock in each of their offices marking the days until this deal is off their books.
Brent Seabrook ($6.875M per season through 2023-24)
What many poolies might forget is that Seabrook put up 49 points after he signed this deal, which took effect starting in 2016-17. Somehow though the bottom completely fell out from Seabrook’s game after that season, so much so that now the Hawks are now finding it tough to even put Seabrook on the ice and, if rumors are correct, are so desperate to dump his deal that they might have to part with a young asset to do so, much like they had to do with Bryan Bickell, which cost them now star player Teuvo Teravainen. Ouch.
Cory Schneider ($6.0M per season through 2021-22)
Like Quick, Schneider has seemingly lost all the talent (three straight seasons of 2.26 or lower GAA and .921 or higher SV%) that made him a prize acquisition and signing by the Devils. In this case it’s likely due to injuries; however, the result is the same in that Schneider looks like he’ll never be the goalie he once was and his team is left with a contract that provides an all too painful reminder of just how far Schneider has fallen.
Editor's Note: This piece was submitted prior to Schneider finding his way through waivers
P.K. Subban ($9.0M per season through 2021-22)
Still only 30 and with two 59+ point seasons in his past five, Subban somehow has been traded not once but twice in the past three years, the second deal showing just how much the Predators wanted to get rid of him. And although it’s still early, Subban’s tenure with the Devils suggests he’s not at all the player he once was, which is a very tough pill to swallow at $9M per year.
Ryan Suter ($7.538M per season through 2024-25)
The second half of the Wild’s 2012 UFA spree, Suter has been better and is a year younger than Parise; but still, no one expects this contract to be anywhere close to worthwhile when all is said and done.
Jonathan Toews ($10.5M per season through 2022-23)
Yes, he posted 81 points last season and might be among the best combinations of leadership and talent the NHL has seen this century. Still, $10.5M is a lot to pay a guy who, since signing this deal, has posted more sub-60 point seasons than not. With the Hawks no longer competing for a Cup every year, the value that Toews provides in the locker room is arguably not as worthwhile as it once was, and there’s still three more years remaining for Toews’ skill to further erode.
Kyle Turris ($6.0M per season through 2022-23)
If only Turris produced on the ice as well as his agents have negotiated off it, somehow turning three seasons out of four of 55+ point hockey into a six-year $36M deal. Since then, Turris has been good at only one thing, and that’s getting hurt. On the ice, whatever talent he possesses either has vanished or isn’t manifesting due to him not putting in the effort to show it.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($7M per season through 2025-26)
There were whispers about this deal even when it was signed, as it came a full year after Vlasic had risen to 39 points and had only posted 28 in 75 games the following season. Even still, the Sharks thought enough about his value as a leader and defensive stalwart to pay him a lot of money for a lot of years. But now, with Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns both on the blueline and earning big bucks, Vlasic’s contract might be one the Sharks wish they could do-over.
Alexander Wennberg ($4.9M per season through 2022-23)
After climbing from 40 points in 69 games as a rookie to 59 in 80 contests, the Blue Jackets had seen enough to convince them to lock up the former first-rounder to a six-year deal. But after barely eclipsing those 59 points with his combined output over the next two seasons, and now looking a lot more like a middle-six, at best, forward, it might be a long three years for the Blue Jackets to wait until Wennberg is off the books.
There you have it – the list of what Alex and I believe are the 20 worst NHL contracts. Your job is to vote for the five worst among the 20, after which we’ll have the official word on this oft-debated topic. You can cast your ballots by clicking here. Lastly, although I realize it might be difficult to avoid tossing a vote to a player whose contract has brought you misery in one or more of your leagues, we all want the most objective results so please vote without any personal bias.
Questions for Mailbag column
The next mailbag column will be posted in a week, and I could still use a few more questions. You can get them to me either by private messaging “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.
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