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The Top 10 Worst NHL Contracts

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?

Think again.

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.

27 Comments

  1. ross

    August 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I love how the Flyers take so much heat and yet have no one in top ten but Leafs have two!!!

    • Flyers are retarded.

      September 1, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      They take heat because they traded a Vezina quality goalie, 2 double stanley cup winners lol.

      • ross

        September 1, 2014 at 5:13 pm

        wow, your a tool!! Carter and Richards were never going to win in Philly, they went where they could compliment Kopitar, Daughty, Quick and Brown. Probably why Richards centers their fourth line. Trade was a win for both teams as for Goalie Bob, really no difference between him and Mason. Maybe you should stick to knitting or something

  2. Mr. Slade

    August 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Dion should not be on this list. Definitely overpaid, but Miike Richards gets almost $6 as a 4th liner. There are many others that should be here instead. Very silly when you look at some other contracts.

    • slade is a dummy

      August 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Actually Richards just pals on the 4th line, he isn’t a 4th liner you ignorant ass. He’s well worth what LA pays for him

      • Mr. Slade

        August 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm

        Wow, touchy! If a player plays on the fourth line, logs fourth line minutes, has a fourth line role, and scores fourth line points, I consider that player a fourth liner. I agree he could be higher on another team, but on this team he is a fourth liner. Sorry to burst that bubble, but LA is not getting close to $6 million dollar value out of Richards. I consider poor value for a player a bad contract. Disagree? Well he lost his third line job this year. He doesn’t gave the stamina or foot speed he once had. Please relax and try to be somewhat courteous to others who post, even if you disagree.

  3. Mr. Slade

    August 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Shouldn’t Englund be on this list? Letang? As per preamble, isn’t Dion useful? I’m not a huge fan of his, but he gets way too much flack from media and fans alike.

  4. Holysheep

    August 26, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I don’t understand the logic of comparing players on their salary cap hits. Especially comparing a contract from the current cba against a front loaded contract from the old cba. Compare their salaries from this season.

    • GTurner

      August 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      The reason they are comparing cap hits is because you can’t value a player without looking at his impact on signing other players. It’s not the ten least talented players. It’s not even the 10 most overpaid players this season. It’s the ten that are least worth what their teams are committing to them.

  5. Parminder

    August 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    How is Franzen’s contract considered a bad deal? 4m for a 20 scorer who brings in an offensive punch to the line, seems good.

  6. Kyle

    August 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    mike richards is $hit now but in my opinion is still better than Dustin Brown (who should be on this list) who had 27 points for 47 million over 8 YEARS!?!?

  7. Bruno

    August 26, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Tanner Glass should be on here for being possibly the WORST player in the league for the last few seasons. Any deal that isn’t a 1 year 2-way contract for the league minimum is an overpayment. Thanks Slats.

  8. Mark Easson

    August 26, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I don’t mind Dion, and agree that he gets to much flak, but his $7 million hit puts him around 7th overall for defenseman I think. Sure, he signed it more recently compared to some others, but seven years and $49 million is too much. Crazy thing is, I think the if he hit the open market, he would have got that, if not more.

    @Parminder – Franzen’s cap hit of just under $4 million isn’t bad, but he’s still got 6 years left and I think he’s 35 now.

    @HolySheep – I think you need to look at cap hits and not salaries as the cap hit can limit what a team can do since that is what the cap ceiling/floor is based on. Maybe we could just look at salaries in another post. I agree that it’s hard to compared deals made under different CBAs, but for the sake of this type of post, you kind of have take a contract for what it is.

    • Holysheep

      August 26, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      @Mark. Valid points. I just don’t get the hate on the Orpik signing. Yes, it is way too long. But I think the argument that it’s a bad signing because he has the same cap hit as Duncan Keith is ridiculous. When Keith signed, the cap ceiling was 56.8. Now it’s 70. That makes a difference. Also, Keith signed five years ago. Each year with free agent frenzy, some mediocre player gets a big contract and it drives up the average contract. If Keith had to sign an extension this year, he would be looking at a 9-10 million cap hit.

  9. Kyle

    August 26, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    I think semin and horton are better and have better contracts than Dustin brown. My Opinion.

  10. Leafs

    August 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Dion doesn’t get 60 points per year anymore, but if you consider his time as a Leaf alone (as everyone loves to cite his early years with the Flames as a comparison) he has 0.47 points per game played, good for 38.8 points per 82 games played.

    He plays the #1 defensive role on the Leafs. Only Gunnarsson had more shorthanded time among defensemen (9 more minutes on the season).
    He plays vs the opponents top players almost exclusively, and is in the top 5 for Corsi Relative to Quality of Comp every year.
    He plays 23+ minutes per game.
    He blocks more shots than Pietrangelo, Seabrook/Keith, Chara, Kronwall, Doughty, Suter, you get the picture.
    He was 11th overall in blocked shots per 60min last year.
    Gunnarsson is the best D he has been paired with in the past few years, and quite often he found himself paired with an AHL rookie or a guy that was otherwise absolutely not a “top pairing guy”.

    All this and still averaging nearly 40 points per 82 games played. He gets way, way too much hate. The list of defensemen that are their team’s #1 shutdown guy, block tons of shots, play against the opponents absolute best forwards and still gets ~40pts per year is a SHORT list, period.

  11. I_am_I

    August 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I agree with the Phaneuf comments by Leafs. He isn’t a bargain, but I don’t think he’s top 10 bad either…
    But I think Clarkson should be at 1. The Leafs won’t buy him out because that contract is buy out proof. Try it out on capgeek…

  12. Mark Easson

    August 26, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I added a note and link to CapGeek’s page on Clarkson.

  13. Ross

    August 26, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Dion does not get hate, he gets the truth, he is not very good. The leafs traded 3 or 4, third and fourth liners for him, then over paid him and now expect a good return for him in a trade, and they wonder why no team will bite! Every fan of every team over values their own players, the leaf fans are doing that now with Dion. He is on the list because contrary to what leaf fans think, the majority of people see dion as a third to fifth defenceman and that is not what he is being paid as. Argue all you want, truth hurts

    • Leafs

      August 27, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Ross, why don’t you address the points I made about how if you include how well rounded his game is, he is on a very short list surrounded by elite defensemen?
      As in, only Doughty, Weber, Chara and Hedman fill the same roles on their respective teams?

      Another thing worth considering is that he signed his $6.5M contract in 2008. Accounting for inflation alone since then, that same contract would be worth $7.28M today in order to have the same value. So, in a sense, he actually took a pay cut from what he made before.

      • leafstime

        September 6, 2014 at 8:25 am

        Your comments are excellent. Don’t try to educate Phanuef hater’s.

        • ross

          September 6, 2014 at 9:59 am

          you mean Leaf realists!! too many Leaf fans see there team through rose colored glasses, dion is not good, the leafs are not good. your so called leaf haters have the past 50 years on their side, what do you got?

  14. Aussie penguin

    August 27, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I don’t understand the hate towards the players on these types of lists – if you were the player you would want the maximum $’s possible. The bigger the better.

    The attitude should be towards the GM’s of the clubs that sign the cheques. Why doesn’t anyone scream down the front door of the head office in these posts.

    I say the title of this blog should be who has got the best agent!!!!!

    Also comparing years past with current year is not possible – should just be for the year or CBA allowing for the cap increase to be considered.

  15. ross

    August 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Leafs, I didn’t address your points because to me they didn’t carry any weight. I can list defencemen who have more points making less money, you said he is 11th in blocked shots, is he getting paid less than the ten above him? I hate the excuses about who he plays with or who he plays against!! I’d take at least one D-Man or probably 2 on every other team in the nhl before i’d take Dion. Why was he voted most over-rated player in the entire nhl by fellow players (as per tsn)? why was he traded for a few bums? why cant the leafs trade him now? great players make the players around them better and subsequently make their teams better, when has Dion ever made a team or players around him better? I agree its not his fault his is the Leafs best D but that doesn’t mean he should be paid like an elite D that means the Leafs D suck!!

    • Mr. Slade

      August 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Dion isn’t great, but he is good. That’s my opinion. I think he would make any D Corps better. He is not a top 10 D, but I can’t think he is one of the top ten worst contracts. His contract is bad, but many are.

  16. Mark Easson

    September 6, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I the future I think we’ll use ‘bad contracts’ instead of ‘worst contracts’ in the title and description. Good players can have bad contracts.

  17. Mr. Slade

    August 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Point taken!