NHL’s Top-20 Current Worst Contracts

Market. Competition. Desperation. Self-preservation. All factors dictating, justifying and/or describing NHL General Managers’ actions during the summer months, but mostly in the early days of July when free agents hit the market. All of which contributing, in one way or another, in bidding wars bumping up the so-called market value of a player, or players within the same category, numbers used at a later date by other players’ agents in justifying the new bar for their clients in future negotiations. The best General Managers are those who can resist succumbing to the temptation of getting into betting wars, by simply sticking to their plans going in… but “simply” just isn’t that simple as it’s often easier said than done.

The irony of this whole phenomena is that the NHL imposed a hard salary cap in an attempt to stop that process, in a way to protect GMs from… themselves. But as we’ve witnessed over and over again, it hasn’t worked. All it has done is kill GM’s abilities to “fix their mistakes” by trading their bad contracts, making it less exciting for fans as in-season trades are few and far between.

“If you look at history in the NHL, the biggest mistakes are made in early July. Worst contracts, guys who underperform. The biggest mistakes are July first. You have to be careful.” ~ Marc Bergevin

As the July 1st Free Agents’ Frenzy is once again upon us, let’s take a look at the NHL’s current worst contracts. Taken into consideration are factors such as cap hit, production, games played, no trades protection, protection against buyouts (signing bonus), age and number of years remaining to the contract. In order to understand the buyout protection, signing bonuses don’t count in the case of a buyout, only the player’s salary. For example, for every year of his contract, Andrew Ladd’s base salary is $1M. The rest is all signing bonus. So the Islanders would still be left with $4.833M of his $5.5M counting against their cap.

20. Antti Raanta (G) 30 – 12 GP – 2.88 GAA – 0.906 SV%

19. Scott Darling (G) 30 – 8 GP – 3.33 GAA – 0.884 SV%

18. Ryan Johansen (F) 26 – 80 GP – 14G – 64 PTS

17. Brandon Dubinsky (F) 33 – 61 GP – 6 G – 14 PTS

16. Cory Schneider (G) 33 – 26 GP – 3.06 GAA – 0.903 SV%

15. James Neal (F) 31 – 63 GP – 7 G – 19 PTS

14. Justin Abdelkader (F) 32 – 71 GP – 6 G – 19 PTS

13. Erik Johnson (D) 31 – 80 GP – 7 G – 25 PTS

12. Ilya Kovalchuk (F) 36 – 64 GP – 16 G – 34 PTS

11. Bobby Ryan (F) 32 – 78 GP – 15 G – 42 PTS

Keep in mind that with the upcoming expansion draft, only those with No-Trade Clauses (NTC) can be left unprotected for Seattle. A player with a No-Movement Clause (NMC) MUST be protected by their team. This has a huge impact on how bad the contract is considered.

10. David Backes (F) 35 – 70 GP – 7 G – 20 PTS

9. Niklas Hjalmarsson (D) 82 GP – 0 G – 10 PTS

8. Karl Alzner (D) 30 – 9 GP – 0G – 1 PT

7. Corey Perry (F) 34 – 31 GP – 6 G – 19 PTS

6. Ryan Kesler (F) 34 – 60 GP – 5G – 8 PTS

And now down to the nitty-gritty, the five worst contracts in the NHL.

5. Nikita Zaitsev (D) 27 – 81 GP – 3 G – 14 PTS

4. Andrew Ladd (F) 33 – 26 GP – 3 G – 11 PTS

3. Kyle Okposo (F) 31 – 78 GP – 14 G – 29 PTS

2. Loui Eriksson (F) 33 – 81 GP – 11 G – 29 PTS

1. Milan Lucic (F) 31 – 79 GP – 6 G – 20 PTS

With the news that Erik Karlsson just signed a contract extension with the San Jose Sharks giving him a $11.5 million cap hit, we might have to wait a few years but that contract might eventually find its place amongst the NHL’s worst contracts… particularly if he can’t stay healthy. Either way, desperate GMs are likely to fall, as they do every year, to the peer pressure of getting a much desired free agent but as you can see, the notion that teams “get them for free” is as far as it gets from accurate. Here’s hoping that Marc Bergevin doesn’t pull another Alzner. Could Matt Duchene be a good fit? We’ll find out soon enough. Go Habs Go!

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Habs in discussion with the Flyers?

What’s the Montreal Canadiens’ biggest need? You would have asked that question a year ago, many would have said “depth at the centre position”. After the outstanding work done by Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins last summer, very few would have the same answer if asked today. Instead, they will be pointing to yet another position that’s been seriously lacking for years: a quality top-4 left-handed defenseman to play with either Shea Weber or Jeff Petry. A guy who can log big quality minutes against the opposition’s top lines.

The good news? There are a few options out there if we believe what’s being thrown around the rumour mill. Some link the Canadiens to soon-to-be UFA Jake Gardiner but it is yours truly’s opinion that because there will be a high demand for him, he will be highly overpaid for what he brings to the table and his next contract has a good chance to become, with Erik Karlsson‘s, a huge albatros contract for whomever signs him.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Canadiens are better off giving assets to get the player that they want, but with a reasonable contract, than not giving assets by signing an overpriced free agent. Really, what they need is a stop-gap on the left side until Alexander Romanov can have an impact at the NHL level.

That is not surprising, at least not for me. Shayne Gostisbehere has seen his ice time diminish by the end of last season in Philly as he seemed to have fallen out of interim head coach Scott Gordon‘s good books. I really thought that the Habs would try to snag him at the trade deadline and who knows? There might have been talks about it and they could have agreed to keep talking this summer. It seems like they are talking now.

The Ghost Bear, as they call him, is a mobile, puck moving defenseman with a good offensive upside and while he’ll never be in the running for a Norris Trophy, he can hold his own defensively. He has a good stick and his foot speed allows him to skate out of trouble for the most part. Can he play against the top lines on the other side? The Jury is still out on that one.

Shayne Gostisbehere’s name is linked to the Canadiens

Is anyone surprised that the Flyers would be eying Andrew Shaw? Talk about prototype in Philadelphia: gritty, in-your-face forward who can cause havoc in front of the net? I would hate losing Shaw (or Paul Byron for that matter) but unless you were born yesterday or have been hiding under a rock your entire life, you should know that in order to get something of quality, you have to sacrifice quality heading the other way. The Habs had to sacrifice P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty in order to get Weber, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Tomas Tatar and top prospect Nick Suzuki. Also, the Habs are deeper on the wing than any other position so they would be trading from a position of strength, which is what you want.

Personally, I’d be more inclined to go with Nick Leddy, also rumoured to be available. Bergevin knows the 28 year-old veteran very well from their days in Chicago. Leddy is stronger defensively than Gostisbehere and he has tons of experience. He has three years remaining to his contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million. In my opinion, he would be the perfect fit in Montreal, allowing just enough time for Romanov to properly develop.

June 15th

The past two seasons, Bergevin and the Canadiens have pulled the trigger on major trades on June 15th. Two years ago, Bergevin shipped Sergachev to Tampa Bay for Drouin. Last year, Galchenyuk was sent packing to welcome Domi to Montreal. The year before, June 24th was a big day when Lars Eller went to Washington for picks, and Shaw came to Montreal, also for picks. That year, the BIG trade happened on June 29th, a trade that some fans have yet to digest.

So the next few days, few weeks, will be very exciting if you’re a Habs’ fan. Keep a close eye on Bergevin but please, please take every rumour with a grain of salt, even the one mentioned above. The rule of thumb is: if it doesn’t come from Bob McKenzie, Pierre Lebrun, Elliotte Friedman or Darren Dreger, there’s a very good chance that it’s not true. Oh and one last thing: remember to follow this simple guide not to get caught up with fake Twitter accounts! Go Habs Go!