Unfavorable Deals-Assessing the Most Questionable Contracts Across All NHL Teams
Source: wcvb.com

Unfavorable Deals: Assessing the Most Questionable Contracts Across All NHL Teams

Considering how many NHL fans are out there and how many young kids also dream of becoming professional athletes, no wonder that most people are interested only in the most successful players. However, every team in the league has a contract on the books that is questionable. This article will take a look at each team’s worst contract.

While the highest paid NHL players undoubtedly shape each team’s future, the poorly performing players do exactly the same thing and this is why it makes sense to pay attention to how much the team pays for undermining its capabilities – not only for increasing them.

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins: Charlie Coyle

After an exceptional season, picking a bad contract on the Boston Bruins is a challenge. Charlie Coyle’s deal isn’t among the worst, but in a team with few notable bad contracts, it stands out a bit. Despite early-season bias, he remains a solid contributor in Boston’s middle six.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky

Despite Bobrovsky’s pivotal role in the Florida Panthers’ Presidents’ Trophy win and Stanley Cup Final appearance, his inclusion here boils down to cost versus performance. While stellar at times, his high price tag remains disproportionate to his overall output, a lingering concern despite his standout moments.

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares

Toronto Maple Leafs - John Tavares
Source: puckprose.com

While John Tavares remains a solid NHL center, his seventh-highest cap hit poses a challenge for the Maple Leafs. Approaching the end of his prime, Tavares’ output is expected to decline, complicating financial plans as Matthews secures an impressive deal. Navigating Tavares’ contract adds complexity to renewing Marner and Nylander, haunting the Maple Leafs.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mikhail Sergachev

With three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning excels in roster construction. Picking a “bad” contract is tough, especially post-McDonagh trade. Yet, Sergachev’s eight-year extension raises slight concern. While a talented young player, he’s inconsistent, yet to solidify himself as truly elite.

Detroit Red Wings: Ben Chiarot

In just one year of his four-year deal, his performance disappoints. Many saw the deal as a bad idea from the start. Chiarot wasn’t a game-changer for a rebuilding team’s defense. Now, impulsive free-agent spending haunts them, revealing the consequences they foresaw.

Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner

Skinner’s initial 40-goal season in Buffalo led to a profitable eight-year, $72 million deal. Despite consistent production around 63 points, the contract feels steep on a team with few financial mistakes. If Skinner maintains his performance, the overpay may fade in a few years.

Ottawa Senators: Josh Norris

Ottawa Senators: Josh Norris
Source: senshot.com

Identifying a “concerning” contract with the Ottawa Senators proves challenging, but Josh Norris’s deal stands out. Despite his potential, persistent shoulder injuries sidelined him for much of 2022-23, sparking doubts about durability. The eight-year, $63.6 million commitment reflects Ottawa’s faith in his future, yet current uncertainties cloud that vision. If Norris rebounds in 2024-24, perspectives may shift.

Montreal Canadiens: Josh Anderson

Montreal swiftly signed him post-Blue Jackets acquisition, drawing criticism for a lengthy contract with a player boasting just one 30+ point season. After three seasons, the risk hasn’t paid off. Anderson’s health struggles resulted in a mere 88 points and a concerning minus-43 plus/minus. Amid a clear rebuild, his contract lingers, potentially outlasting Montreal’s rebuild.

Metropolitan Division

New York Rangers: Barclay Goodrow

While Goodrow adds value, his overly lengthy contract raises eyebrows. With limited cap space and promising youngsters needing extensions, the Rangers face future financial issues. Success in the short term masks potential regrets if, in years four or five, Goodrow impedes crucial moves during their Cup pursuit.

Philadelphia Flyers: Rasmus Ristolainen

Philadelphia Flyers - Rasmus Ristolainen
Source: phillyhockeynow.com

Rasmus Ristolainen represents the type of player GMs view through a distinct lens. He narrowly escapes this list due to Philly’s array of weird contracts. While deals for Hayes, Provorov, and Hart make some sense, Ristolainen’s never did, spelling impending dismay for Flyers faithful.

Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Once a standout in Washington’s core, Kuznetsov, a former postseason points leader, faced a dip. Despite a recent 78-point season, off-ice issues strained relations, diminishing his $7.8 million value. Capitals aim to part ways this summer, seeking a taker for the 30-year-old Russian.

Carolina Hurricanes: Brent Burns

While Burns remains a point producer and had a stellar season in Raleigh, his ranking reflects the team’s clean contract situation rather than his value. At 38, his prime is in the past, though he’s still a solid player. Others may cite Kotkaniemi’s deal, but at 22, he’s a valuable defensive forward. Burns’s contract tops the list, but he’s still highly capable.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Erik Karlsson

Despite being the reigning Norris Trophy winner and a marquee offseason acquisition, Karlsson owns one of the league’s most problematic contracts. While his recent success is undeniable, the highest-paid defenseman struggles with effective defense, making his deal contentious despite a stellar 101-point season in 2022-23.

New Jersey Devils: Ondřej Palát

New Jersey Devils: Ondřej Palát
Source: pucksandpitchforks.com

Despite missing out on Gaudreau, the Devils aimed for impact with Stanley Cup veteran Ondřej Palát, signing him to a $30 million, five-year deal. While the team excelled, Palát’s injury-laden season saw him contribute just 23 points in 49 games. If he bounces back, the Devils strengthen; if not, a $6 million annual cost lingers.

New York Islanders: Kyle Palmieri

When the Islanders signed Kyle Palmieri to a $20 million, four-year extension, questions arose about investing in a player on the decline. His first season validated concerns, ranking ninth in team points. Cap-conscious, every dollar matters; Palmieri’s contract appears unnecessary baggage for the Islanders.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Elvis Merzlikins

Merzlikins garners widespread admiration, but his recent on-ice performance falls short. Despite being the 11th-highest-paid goalie, his stats are troubling: a 7-18-2 record, .876 save percentage, and a 4.23 goals-against average. With substantial time and money left on his contract, a turnaround is crucial for the Blue Jackets’ future.

Central Division

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin

Public criticism is rare, yet Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin faced it twice. Seguin’s 50 points in 79 games, while decent, ranked 6th on the team. For someone earning such high pay, especially with four more years ahead, it falls short of expectations.

Colorado Avalanche: Miles Wood

Colorado Avalanche: Miles Wood
Source: coloradohockeynow.com

The Colorado Avalanche, blessed with top stars like Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, face cap challenges. Extending contracts to Devon Toews and Bowen Byram is imminent. To navigate this, they made unique moves, but signing Miles Wood for six years at $15 million seems questionable. Wood suits shorter deals; a six-year commitment doesn’t align.

Winnipeg Jets: Neal Pionk

While the Winnipeg Jets lack terrible contracts, Neal Pionk’s defensive prowess falls short. Earning $5.875 million annually for two more seasons, his poor defensive metrics and insufficient offensive contribution raise questions about justifying the nearly $6 million investment in him.

St. Louis Blues: Colton Parayko

Signing Parayko to a $52-million extension, the Blues aimed for a defensive steal after an injury-ridden season. While he’s not subpar, Parayko falls short of the Blues’ needs. The gamble on a discounted top-tier defenseman might not be paying off as expected.

Arizona Coyotes: Lawson Crouse

Crouse, a promising 26-year-old with back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons, lacks standout metrics, managing only 45 points per season. While his contract isn’t terrible, committing four years at a solid cap hit seems too high for a player without a clear “it” factor. In a team with healthy accounts, Crouse’s deal stands out.

Minnesota Wild: Frédérick Gaudreau

Minnesota Wild: Frédérick Gaudreau
Source: hockeywilderness.com

While Gaudreau hasn’t underperformed for the Wild—reaching a career-high 19 goals in 2022-23—the five-year commitment to a 30-year-old seems perplexing. Perhaps addressing cap concerns, GM Guerin opted for a longer deal, but whether Gaudreau was the ideal choice for such a commitment remains a valid question.

Nashville Predators: Ryan McDonagh

Nashville’s roster is a puzzle – a mix of vets, depth players, and lesser-known youngsters, leaving their intent, compete or rebuild, unclear. Ryan McDonagh, once a stalwart, now seems misplaced. Without promising young defensemen to guide, he’s become a pricey, aging presence on the team.

Chicago Blackhawks: Seth Jones

Jones isn’t a bad player; last season, metrics rated him as a plus defender, though slightly lacking offensively at even strength. However, his contract isn’t justified on any team, especially considering the Blackhawks’ current situation. Despite entering the Connor Bedard era with non-competitive expectations, Jones’s contract might pose challenges during Bedard’s prime.

Pacific Division

Vegas Golden Knights: Adin Hill

Vegas Golden Knights - Adin Hill
Source: thehockeynews.com

Adin Hill’s fresh two-year, $9.8 million deal isn’t the league’s worst, but it’s notably ironic. While the cost for two years isn’t alarming, it’s a peculiar choice for this franchise, raising eyebrows about the decision-making process.

Vancouver Canucks: Ilya Mikheyev

The Canucks signed Mikheyev from Toronto to a four-year, $19 million deal, raising eyebrows. Unfortunately, a mid-season ACL tear derailed his debut, now focusing on recovery. With an expensive player and a history of serious injuries, the Canucks face challenges with Mikheyev.

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty

While Drew Doughty’s legacy with the Los Angeles Kings and future Hall of Fame induction remain unquestioned, his current output doesn’t align with his hefty cap hit, ranked eighth-highest in the league. Despite still logging substantial ice time and contributing points, his point share has declined significantly from past seasons.

Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Strome

Anaheim’s big move in free agency brought Ryan Strome on a $25 million, five-year contract. Unfortunately, his debut season proved underwhelming. While some argue John Gibson’s deal is worse, the defense’s struggles make judgment complex. Alex Killorn’s $6.25 million, four-year deal is still in early evaluation. For now, Strome’s contract stands out as the least favorable.

Seattle Kraken: Philipp Grubauer

Seattle Kraken-Philipp Grubauer
Source: spokesman.com

While the Kraken’s playoff feat in their second NHL season shines, Grubauer’s goaltending struggle persists. Despite a modest uptick in the 2022-23 season, his $5.9 million salary remains hard to justify. A top-tier goalie could elevate the Kraken to contender status, but Grubauer might be the weight holding this sea monster back.

Calgary Flames: Jonathan Huberdeau

Jonathan Huberdeau’s debut season with the Calgary Flames was unexpectedly dire. His point total plummeted by more than half to 55, with just 15 goals. Ranking fifth in team points, the Flames missed the playoffs after winning the Pacific Division, marking a profound disappointment for both Huberdeau and the Flames.

Edmonton Oilers: Evander Kane

The team swiftly signed Kane to a four-year, $20.5 million extension, banking on his reputation. Yet, the outcome fell short. Limited to 41 games, he netted 16 goals at a minus-4, with weak metrics. While a healthy season might revive him, the extension’s success is dubious. Amidst a team with few regrettable contracts, Kane’s appears abnormal.

San Jose Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Young GM Mike Grier achieved the near-impossible, trading Karlsson without sacrificing future assets. Yet, he faces an uphill battle to free the Sharks from the burden of his predecessors’ numerous bad contracts. The groundwork is laid, but the journey to financial recovery remains.

Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignspolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com