The NHL silly season is almost complete and as always, a number of the contracts handed out in the last couple of days will backfire on the teams that offered them. Past examples range from the “probably a bad idea” Andrew Ladd contract the Islanders signed last year to the “definitely regret that one” Ryan Callahan contract handed out by the Lightning in 2014 to the “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING” David Clarkson contract signed with Toronto in 2013.
Let’s take a look at the top-six recently signed contracts most likely to backfire:
No. 6: Patrick Marleau – Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto signed Marleau to a three-year, $6.25 million AAV contract. On the positive side, Marleau is extremely durable, having not missed a single game in the last eight seasons and he has scored 25 or more goals almost every year since 2002. However, his point totals have dropped the past four seasons (70, 57, 48, 46) and he will be 38 years old at the start of the 2017-18 season.
At $6.25 million, it’s a lot to pay a 45-50 point player as most players making over $6 million score closer to 60 points. It’s not the value that bothers me though, it’s the term. The third year of the contract will be in 2019, by which time Auston Mathews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander will have been re-signed and the $6.25 million in cap space used for Marleau will cause problems. There is plenty of speculation that Lou Lamoriello will make that problem go away:
What odds would you set that Marleau doesn't play a shift for the Leafs in year three of this deal?
— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) July 2, 2017
Someone pointed out: Marleau's bonuses mean that he can play for 2 years, get paid $17.5M through 7/2/2019, accept trade to Vegas, retire
— Driving Play (@DrivingPlay) July 2, 2017
However, Marleau does have a full no movement clause so the power is in his hands and this contract could cause issues for the Leafs in 2019 as Marleau turns 40.
No. 5: Nick Bonino – Nashville Predators
The Predators must have liked what they saw from Bonino in the Stanley Cup Final as they signed him to a four-year, $4.1 million AAV contract. This is an example of a team overpaying for Stanley Cup experience.
Bonino has topped 39 points just once in his NHL career and he wins less than half of his faceoffs. His advanced statistics are below average as he had a 46% 5v5 Corsi For in 2016-17 that dropped to less than 40% in the playoffs. Essentially, he’s a third line caliber centre that is now being paid like a second line centre.
No. 4: Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price signed an eight-year, $10.5 million AAV contract extension with Montreal.
- Is Carey Price the best goaltender in the League? Yes.
- If I were Marc Bergevin would I do the same thing? Absolutely. He didn’t have much of a choice.
- Will it backfire in six-to-eight years? Almost definitely.
There’s no doubting Price’s value to the Canadiens. He captured the Vezina and Hart trophies in 2014-15 leading Montreal to a division title. Then he was injured for the majority of 2015-16 and the Habs finished sixth in the division, proving he really was the MVP. Back to health in 2016-17, Price led the Habs to another division title. He’s arguably the single most valuable player to his team outside of Connor McDavid.
The problem lies in the length of the contract and Price’s age. He is 29 now and this contract will take him to age 37. The closest comparable is Henrik Lundqvist, an elite goalie who signed a seven-year, $8.5 million AAV contract in 2014. Lundqvist has been a lock for a GAA of less than 2.50 and a save percentage above .920 his entire career, but at age 34 in 2016-17 his numbers worsened to the tune of a 2.74 GAA and .910 save percentage. Roberto Luongo also had a down year in 2016-17 at age 37.
To make matters worse, when Price is 37 years old and costing $10.5 million against the cap, Shea Weber will still be under contract at age 39 with a $7.875 million AAV.
No. 3: Dan Girardi – Tampa Bay Lightning
Dan Girardi was bought out by the Rangers on June 14, 2017, and was then signed to a two-year, $3 million AAV contract by Tampa Bay. Girardi isn’t the only player to be bought out and then sign a contract with a new team but he signed for a whole lot more than the rest of them:
- Mike Cammalleri – one-year, $1 million
- Scott Hartnell – one-year, $1 million
- Antti Niemi – one-year, $700,000
- Benoit Pouliot – one-year, $1.15 million
It appears that Tampa Bay paid more than double what they should have. Could Girardi be bought out twice in two years? If he keeps playing like this he could be:
No. 2: Dmitry Kulikov – Winnipeg Jets
What do five points and a rating of minus-26 in 47 games get you? Apparently, a three-year, $4.33 million AAV contract with the Jets if you’re Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov’s first three seasons in the NHL were promising but he hasn’t made any progress since. He’s still only 26 years old but after eight fairly mediocre NHL seasons, it’s hard to see him suddenly improve enough in Winnipeg to justify this salary.
This horrendous contract is the sole reason that Karl Alzner didn’t make this list (though that signing was questionable), as an extra two years and $295k is nothing to upgrade from Kulikov to Alzner.
No. 1: Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals
Kuznetsov signed an eight-year, $7.8 million AAV contract with the Captials, making him the 15th highest paid forward in the League. This outrageously high contract, combined with Washington’s recent re-signings of T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov forced the Capitals to have to trade away a useful player in Marcus Johansson and they will still be stretched to re-sign Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer.
Let’s play the comparison game with this contract. First, it’s a similar contract to the eight-year, $7.5 million AAV contract signed by Vladimir Tarasenko in 2015. The issue here is that Tarasenko is a much better player. The past three seasons, Tarasenko has scored at least 37 goals and 73 points per year, while Kuznetsov had one year at 20 goals and 77 points but then dropped back down to 59 points in 2016-17.
A second comparable is Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau’s point totals the past two seasons are similar to Kuznetsov’s with 78 points in 2015-16 followed by 61 this past year. Gaudreau is on a six-year, $6.75 million AAV contract signed in 2016, which is more along the lines of the contract Kuznetsov should have received. Washington overpaid by about $1 million per year.
I understand that I am comparing a centre to wingers here but still. Who would you rather have?
I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for THW and a fantasy sports guru (hockey and football). I have a BBA and MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University and my day job is as a finance manager for a fortune 500 company. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org