Buyers Beware: The Worst Contracts On All 30 NHL Teams

Is David Clarkson signed to the worst contract in the NHL? (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Is David Clarkson signed to the worst contract in the NHL? (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

On Thursday night the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off a move that everyone thought would be impossible: trading forward David Clarkson and his mammoth five year contract worth an average of $5.25 million, widely considered to be the worst contract in the entire NHL.

Clarkson was improbably moved to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for injured forward Nathan Horton, in a deal that actually turned out to work very well for both teams. Leafs fans were uncontrollably jubilant, originally thinking that they’d always be stuck with a player that would never live up to his contract.

Clarkson is hardly the only player in the NHL with an albatross contract, though. Let’s now take a look around the league and see which contracts are the worst on their respective teams by measuring both term and cap hit (annual average value, or AAV). All salary numbers courtesy of and all possession numbers courtesy of

Anaheim Ducks: Clayton Stoner – $3.25 million AAV until 2017/2018

Stoner isn’t exactly an integral part of Anaheim’s blueline. He’s 7th in terms of average ice time per game, puts up average possession numbers despite favourable zone starts, and isn’t an offensive threat, with only six assists in 54 games.

Arizona Coyotes: Mike Smith – $5.6 million AAV until 2018/2019

Mike Smith has fallen far this year after three strong NHL seasons and an Olympic Gold Medal as the third string goalie for Team Canada in 2014. With a porous .895 save percentage, the Coyotes are desperately hoping that Smith rebounds next year and beyond.

Boston Bruins: Dennis Seidenberg – $4 million AAV until 2017/2018

Once one of the most reliable defenseman on a Stanley Cup-winning team, Seidenberg is starting to look a little older at 33 years-old. He’s a -4.9 CorsiRel, last among Bruins defensemen.

Buffalo Sabres: Josh Gorges – $3.9 million AAV until 2017/2018

Cody Hodgson was a close second for this one, but it never looks good to be the second worst CF% player in the entire NHL. Hard to look good on a team this young and bad, though.

Calgary Flames: Ladislav Smid – $3.5 million AAV until 2016/2017

Injuries certainly haven’t helped, but there’s no denying that Smid hasn’t been a particularly good value player on Calgary’s third defensive pair. Bad possession numbers in spite of easy minutes don’t look good when you’re making more than three million per season.

Alex Semin is getting paid a lot of money to be a regular healthy scratch [Photo by Andy Martin Jr]
Alex Semin is getting paid a lot of money to be a regular healthy scratch [Photo by Andy Martin Jr]
Carolina Hurricanes: Alexander Semin: $7 million AAV until 2017/2018

With only two goals in 37 games and numerous healthy scratches, this one’s not even close. If Semin doesn’t turn his game around as soon as possible his contract might become an albatross of Clarkson proportions.

Chicago Blackhawks: Marian Hossa – $5.2 million AAV until 2020/2021

Hossa has had an incredible NHL career, but is showing signs of slowing down in 2014, with 46 points in 63 games. His contract is still rather fair value right now, but will that still be the case in three or four years?

Colorado Avalanche: Brad Stuart – $3.6 million AAV until 2016/2017

Stuart brings a lot of experience to the table, but the Avalanche can’t be too thrilled with a 35 year-old that’s posting possession stats near the very bottom of the league.

Columbus Blue Jackets: David Clarkson – $5.2 million AAV until 2019/2020

The Blue Jackets have a few iffy contracts, but at this point, could it be anyone else?

Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen – $5.9 million AAV until 2017/2018

At 31 years old and with his save percentage plummeting from a .919 down to a .905, it’s time for the Stars to start worrying about their netminding. What happens if Lehtonen’s days as an elite goalie in this league are behind him?

Detroit Red Wings: Johan Franzen – $3.9 million AAV until 2019/2020

None of the Wings’ contracts are particularly worthy of derision, but Franzen could end up being a cap liability if his already 35 year-old body continues to face injury problems.

Edmonton Oilers: Andrew Ference – $3.2 million AAV until 2016/2017

Ference’s contract might be high, but he’s earning every penny by taking hard defensive responsibilities for a struggling, tumultuous organization.  Need to spend a little extra to get veteran players to stay in Edmonton right now.

Florida Panthers: Dave Bolland – $5.5 million AAV until 2018/2019

Much like Ference in Edmonton, sometimes you need to pay a high price to attract veterans to a young, rebuilding team. Bolland shouldn’t really be the team’s highest-paid forward, but he is still a reliable 3rd line center with a ton of experience to offer.

voynov kings
The Kings have been trying all season to find a way around Slava Voynov’s cap hit (Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

Los Angeles Kings: Slava Voynov – $4.1 million AAV until 2018/2019

There’s a good chance that Voynov never steps foot on NHL ice again after his off-ice arrest, so the Kings are exploring every possible avenue to get out from under this long, expensive deal.

Minnesota Wild: Niklas Backstrom – $3.4 million AAV until 2015/2016

He only has one year left to go, but Backstrom is still the biggest cap challenge for the Wild. The Wild want to re-sign Devan Dubnyk and use Darcy Kuemper as the backup, but will any other team take the risk and trade for Backstrom?

Montreal Canadiens: Lars Eller – $3.5 million AAV until 2017/2018

His organization stands behind him, but Eller still needs to be a more impactful 3rd line player to truly justify his big price tag. 17 points and bad possession numbers don’t quite cut it.

Nashville Predators: Erik Nystrom – $2.5 million AAV until 2016/2017

The Predators are pretty sensible with their money overall, but could use more out of Nystrom for the next two years. His CF% is an ugly 43.8%, but in his defense, starting 56% of your shifts in the defensive zone is no easy task for anyone.

New Jersey Devils: Ryane Clowe – $4.8 million AAV until 2017/2018

With serious concussion issues limiting his 2014/2015 season to only 13 games, Clowe’s career is in serious jeopardy. Three years is enough time to stage a comeback, but will his health permit that chance to even happen?

New York Islanders: Mikhail Grabovski – $5 million AAV until 2017/2018

Nothing particularly egregious for the Islanders right now, but $5 million for your third best center is a lot. Grabovski is still trying to find where he really fits on this roster.

New York Rangers: Daniel Girardi – $5.5 million AAV until 2019/2020

Girardi is making too much money considering he only plays the 3rd most defensive zone starts on his team, but at the same time posts the worst CorsiFor percentage, at 47.2%. Five more years could be a long, long time for the Rangers.

Ottawa Senators: Milan Michalek – $4 million AAV until 2016/2017

Michalek is the second highest paid forward in Ottawa, but ranks 7th in terms of points. His 35-goal season in 2011/2012 seems like ages ago.

Philadelphia Flyers: Andrew MacDonald – $5 million AAV until 2019/2020

This contract was ridiculed the day it was signed, and for good reason. MacDonald himself is fine as a below-average second pair defenseman, but his cap hit and term are absurd.

Rob Scuderi gets paid quite handsomely for the veteran experience that he brings to the Penguins (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Rob Scuderi gets paid quite handsomely for the veteran experience that he brings to the Penguins (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh Penguins: Rob Scuderi – $3.3 million AAV until 2016/2017

With below average possession numbers despite favourable zone starts and quality of competition, the Pens are paying Scuderi a lot to be a veteran mentor for the team’s young defensemen. Could be a hard contract to justify over the next two seasons.

San Jose Sharks: Mike Brown – $1.2 million AAV until 2015/2016

The Sharks don’t have any huge albatross contracts at the moment, but Brown doesn’t really provide much to the team’s 4th line. A million in cap space can be a difference-maker better spent elsewhere on the team.

St. Louis Blues: Paul Stastny – $7 million AAV until 2017/2018

The Blues really wanted free agent Stastny last summer and paid a very big price to win the sweepstakes. He’s still a good player, but that cap hit could look really bad in three years as younger players on the team start earning more.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Ryan Callahan – $5.8 million AAV until 2019/2020

The Lightning don’t really have any bad contracts whatsoever, but Callahan would probably be the closest. He’ll need to be a reliable second line forward for five more years to provide good value for Tampa Bay.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Stephane Robidas – $3 million AAV until 2016/2017

There were a lot of bad contract options to pick from in Toronto, but risk pushes Robidas to the top of the list. It’s pretty unpredictable to commit for two more years to a 37 year-old that suffered two broken legs last season.

Vancouver Canucks: Alexandre Burrows – $4.5 million AAV until 2016/2017

Burrows has lost a step over the last few years, and at 33 years old you have to wonder how high of a level he can play at over the next two seasons

Washington Capitals: Brooks Orpik – $5.5 million AAV until 2018/2019

Orpik has fit in this season exactly how the Capitals intended him to, but how long can it last? His cap hit right now works well, but Orpik’s play is probably going to drop off a lot over the next four years.

Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec – $3.9 million AAV until 2016/2017

Pavelec is already the second best goalie in Winnipeg, so the Jets look like they’ll have a very expensive backup on their hands over the next two seasons.

24 thoughts on “Buyers Beware: The Worst Contracts On All 30 NHL Teams”

  1. Are you on crack? Every single team would pay that price for Hossa. Come watch him every night like we do. The guy does it all. Period!!!! Hawks fans love him, Best backchecker in the league bar none. Work ethic is superb, His team mates rave about him.

  2. i like how people calling Smith an Olympic goalie, he was third string and didn’t even play. He had ONE good year, other than that he just finished seasons strong or was hurt half the time. Getting 6 million dollars a year he sure does throw out a lot of excuses as to why he has a .890 save percentage….. “It’s the team in front of him” Say that to Rinne.

  3. Seriously, Orpik for Washington? He has played top line minutes on a great defensive pairing and because of his solid play his partner has been able to be a top offensive defenseman. In the long term this deal could become horrible, but right now its actually pretty good. He has been near the top of the league in hits and blocked shots all season.
    Why not look a little deeper beyond the low hanging fruit everyone has beat up on before? I mean, why not go to Brooks Laich’s contract if you still want to beat up on someone named Brooks. Over 5M a year for a guy that is frequently injured and doesn’t score any more. I still like Laich as a fan favorite, but he no longer is a 20+G player, he cannot play PP minutes anymore like he used to, and he is the only one on the shutdown line who cannot put the puck in the net this season. There’s your bad contract.

    • I take it you are a Canucks fan. Also, you must be spending too much time with your dictionary. I suggest you watch him play. Thrilled he is on my team.

  4. I also notice Clayton Stoner up there wish he would stay with the Wild as a 5th or 6th D but no way in He!! the Wild was going to match the ducks 3.25 mi for a 3nd line D can’t blame him for leaving and signing with ducks I would have done the same.

  5. Chicago Blackhawks: Marian Hossa – $5.2 million AAV until 2020/2021

    Hossa has had an incredible NHL career, but is showing signs of slowing down in 2014, with 46 points in 63 games. His contract is still rather fair value right now, but will that still be the case in three or four years?

    This a great contract Hossa has his two stanley cups has nothing to prove and has been outstanding for the hawks and may retire in a couple of years.

  6. Glad Backstorm contract is up this yr that will help the Wild free up some cap space sign some of their young talent.

  7. What’s the point of including guys on the “bad” contracts list only to state they are doing well NOW? If you are going to point to several years down the, why include said contracts on the list?

  8. I feel that the writer is wrong in the Predators case Victor Stalberg is the worst contract he is in the AHL and is drawing a salary of 3.5 million

  9. Seriously? Hossa and Franzen is on here? Any idea how much invaluable defense Hossa plays? For Hossa to be on here is a complete joke. Franzen’s contract makes it all worth it in the playoffs.

    • Especially when they write that Hossa’s contract is still rather fair value now. When they do this article again in the 3-4 years they suggest Hossa’s deal won’t be fair value, I can see including him.

    • I was thinking much the same. Bickell’s and Crawford’s contracts are far worse for the Blackhawks.

  10. Grabovski from NYI is also on IR due to his second concussion of the season. Contract fine or no, it’s kind of a moot point if he can play, produce, and justify.

  11. I am a long time diehard Kings fan. Slava’s contract is bad but only runs thru 2019 and his AAV is far less than Dustin Brown. Brown’s contract is far worse – not even close: Brown’s contract is a KILLER and makes him untradeable. He gets $7.25M this year and next. $7M in ’16. $6.5M in ’17. $5.5M in ’18/19 and $4M in 20/21 and he is a UFA after 21-22 season when he will be almost 38 when the 21-22 season ends. His contract is BRUTAL

      • Not to defend Lombardi here but Richards was a team captain in the past and it was expected for him to both lead play well into his 30s. His body hasn’t held up to that and who knows what he’s up to off-ice. He had a reputation in Philly of being a party boy and it would appear that hasn’t changed.

    • Agree. Also missing was Richards’ contract… over $4M cap hit, and he isn’t even playing on the team…

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