Every NHL Team’s Worst Contract

In the modern NHL, contract and salary cap management may be more critical than ever. With the cap kept flat due to the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams need to be thinking not only about the here and now, but about the long-term implications of any contract they sign. General managers who can minimize bad contracts will likely be the GMs who find the most success.

However, every team in the league has a contract on the books that is questionable, no matter how good their GM. This article will take a look at each team’s worst contract, with two things in mind. First, contracts evolve. In most of these cases, the team would likely not sign the same deal knowing what they know now. So we will attempt to establish why these contracts were signed when they were signed.

Second, and in the same line, these deals tend to become albatrosses because of injury, reduced performance, or aging. So all of these opinions are written with due respect to the players who, for the most part, were once-great NHL players who earned these contracts at the time.

Every NHL Team's worst contract Erik Karlsson, John Tavares, and Jeff Skinner

(The bolded text below each player name displays the term remaining on the contract, including the 2020-21 season, as well as the AAV and any no-trade clauses (NTC) or no-movement clauses (NMC) the deals contain.)

Anaheim Ducks: Adam Henrique

(Four years, $5.825 million, with M-NTC)

The Anaheim Ducks are deep in the process of a rebuild that could be painful, and they are likely to finish as one of the bottom-five teams in the league. One thing that hasn’t helped is general manager Bob Murray’s tendency to sign aging players to lengthy contracts. As such, the Ducks have a few candidates for worst contract, including Jakob Silfverberg (30, four years, $5.25 million AAV) and Cam Fowler (29, six years, $6.5 million AAV).

But Adam Henrique takes the nod here by an edge, especially after the Ducks waived him earlier in the season. Henrique is a perfectly fine middle-six center who has managed seven consecutive forty-plus point seasons. But those just aren’t numbers that justify a price tag that nears $6 million and, as the waiver attempt makes clear, the Ducks have been unhappy with that production. Especially with the flat cap, contracts like that are troublesome, and they’ll be hard-pressed to unload it.

Arizona Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

(Seven years, $8.25 million, with NMC)

The Arizona Coyotes were faced with a difficult decision when the summer of 2018 came around: extend Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or be forced to trade another star player from a young team. They chose to lock him up, signing him to an eight-year contract with an $8.25 million price tag. That decision may haunt them.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona Coyotes
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Since signing his contract, the team did name Ekman-Larsson captain. But otherwise, they’ve seen diminishing returns. This season, the former two-time 20 goal scorer has just two goals and is minus-15. What’s more, he is second-worst on the team in on-ice expected goals for percentage (xGF%). That’s simply not acceptable for a team leader whose AAV makes him the eighth-highest paid defenseman in the league.

Boston Bruins: Charlie Coyle

(Six years, $5.25 million, with M-NTC, then NMC)

Charlie Coyle’s contract is hardly one of the worst in the NHL, but on a team that has very few notable bad contracts, his still stands out a bit. The Massachusetts native hasn’t reached the 40-point threshold in any of the last four seasons but was a huge contributor in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup the season he came over from the Minnesota Wild. Unfortunately, it was that recency bias that influenced his contract early in the next season. Coyle is still a fine player and a solid contributor in Boston’s middle six. But a $5.25 million annual commitment to a player who isn’t regularly adding 40 points is a stretch, and on a team with very strong contract management overall, it’s a deal that stands out.

Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner

(Seven years, $9 million, with NMC)  

Some contracts feel like a stretch the moment they are signed. Some contracts look fatal because of the early returns after they are signed. Jeff Skinner’s contract with the Buffalo Sabres falls into both categories. Skinner scored 40 goals in his first season with Buffalo, and as a pending-Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), general manager Jason Botterill felt like he had to keep his star winger. But the eight-year, $72 million deal he signed always seemed like a steep price tag whose career high was 63 points (which he hit three times).

Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately, Skinner’s performance didn’t justify the deal he’d signed. He managed just 23 points the following season in 59 games, with a minus-22 rating. His results in 2020-21 were even worse. As of this writing, he has just nine points in 40 games. Skinner’s repeated early-season healthy scratches helped spark head coach Ralph Krueger’s ouster in March. there’s no obvious solution for Skinner’s future in Buffalo, and, as the team seems mired in a perpetual rebuild, contracts like his will continue to be an albatross that hold them back.

Calgary Flames: Milan Lucic

(Three years, $5.25 million, NMC)

Milan Lucic’s contract with the Calgary Flames is a bit unique, in that the Flames knew they were acquiring a cumbersome deal when they swapped James Neal for Lucic in 2019. Both veteran players had worn out their welcome with their clubs and carried bad contracts, and each franchise thought a change of scenery might be the best solution. Lucic just played his 1,000th career game and celebrated it as a Flame. He provides the veteran leadership and grit he always has, but the offensive contributions are a thing of the past. Still, unless Lucic retires, Calgary will have to ride out the rest of this deal.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jordan Staal

(Three years, $6 million, with NMC)

The Hurricanes are another team without a truly terrible contract. Jordan Staal is the team captain and a veteran of over 570 games with the franchise, and this season, his offense has even returned somewhat, with 31 points in just 40 games. But $6 million for two more seasons is still a steep price tag to pay for a middle-six two-way forward. Like with Coyle, this is more the worst contract on a generally responsible team than a truly bad contract.

Chicago Blackhawks: Duncan Keith

(Three years, $5.538 million, NMC)

With the news earlier this season that Brent Seabrook would not be returning to the NHL again, and therefore that his contract could permanently move to Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), the distinction of the Chicago Blackhawks’ worst contract moves to Seabrook’s longtime defensive partner Duncan Keith. There’s no questioning Keith’s importance to the franchise: he’s played close to 1,200 games, all with Chicago. But at this point in his career, he isn’t playing up to his contract any longer.

Chris Kunitz, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Chicago Blackhawks’ Chris Kunitz, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Keith still plays as one of the Blackhawks’ top defensemen, logging over 23 minutes a game. But the once dangerous offensive defenseman is down to just 14 points in 44 games so far this season. It is natural for a great team to have bad contracts at the end of a dynasty’s life cycle. Keith clearly falls into that category. No one is claiming he didn’t earn his contract, but as he’s aged, the value of the deal has gotten worse.

Colorado Avalanche: Erik Johnson

(Three years, $6 million, M-NTC/NMC)  

Erik Johnson, when healthy, is still a stalwart defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche. But health has been harder to come by for the defenseman, who has managed only four games this season. That still might not be too much of a concern, but with the expansion draft looming, Johnson has a no-movement clause (NMC) that could force the Avalanche to protect him in the upcoming Seattle expansion draft, unless he chooses to waive it. This contract isn’t crippling, but it could leave his team in a vulnerable position, and that makes it troublesome for general manager Joe Sakic.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Gustav Nyquist

(Three years, $5.5 million)

Gustav Nyquist is still a fine NHL player, assuming he can recover from the torn labrum surgery that forced him to miss the 2020-21 season. He managed 42 points in 70 games in his first season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But one can’t fully escape the feeling that he was a panic free agent signing for a franchise in a pinch.

Gustav Nyquist Columbus Blue Jackets
Gustav Nyquist, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Blue Jackets signed Nyquist, the franchise had just lost two stars and several deadline acquisitions to free agency. Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky were gone, and while the team’s decision to load up for one final playoff run did result in their first-ever trip to the second round, the team’s core was dismantled immediately after. Nyquist was a UFA and willing to come to Columbus, so they signed him to a four-year, $22 million contract. The team has plenty of cap room still, but the Nyquist deal still feels like a knee-jerk reaction to trying circumstances.

Dallas Stars: Ben Bishop

(Three years, $4.9 million, with M-NTC/NMC)

One could argue that Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop has done nothing to deserve appearing on this list. When healthy, he’s been among the best goaltenders in the league. The issue is, he’s been healthy less and less in recent seasons. And his injuries seem to occur frequently at critical times. His absence late in the 2018 season may have cost the Stars a playoff berth. He played injured in the 2019 playoffs (though no one can question his performance in their Game 7 loss in the second round) and missed the entire following postseason run to the Stanley Cup Final. Now, he’s missed the entire 2020-21 season. Though the team can bury his cap hit on the LTIR, it still hurts that he can’t play. Even as good as Anton Khudobin has been, the Stars are better with Bishop healthy.

Detroit Red Wings: Danny DeKeyser

(Two years, $5 million, with M-NTC)

The Detroit Red Wings used to be a tangled web of terrible contracts, but through patience and the careful maneuvering of general manager Steve Yzerman, they are in the final years of most of their worst deals. Given that the team is rebuilding, and probably more concerned with hitting the cap floor than staying under the cap ceiling, none of the deals remaining on the books are especially hindering. But even so, Danny DeKeyser’s two remaining years at a $5 million AAV aren’t ideal.

Danny DeKeyser Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings, December 20, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

DeKeyser has played over 470 games with the Red Wings but has never quite lived up to the hype he had coming out as a college free agent when he originally signed with the team. Now, he is down to just 17:42 per game in the 2020-21 season, despite being paid like a top-pairing defenseman. And he’s only added eight points in 36 games. He’s not a bad player, and he can provide value to the team, but at a $5 million cap hit, he’s certainly overpriced.

Edmonton Oilers: Zack Kassian

(Four years, $3.2 million)

Zack Kassian’s four-year, $12.8 million contract is another that looked dubious from the very start. Sure, he signed it during what would become his second-consecutive 15-goal campaign with the Edmonton Oilers, a team desperate for secondary scoring beyond that provided by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. But Kassian was a journeyman grinder who had shown no ability to score consistently at that level. The bruising forward celebrated his new deal by receiving a seven-game suspension just weeks after signing it, and things haven’t gotten much better since. In 2020-21, Kassian has been invisible, with just five points in 24 games. He’s also worst on the team in xGF%. Three more seasons of this contract isn’t an exciting prospect, but GM Ken Holland has no one to blame but himself.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky

(Six years, $10 million, with NMC)

Sometimes, you take a big swing in free agency, and sometimes, it just doesn’t pay off. Sergei Bobrovsky was the top goaltender to hit UFA status in many years when the Florida Panthers signed him prior to the 2019-20 season, and they paid top dollar to pair him with new head coach Joel Quenneville. But, even while the Panthers have improved to become a top team in the league, the two-time Vezina Trophy center has been mediocre at best in his two seasons so far.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bobrokvsy’s numbers haven’t been horrendous in the 2020-21 season, as he carries a .907 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.85 goals-against average (GAA), with minus-0.7 goals saved above average (GSAA). Unfortunately, Chris Driedger has been a revelation behind him, and sports a 2.09 GAA and .927 SV%. Driedger will be a UFA in the summer, and the Panthers would likely be thrilled to re-sign him, protect him in the expansion draft, and bide their time until top prospect Spencer Knight is ready for the NHL. But Bobrovksy’s NMC will prevent that, unless he chooses to waive it, which seems unlikely. Knight is still the future, but the road to get there could be a rocky one with Bobrovsky between the pipes.

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty

(Seven years, $11 million, with NMC)  

Some might view this as a controversial choice, but they shouldn’t. No one is questioning Drew Doughty’s career contributions to the Los Angeles Kings, nor his Hall of Fame resume in the future. But at this point in his career, he is not producing anywhere near what he should for someone who carries the sixth-highest cap hit in the league (and the second-highest amongst defensemen. Spoiler alert: the one defenseman who surpasses him will also appear in this article).

Doughty has 30 points in 42 games this season, which is still fine. He logs 26:56 on average, which is among the highest numbers in the league. But his point share, which measures a player’s contribution to his team’s place in the standings, is down to 5.2, from career highs in the double digits for three consecutive seasons. At 5-on-5, he’s seventh on the team in on-ice Corsi for percentage (CF%) and 10th in xGF%. Those numbers are fine, they just aren’t elite. And an $11 million cap hit is far too high for anyone who is no longer elite. As the Kings approach the end of their rebuild, Doughty’s number could be a roadblock to their making the most of the years ahead.

Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

(Five years, $7.538 million, with NMC)

When the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98-million contracts, they thought they were signing the two players that would lead their franchise into a new generation. And while they may have achieved some success since the signings, the team has not reached the third round of the playoffs since 2003, so these acquisitions may not have had quite the impact they wanted.

Parise and Suter
What will be the lingering effects of signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise? (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Now, with both players at 36, the chances that these two will lead the team to a Stanley Cup are dwindling quickly. The years remaining on the contracts, on the other hand, are dwindling very slowly. Parise and Suter will likely reach retirement before they reach the end of their deals, and while that will provide some relief to the Wild until that day comes, these contracts will continue to be the worst on their team. While Kirill Kaprizov has brought a lot of excitement back to the Twin Cities, the franchise will continue to be handcuffed by these twin contracts.

Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price

(Six years, $10.5 million, with NMC)  

Though Carey Price maintains a reputation as the best goaltender in the NHL, the reality is, his numbers haven’t shown it lately. He’s had negative GSAA three of the last four seasons, and his SV% has remained sub-.910 for two straight campaigns. Yes, his workload is intense. But whether it’s age or exposure, he isn’t the goalie he once was. And at a cap hit tied for eighth-highest in the league and the highest among goaltenders, that’s a tough pill to swallow as Price enters his mid-30s.

Nashville Predators: Matt Duchene

(Six years, $8 million)

The Nashville Predators have a pair of $8 million cap hit contracts for their two top centers, both of whom are severely underperforming. But, as Matt Duchene’s deal is one season longer, and he seems to be performing worse than Ryan Johansen, he’ll take the edge here.

Matt Duchene Nashville Predators
Matt Duchene, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A lot of teams have made big mistakes in the pursuit of a true number one center, and Duchene’s seven-year, $56 million contract certainly seems to have been one. The speedster and former two-time 70-point scorer hit UFA status as one of the hottest free agents in years, especially coming off a strong showing with the Blue Jackets after having been acquired at the trade deadline. Despite the hype, the country music fan’s marriage with Nashville seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, the results have been more “Heartbreak Hotel” than “I Like It, I Love It.” He recorded just 42 points in his first season and currently has eight through 24 games in 2020-21. $1 million per point is lackluster output, to be sure, and unless Duchene turns it around, the Predators are stuck with one of the roughest contracts in the league.

New Jersey Devils: P.K. Subban

(Two years, $9 million)

P.K. Subban is still a star personality in the NHL, but he is far from the elite, Norris-caliber defenseman he was in Montreal, or even with the Predators. When the Devils acquired him for almost nothing in 2019 (ironically to free up cap space for the Predators so they could sign Duchene), they hoped he could be a veteran influence on a young team with two first-overall picks in Nico Hischier and the then-incoming Jack Hughes. Only the players can know whether he’s served that purpose, but he’s not the player he once was on the ice. And with limited bad contracts on the Devils, Subban was a clear choice for this list.

New York Islanders: Andrew Ladd

(Three years, $5.5 million, with M-NTC)

Like a few other players on this list, Andrew Ladd’s contract was bad right from the start. The Islanders gave Ladd a seven-year deal at 30 years old. Though Ladd had won two Stanley Cups in his career, his physical game was highly likely to age poorly.

And age poorly it has. His points totals have diminished season after season, and he has three years remaining at a $5.5 million cap hit. The Islanders briefly considered including Ladd in a deal that would bring back Zach Parise, but the complicated salary implications blocked it. This season, Ladd is buried on the taxi squad, which mitigates his cap hit somewhat; however, that won’t last forever, and without a buyout, the Islanders have two more seasons of this deal to get through.

New York Rangers: Anthony Deangelo

(Two years, $4.8 million)

Even before controversy overcame Anthony Deangelo, he was always a one-dimensional defenseman who was an offensive threat but a defensive liability. His 53 points in the 2019-20 season were impressive, but he was a frequent target of criticism for his play in his own zone.

Tony DeAngelo New York Rangers
Tony DeAngelo, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But Deangelo’s personal life and off-ice antics were the biggest issue in his career. A series of negative events culminating in a fight with his teammate led to his ultimately being waived by the team, but no team would take him. Deangelo will likely be bought out this summer, but until then, his contract is the worst on the team.

Ottawa Senators: Matt Murray

(Four years, $6.25 million)

The Ottawa Senators traded for Matt Murray and signed him to a four-year, $25 million contract extension betting that he would return to form as the two-time Stanley Cup winner that he once was. But early returns are not promising. In his first season, he has an .888 SV%, a 3.55 GAA, and minus-14.3 GSAA. He actually has delivered a quality start in more than half of his games but also has eight games defined as “really bad starts” (RBS) with a SV% below .850. The Senators are a young, rebuilding team who need to hit the salary cap floor, so Murray’s contract really doesn’t damage them terribly. But it is the worst of a few bad deals.

Philadelphia Flyers: Kevin Hayes

(Six years, $7.142 million, with NMC)

The Flyers are one of the harder teams on this list, unfortunately, because they have several roughly equally bad contracts on their front end. Shayne Gostisbehere is an easy target, but at just $4.5 million, his contract does not rival the three forwards worth considering. Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, and Kevin Hayes all have lengthy and expensive deals. And while the Flyers have struggled to gain traction with Giroux and Voracek as their best players for many years, Hayes‘ deal still feels like the outlier of the group.

Kevin Hayes Philadelphia Flyers
Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flyers signed Hayes to a seven-year, $50 million contract as a pending-UFA by first trading for his rights. The price tag of over $7 million per season immediately felt like an absurd stretch for a player who had only just passed the 50 point mark for the first time in his career, especially since the club tacked on a NMC. Hayes actually has fit in well in Philadelphia and is a beloved, heart-and-soul type player admired around the league. But that cap hit is still too much, especially in a flat-cap era. Plus, as a 6-foot-5, 216 pound, physical forward, his game isn’t likely to age gracefully. Some Flyers fans may disagree, but over time, Hayes’ contract is likely to look worse and worse.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Mike Matheson

(Six years, $4.875 million)

In trading Patric Hornqvist for Mike Matheson, the Pittsburgh Penguins offloaded a troublesome contract, but they brought one back as well. Matheson is a fine young defenseman, but he doesn’t offer any contribution substantial enough to justify a $4.875 million annual contract. He is middle of the pack on the team in on-ice xGF%, and in the bottom third in on-ice CF%. And with 106 points in 337 career games, he isn’t a point producer, either. Matheson isn’t a terrible player by any means, but his contract is too much and too long and will hinder an already cap-strapped team.

San Jose Sharks: Erik Karlsson

(Seven years, $11.5 million, with NMC)

Erik Karlsson was once the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, and, in his prime, was among the best point-generating blueliners in the history of the game. But those days are gone, and the many remaining years on his contract are not.

San Jose Sharks Erik Karlsson
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Athletes are inevitably paid for past production rather than future production, but Karlsson may be the worst case in the league. His skating seems lost, and he’s collected just 88 points in his first 150 games in San Jose. He’s middle of the team in on-ice CF% and xGF%. Karlsson would still be a valuable player on the right contract. But with the fourth-highest cap hit in the league, his is a devasting deal that has helped force the Sharks into a rebuilding phase.

St. Louis Blues: Justin Faulk

(Seven years, $6.5 million, with NTC)

The Blues have a few deals to consider for this list. None are terrible, but there are a few general manager Doug Armstrong may live to regret. Jordan Binnington’s six-year, $36 million deal is too new to condemn. That leaves three players on matching $6.5 million cap hits. Brayden Schenn is one of the team’s most valuable forwards and helped the Blues win the Cup. Torey Krug is in his first season, and though he hasn’t fit in perfectly, he’s still helping produce offense (though the power play needs to improve significantly to get the most out of him). That leaves Justin Faulk’s deal as the most concerning, by process of elimination.

Faulk struggled severely in his first season with the team, but his second season has seemed much more promising. Still, he’s 12th on the team in xGF% at 5-on-5, and he has just 16 points in 43 games. Faulk is a fine defenseman, but his contract is too long and too costly for a second-pairing defenseman, especially if he’s not performing offensively as well as he once did.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tyler Johnson

(Four Years, $5 million, with NTC)

Coming off a Stanley Cup Championship and fast-approaching an opportunity to go back-to-back, the Tampa Bay Lightning probably aren’t too worried about their bad contracts. But they do have a few that are questionable. Ryan McDonagh is set to make almost $7 million well into his late 30s, but he’s currently a major contributor for his team. Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, and Yanni Gourde all make healthy numbers, but they are also important cogs. There’s an argument for Steven Stamkos’ contract, considering his inability to remain healthy. But Tyler Johnson edges out this race.

Tyler Johnson Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Johnson arrived in the NHL alongside his partners on the “Triplets” line: Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. He tallied 72 points in his second full season in the NHL. Two years later, despite missing some time with injuries, it made sense for the team to give him a seven-year, $35 million contract. But Johnson’s point totals have dropped every season since signing that deal. He’s now solidly in a middle-six role, making top-six money. It’s not that he isn’t contributing. He just isn’t contributing enough for his cap hit on a cap-strapped team. There’s a reason Johnson’s name is constantly in the rumor mill.

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares

(Five years, $11 million, with NMC)

There’s no question that John Tavares remains one of the premier centers in the NHL, but he didn’t rank among the top 10 in a recent front office ranking organized by ESPN. He carries the sixth-highest cap hit in the NHL (though his teammates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner rank third and seventh). The narrative for signing the hometown kid who was the most coveted free agent in recent memory was obvious. And Tavares currently has 191 points in 192 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. So he hasn’t really done anything to earn derision.

The problem with Tavares’ contract is his circumstances. The deal undoubtedly drove up the value and the temperature in negotiations with Matthews, Marner, and even William Nylander. And now Tavares is approaching the end of his prime, likely to decrease in output substantially over the next several seasons. When the Maple Leafs need to re-sign Matthews after the 2023-24 season, they’ll need to navigate the final season on Tavares’ contract to do it. One could easily pick on Alexander Kerfoot’s deal as the worst in Toronto, given the high cap hit for a bottom-six forward. But Tavares’ deal has haunted the Maple Leafs already, and those unfortunate circumstances are likely to continue.

Vancouver Canucks: Loui Eriksson

(Two years, $6 million, with M-NTC)

Loui Eriksson was once a very good hockey player. He routinely scored 60-plus points and 25-plus goals in his years with Dallas and Boston. In his final year in Boston, he scored 30 goals and added 33 assists. He was primed to cash in during free agency, but the Canucks were an odd team to sign him.

Loui Eriksson Vancouver Canucks
Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canucks’ core was aging, as the Sedins were approaching retirement, and offering Eriksson a six-year, $36-million deal was a strange move. Though the Canucks could not have predicted Eriksson’s severe and immediate decline they should never have offered this deal in the first place. Though he’s buried on the taxi squad this season, the Canucks will still need to work around Eriksson’s deal to re-sign star RFAs Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes this summer. It has been an awful contract from start to finish.

Vegas Golden Knights: Alex Pietrangelo

(Seven years, $8.8 million, with NMC)

Is it too early to condemn Alex Pietrangelo’s brand new contract with the Vegas Golden Knights? Maybe. But on a team that was already among the best in the NHL, signing the top free-agent defenseman always felt like something of an extravagance. The Vegas front office has earned a reputation for impatience and tinkering, and Pietrangelo is the prime example: bringing in another huge contract despite reaching the conference final for the second time in their three seasons of existence. Plus, they traded Nate Schmidt for peanuts and upset their locker room to make the deal fit.

Pietrangelo is a top-line right-handed defenseman, and those should cost a premium. But he has struggled to stay healthy this season and has just 14 points in 31 games. It’s not that he isn’t still a fantastic player. It’s that the Golden Knights are committing to him through his age decline on a backloaded deal as a luxury on a team that was already very good. Vegas could live to regret this signing in a flat-cap era.

Washington Capitals: T.J. Oshie

(Five years, $5.75 million, with M-NTC) 

T.J. Oshie is still a skilled top-six player at this point in his career. He was a major factor in the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup run, scoring 21 points in 24 games. He’s also a fan favorite and a U.S. Hockey legend, with his incredible shootout performance in the Sochi Olympics. There’s no questioning why the Capitals wanted to keep Oshie around for the long haul.

T.J. Oshie Washington Capitals
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But in this case, the haul was a few years too long. He will be 37 by the end of his current deal, and there’s no reason to believe his level of play will hold up that long. At almost $6 million per year, that’s a big gamble for Washington. The Capitals are still a dangerous team, but as they age, Oshie’s contract is likely to look worse and worse.

Winnipeg Jets: Bryan Little

(Four years, $5.291 million, with M-NTC)

The Winnipeg Jets have a lot of good contracts. Bryan Little’s deal is not one of those. Little has been a strong NHL center for many years, and he’s trained himself to be a good faceoff man, too. The issue with Little has been health. He played just seven games in 2019-20 and has yet to play in 2020-21, all after taking a dangerous puck to the face in November 2019. Little is considering retirement, and as long as he is injured, his cap hit is buried on the LTIR. But if he returns to the ice, his contract will continue to be a challenge for Winnipeg to deal with. Still, everyone is hoping for a healthy return to the game he loves.

A New Era of Caution?

Every team in the NHL has a bad contract somewhere on the books. But in the flat-cap era, will general managers enter a new era of caution, avoiding these high-dollar contracts? One look at this list says chances are probably not high. General managers routinely get an itchy trigger finger, and those split-second bad decisions ramify for years down the line.