Every NHL Team’s Worst Contract

*This article was updated before the 2023-24 season

In the modern NHL, contract and salary cap management may be more critical than ever. With the cap still nearly 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 contracts they sign. General managers who can minimize bad contracts will likely be the GMs who find the most success.

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However, every team in the league has a contract on the books that is questionable, no matter how good their GM is. 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 Jonathan Huberdeau Charlie Coyle Seth Jones

(The bolded text below each player name displays the term remaining on the contract, including the 2021-22 season, as well as the AAV and any no-trade clauses (NTC) or no-movement clauses (NMC) the deals contain.)

Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Strome

(Four Years, $5 million)

The Anaheim Ducks made a splash in free agency last summer, signing Ryan Strome to a five-year, $25 million contract as an unrestricted free agent (UFA). But his first season with Anaheim could not have been much more disappointing. Yes, he added some points, collecting 41 and tying for fifth on the team. But he was also a minus-30 in plus/minus, ranking worst on the team, and his metrics paint an even bleaker picture.

Strome had a fantastic 2021-22 season with the New York Rangers, so hopefully, this is a result of jitters in a new home and a rebuilding team around him. But right now, it’s hard to point at anyone else as having the worst contract on the team. And while some might argue that John Gibson has a worse contract given his play in recent seasons, he’s still starting fifty games a season, and it’s difficult to pin the blame on him when the defense is so poor. it’s too early to cast judgment on the four-year, $6.25 million deal handed out to Alex Killorn in free agency, too — although a quick appraisal certainly makes it questionable. So, for now, Strome’s contract is still the worst.

Arizona Coyotes: Lawson Crouse

(Four years, $4.3 million)

Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong has been making moves and clearing cap space in the desert since taking over the team, hoping to accelerate a rebuild for the recently homeless franchise. In that process, he managed to trade former captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks. It was an impressive feat that rid him of one of the more burdensome contracts in the league (spoiler alert: we’ll return to Ekman-Larsson later). Of course, Armstrong has added several bad deals to help the team meet the cap floor, like those of Jakub Voracek, Shea Weber, and Bryan Little. But among players the team plans to utilize next season, the Coyotes don’t have an obvious “bad” contract, especially after Clayton Keller managed a point-per-game 37-goal season. But Lawson Crouse’s deal sticks out as one that is at least a little odd.

Lawson Crouse Arizona Coyotes
Lawson Crouse, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Crouse is a fine, young player. He’s still just 26 and his game may continue to develop. Plus, he’s had back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons. But his metrics don’t speak of anything, particularly special, and he’s only ever managed 45 points in a season. Most teams would be happy to have him, but a four-year commitment at a solid cap hit is a lot for a player without a definable “it” factor. Again, Crouse’s contract isn’t terrible, and there will be those who argue that either Keller’s or Nick Schmaltz’s deals are worse. But Crouse’s seems like the odd one out in a team whose account sheets are (finally) fairly good.

Boston Bruins: Charlie Coyle

(Three years, $5.25 million, M-NTC, NMC)

After the greatest regular season of all time, no one is really complaining about bad contracts on the Boston Bruins, but we have to pick one. 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 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 salary cap hit is a big commitment to a player who isn’t a clear difference-maker, and on a team with very strong contract management overall, it’s a deal that stands out.

Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner

(Four years, $9 million, 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), then 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 four times, including last season).

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

Skinner had a massive bounceback season in Buffalo under new head coach Don Granato. His offensive metrics were off the charts, and he had 35 goals and 82 points in 79 games. It was the best season of his career and arguably justified Botterill’s initial faith in him. Still, on a team with very few bad contracts, Skinner’s still feels like an overpay. If he continues to play like this, perhaps it won’t in a few years.

Calgary Flames: Jonathan Huberdeau

(Eight years, $10.5 million, NMC)

No one could have predicted Jonathan Huberdeau’s first season with the Calgary Flames would go so badly. Certainly, general manager Brad Treliving could not have when he inked Huberdeau to the richest contract in franchise history, an eight-year, $84-million monster deal. Treliving proffered the contract before Huberdeau had played a single game in Alberta — shortly after acquiring him in the shocking Matthew Tkachuk trade. Everyone knew it was a huge swing at the time, but Huberdeau was coming off a 115-point season, and the Flames were desperate to keep some quality players around for the long haul.

Jonathan Huberdeau Calgary Flames
Jonathan Huberdeau, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Huberdeau suffered one of the most severe non-injury-related regressions in NHL history, seeing his point total more than halved, slashed down to 55. Only 15 of those points were goals. Huberdeau ranked fifth on the Flames in points, and the team missed the playoffs just one season after winning the Pacific Division. It was a disastrous outcome for both Huberdeau and the Flames, full stop. And the only hope now is that Huberdeau’s second season, which will be his first on the new contract, is a return to form for the Saint-Jerome, Quebec native.

Carolina Hurricanes: Brent Burns

(Two years, $5.28 million, with M-NTC)

In acquiring Brent Burns this offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes added a big defenseman with a bigger personality. But they also brought in a big contract, and clearly the worst on the books of such a cap-conscious team. Burns still produces points in bunches and had a fantastic season in Raleigh. His placement here is more a reflection of the team’s incredibly clean contract ledger than Burns not being valuable to the team. But at 38, his best days are behind him. Some might point to Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s long contract and low point total as an option, but he’s a highly valuable defensive forward and is just 22. Burns’s contract is the worst, but he’s still a very good player.

Chicago Blackhawks: Seth Jones

(Seven years, $9.5 million, NMC)

The Chicago Blackhawks’ decision to sell the farm and acquire Seth Jones when they did was a bit vexing. Their choice to immediately give him an eight-year, $76 million contract extension was outright confusing. And now that they are in the middle of what can only be described as a scorched-earth rebuild, where Jones is one of just two non-rookies (the other being Connor Murphy) with a contract that extends beyond 2023-24, it is undeniable that Jones’ extension was a huge mistake.

Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s not that Jones is truly a bad player. His metrics actually graded him as a plus defender last season, if a bit lacking on the offensive side at even strength. But he is not worth that contract on any team, and certainly not on a team in the position the Blackhawks now find themselves in. Of course, the Blackhawks are now fully entrenched in the Connor Bedard era and likely don’t expect to compete for a few years while he matures. But Jones will still be around well into Bedard’s prime. And by then, this contract could look like a real blight on the team’s books.

Colorado Avalanche: Miles Wood

(Six years, $2.5 million)

The Colorado Avalanche are in a tough spot. They have the blessing of employing several of the league’s top superstars, including Nathan MacKinnon — who will be the league’s highest-paid player this season — and Cale Makar. Before long, they’ll need to give long term extensions to one or both of Devon Toews and Bowen Byram. As a result of all those salary cap commitments, it makes sense that they would play around the margins and do some unique things to build a competitive team while keeping the costs low. But even that doesn’t quite explain the six-year, $15 million contract the team gave Miles Wood this offseason. With all due respect to Wood, he’s the kind of player you sign for one or two years at a time. He’s a fine addition to your team, but signing him for six seasons doesn’t make sense under any circumstances.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Elvis Merzlikins

(Four years, $5.4 million, M-NTC)

What are the Columbus Blue Jackets? They had an explosive offseason last summer, signing top free agent Johnny Gaudreau to a massive seven-year, $68 million contract. Then, they wound up with the second-fewest points in the regular season and a nice Connor Bedard sweepstakes consolation prize in Adam Fantilli. Then, there was the complete debacle of the Mike Babcock “era.” Clearly, the Blue Jackets have issues on and off the ice, but when looking for reasons for the team’s performance issues, it’s impossible to ignore the anemic output of goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.

Elvis Merzlikins Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Let’s be clear: virtually everyone is a fan of Merzlikins. His tearful eulogy at the funeral of beloved teammate Matiss Kivlenieks showed the kind of human being he is. But his play on the ice in recent seasons has been disastrous, and it’s not nearly good enough for the 11th-highest-paid goaltender in the league. 7-18-2, with an .876 save percentage (SV%) and a 4.23 goals-against average (GAA), with just 29.6 percent of his starts being “quality,” and minus-24.9 goals saved above average, he was one of, if not the worst goalie in the league statistically. There is a lot of time and a lot of money left on his contract. Everyone will hope that he turns it around. The future of the Blue Jackets may depend on it.

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin

(Four years, $9.85 million, NMC)

It’s not often that a player is publicly called out by his team’s front office for poor performance, but Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn and teammate Tyler Seguin have suffered that fate at least twice in their career. In 2018, CEO Jim Lites spoke to The Dallas News and said “what nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players. If 14 (Benn) and 91 (Seguin) don’t lead we will not be successful.” Then, history repeated itself when owner Tom Gaglardi appeared on the Cam & Strick Podcast in 2022.

“When you sign contracts, you have to earn that,” Gaglardi told Andy Strickland. “The two guys are taking one-quarter of the cap space of the team, and both of them aren’t producing enough… I expect them to step up and get better.” In the 2022-23 season, Benn answered the bell, returning to form as a star player with 33 goals and 78 points in his second-consecutive 82-game season. Seguin, for his part, remained fairly mediocre, with 50 points in 79 games. It’s a decent season but was only good for 6th in points amongst Stars players. It’s simply not good enough for a player making so much money, especially for four more years.

Detroit Red Wings: Ben Chiarot

(Three years, $4.75, M-NTC)

Do you still believe in the Yzerplan? There are a few too many bad contracts on the books of the Detroit Red Wings already for a team that has yet to find any success under his leadership. And it’s difficult to choose the worst of the bunch. But Ben Chiarot takes the cake by a hair. His performance has been disastrous, and it’s only one year into his four-year deal. This is another one of those deals that most knew was a bad idea when it was signed. Chiarot was not a significant enough difference-maker for a rebuilding team to make him a big part of their defense. And now, they’re reaping the consequences of impulsive free-agent spending. If there IS a Yzerplan — the nickname given to the rebuilds orchestrated by general manager Steve Yzerman — it needs to materialize, and fast.

Edmonton Oilers: Evander Kane

(Three years, $5.125 million, NMC)

“He might have off-ice issues, but he’ll score goals in bunches playing alongside Connor McDavid.” Such was the logic for bringing Evander Kane to Edmonton last season. And initially, the gamble paid off tremendously — he scored 22 goals and 39 points in his half-season with the team and added 13 goals in 15 playoff games. The team quickly signed Kane to a four-year, $20.5 million extension, probably thinking they were getting a bargain on a huge asset because of his prior reputation.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But it has not panned out so far. Kane managed only 41 games last season, scoring 16 goals as a minus-4. His metrics were poor as well. Could he bounce back during a healthy season? Absolutely. But it’s hard to call the extension a success so far. And on a team without a lot of dreadful contracts (which is a new feeling for Oilers fans), Kane’s certainly seems like an outlier.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky

(Three years, $10 million, NMC)

Well, this is a tough one to evaluate. One could argue Sergei Bobrovsky is a key reason the Florida Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2022-23, and the primary reason they reached the Stanley Cup Final the following season. He was electric, winning 12 of 19 games, more than any other goalie. And up until the Final, he seemed nearly unbeatable until he ran out of steam against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers

So why is Bobrovsky ion this list? It’s simple: he’s still too expensive for his output. The NHL repeatedly proves that it is almost never a good idea to give an aging goalie a long contract. And the fact that Bobrovsky was ultimately outdueled by relative nobody Adin Hill in that Stanley Cup Final proves how fickle the position can be. Hopefully, Bobrovsky has three decent seasons left in him for the Panthers. But even if he does, it will be hard to argue his contract is worth it.

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty

(Four years, $11 million, NMC)  

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 a cap hit tied for eighth-highest in the league (and the second-highest amongst defensemen.)

Doughty still logs over 25 minutes per game, which is among the highest numbers in the league. He still produces points. But his point share, which measures a player’s contribution to his team’s place in the standings, is down in the 5-6 range from career highs in the double digits for three consecutive seasons. 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 continue to evolve into a competitive team again, Doughty’s number could be a roadblock to their making the most of the years ahead.

Minnesota Wild: Frédérick Gaudreau

(Five years, $2.1 million, M-NTC)

Let there be no mistake: in many ways, the worst contracts on the Minnesota Wild are still the twin contracts given to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in July 2012. Though GM Bill Guerin finally took the plunge and bought both players out, those contracts will haunt the team for years to come, especially between 2022-2025, when they carry combined dead cap hits of roughly $12.6 million (2022-23) and $14.6 million (2023-24, 2024-25) that will effectively cripple the team in free agency, the trade market, and contract extension talks.

Minnesota Wild Zach Parise Ryan Suter

But, a bought-out contract isn’t officially in the spirit of this article, so for the worst active contract, we turn to the newly signed Frédérick Gaudreau, who signed a five-year, $10.5 million contract in April. It’s not that Gaudreau has been particularly bad for the Wild — he hasn’t. In fact, he reached a career-high 19-goal mark in 2022-23, shortly before signing the contract. The contract isn’t horrendous; it’s just a bit of a head-scratcher. A five-year commitment to a 30-year-old journeyman really feels out of place — similar to the deal the Avalanche gave to Wood. In fact, Guerin is probably trying to solve his cap dilemma by signing a longer-term contract to lower the cap hit; it’s just worth questioning whether Gaudreau was the right player for that commitment. Either way, the commitment was made, and Gaudreau will be a Wild player through the 2028-29 season.

Montreal Canadiens: Josh Anderson

(four years, $5.5 million, M-NTC)  

Unfortunately for them, the Montreal Canadiens have a number of contenders for this list. But they can bury the massive contract of Carey Price on LTIR for as long as they need to. Some would point to Nick Suzuki, but you still have to bet on his future if you’re a Canadiens fan.

The same cannot be said for Josh Anderson, who is entering the fourth season of a seven-year, $38.5 million contract he signed with the Canadiens in 2020. Montreal signed him just days after acquiring him from the Blue Jackets, and they received criticism for giving such a long and expensive contract to a player with only one season of over 30 points in his career. After three seasons, the gamble clearly has not paid off. Anderson has continued to struggle to stay healthy and has managed only 88 points (with a minus-43 plus/minus) in his first three seasons with the team. Now undeniably in a rebuild, Anderson’s contract may still be on the books when Montreal is ready to compete again.

Nashville Predators: Ryan McDonagh

(Three years, $6.75 million, NTC)

The Nashville Predators have to have one of the strangest roster constructions of any team in the league right now. They’ve managed to add a few key veterans but are mostly filled with depth players and relatively unknown youngsters. It’s hard to know whether they’re trying to compete or rebuild. But in either phase, Ryan McDonagh isn’t much of a force at this point.

Ryan McDonagh Nashville Predators
Ryan McDonagh, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If the Predators had a bunch of high-level young defensemen in their organization that McDonagh could mentor, his presence might make more sense. But at this point, he’s just an expensive, aging veteran on a Frankenstein roster. He’s still an ok player, but he won’t help the Predators compete, and he might just be too good to help them tank, either. It’s a tough position for a respected veteran, but it reflects the strange reality of the Predators right now.

New Jersey Devils: Ondřej Palát

(Four Years, $6 million, NMC)

The New Jersey Devils wanted to make another big splash in free agency after missing out on the postseason for the fourth season in a row. They came up short in the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes but managed to grab Stanley Cup veteran Ondřej Palát on a five-year, $30 million contract. The good news is that the Devils absolutely returned to the playoffs, becoming one of the teams to watch of the season and finishing with 112 points, good for second in the Metropolitan Division. the bad news is that Palát was a non-factor, struggling with injuries and managing only 23 points in 49 games. The Devils will hope this is just a case of bad injury luck. But the team proved that they don’t need Palát to be an impact-player to succeed. If he returns to form, they’ll be even stronger. But if not, they’re paying $6 million a year for a player they can thrive without.

New York Islanders: Kyle Palmieri

(Two years, $5 million, NTC)

When the New York Islanders gave Kyle Palmieri a four-year, $20 million contract extension, some wondered whether they were throwing good money after bad in signing a player who looked to be in active decline. His first season on the island certainly didn’t change that impression. Palmieri finished ninth on the team in points, with 33 in 69 games, as he struggled with some injuries as well. The 2022-23 campaign was more of the same. It’s not that he’s a bad player. But for a cap-strapped team, every dollar counts. And his looks like a contract the Islanders really don’t need on the books.

New York Rangers: Barclay Goodrow

(Four years, $3.64 million, M-NTC)

The New York Rangers’ decision to sign Barclay Goodrow to a six-year, $21.85 million contract was short-sighted asset management at its finest. Goodrow earned a reputation as a playoff performer with the Tampa Bay Lightning on their powerhouse third line. He and linemates Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman all got huge deals that summer. But Goodrow’s makes the least sense because of his team’s circumstances.

Barclay Goodrow New York Rangers
Barclay Goodrow, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Make no mistake: Goodrow is a solid player to have in your lineup. His contract is just far too long. The Rangers don’t have a ton of salary cap space, especially with many good, young players requiring extensions in the near future. The Rangers hope that they are still on the rise but they will soon be cash-strapped. And Goodrow will be aging and expensive. If they win a Stanley Cup in the next season or two, no one will care. But if they’re in year four or five of a pursuit and Goodrow is blocking them from making important moves, then the Rangers could live to truly regret this deal.

Ottawa Senators: Josh Norris

(Seven years, $7.95 million)

It’s very hard to pick a “bad” contract on the Ottawa Senators, but there is clearly a “most concerning” one, and that belongs to Josh Norris. The young center seems to have all the makings of a future star in the NHL, but he is struggling with a persistent shoulder injury that cost him almost all of the 2022-23 season. And it’s not the first injury concern of his career. The Senators signed Norris to an eight-year, $63.6 million contract because they think so highly of his future, but right now, his future is cloudy. If he’s fully healthy in 2023-24, someone else will undoubtedly occupy this spot. But for now, there are big red flags by Norris’s contract, and that’s as close as Ottawa gets to a “worst” contract. Maybe next year, the honor will belong to the newly-signed Joonas Korpisalo, but he deserves at least a chance to prove himself before that happens.

Philadelphia Flyers: Rasmus Ristolainen

(Four years, $5.1 million)

Rasmus Ristolainen is the archetype of a player that NHL general managers see with completely different eyes than the rest of us. Almost universally panned by statisticians and fans alike, GMs seem to take one look at his 6-foot-4 frame and his physical play style and get glossy-eyed. So even though it was clearly a mistake before the ink was drying, it is no surprise that a team as badly run as the Philadelphia Flyers signed Ristolainen to a five-year, $25.5 million contract extension that is starting this year.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Philadelphia Flyers
Rasmus Ristolainen, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The only thing that might have saved Ristolainen from a spot on this list is the bevy of other rotten contracts currently on the books in the City of Brotherly Love. But the deals given to Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, Carter Hart, and others all made some degree of sense when they signed them. Ristolainen’s never did, and the pain is only just beginning for Flyers fans.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Erik Karlsson

(Four years, $10 million, NMC)

How can the reigning Norris Trophy winner and the offseason’s biggest trade acquisition be the worst contract on his new team? Because despite the recent success, Karlsson has one of the worst contracts in the league. It might be controversial, and yes, he had 101 points in 2022-23. But he’s the highest-paid defenseman in the NHL, and he cannot play effective defense anymore.

Karlsson has had a great career and just collected his third Norris Trophy. He’s a future inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame without question. But he allowed the fourth-most expected goals against (xGA) and the fifth-most high-danger chances against (HDCA) at 5-on-5 last season. Despite scoring 101 points, he still managed to be a minus-26, an almost Herculean accomplishment of terrible defending. And the San Jose Sharks still finished 29th in the league despite his best efforts.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Penguins have an arguable strategy of collecting some of the best veterans in the league and running it back one more time. Newly installed general manager Kyle Dubas clearly saw something he liked in Karlsson. But there is a lot of wear on those tires, and there’s no question that isn’t a contract anyone really wants on their roster.

San Jose Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic

(Three years, $7 million, M-NTC)

For his part, young general manager Mike Grier did the nearly unthinkable in offloading Karlsson without sacrificing major future pieces. But he’s still got a ton of work to do if he wants to unbury the Sharks from the numerous bad contracts of his predecessors. Another of the worst offenders is Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Three years at $7 million is a lot better than the $11.5 million they owed to Karlsson for four more seasons, but it’s still a lot for a non-impact player. Vlasic has been a fine and even very good defenseman in his career. But now, he’s well past his prime, and the Sharks have a lot of pain to go through before his contract expires.

Seattle Kraken: Philipp Grubauer

(Four years, $5.9 million, NTC)

Don’t let the fact that the Seattle Kraken made the playoffs in just their second season in the NHL distract you from the fact that Philipp Grubauer has been a horrendously bad goaltender through two seasons with the team. When the Seattle Kraken signed the then Vezina Trophy finalist Grubuaer to a six-year, $35.4 million contract, it seemed like the coup of the offseason. Unfortunately, Grubauer has gone from being one of the best goaltenders in the league to being one of the worst. The Kraken have a fairly strong defense. But Grubauer has managed back-to-back seasons with a sub-.900 SV% and negative GSAA. His 2022-23 campaign was a mild improvement on the season prior, but it still is not enough to justify his making $5.9 million. With a top goaltender, the Kraken would be a serious contender. But Grubauer will likely be the anchor that keeps this sea monster below the surface.

St. Louis Blues: Colton Parayko

(Seven Years, $8.5 million, NTC)

When the St. Louis Blues signed Colton Parayko to an eight-year, $52-million contract extension after an injury-plagued season, they were gambling that they were buying a discount on maybe the most expensive position in the league. General manager Doug Armstrong saw the wild deals given to Zach Werenski and Seth Jones and must have thought $6.5 million per season was a bargain for someone they thought would be the centerpiece of their defense.

Related: Blues’ Parayko Extension is a Big Gamble

Unfortunately, Parayko has not been the centerpiece. Or, if he is, he isn’t producing enough. The Blues’ identity has transformed. Once built on stout defense, they are now a high-octane offense whose blueline struggles to keep up at times. And Parayko is no longer the shutdown defenseman he once was. He also does not produce offense like the best top blueliners in the league, which makes him insufficient as a true #1 defender. Parayko isn’t a bad player, necessarily. But he isn’t what the Blues need from him. There’s a reason Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic recently ranked his as one of the worst contracts in the league. Whether you agree it is that bad or not; it is certainly one that any honest Blues fan would admit they wish had not been signed.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mikhail Sergachev

(Eight Years, $8.5 million, NTC)

A team that has been to three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals obviously is doing something right with their roster building. Therefore, it is hard to pick a truly “bad” contract on the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially after they traded McDonagh to the Predators in 2022. With that said, Mikhail Sergachev’s eight-year extension is a little concerning.

Mikhail Sergachev Tampa Bay Lightning
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

No one is denying that Sergachev is a great young player. But he is inconsistent and hasn’t quite proven that he is going to be a truly elite player. For a team that is usually very careful with contracts and typically gets a pretty steep discount to keep players, the $8.5 million AAV the Lightning gave Sergachev seems to be at the very top of the range for a player with his pedigree. Again, it’s not a bad contract, but when every dollar counts, something closer to $7 million would have been a lot more palatable for this player.

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares

(Two years, $11 million, NMC)

There’s no question that John Tavares remains a very good NHL center, but he carries the seventh-highest cap hit in the NHL. The narrative for signing the hometown kid who was the most coveted free agent in recent memory was obvious. And Tavares currently has 274 points in 280 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 Auston Matthews, Mitch 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. The Maple Leafs just re-signed Matthews to a contract that will make him the richest player in the league, but they’ll still need to navigate the final season on Tavares’ contract to renew Marner and Nylander. Tavares’ deal has haunted the Maple Leafs already, and those unfortunate circumstances are likely to continue.

Vancouver Canucks: Ilya Mikheyev

(Three Years, $4.75 million, M-NTC)

Free agent excess has bitten every GM now and again. But in the case of Ilya Mikheyev, it’s a mixture of greed and bad luck that winds him on this list. The Canucks chose to sign the player as a free agent out of Toronto, giving him a four-year, $19 million contract that seemed steep to just about everyone at the time. But things might have worked out, had Mikheyev not torn his ACL halfway through his first season with the team. Now, he’s just trying to be healthy for somewhere near the start of the season. And now the Canucks have an expensive player with serious injury history on their hands. Mikheyev’s minutes will likely have to be managed this season, meaning that half of the contract will have already been wasted. Even if he gets his feet under him and plays very well for the final two seasons, it’s hard to see how the Canucks could possibly recover the value of this contract over time.

Vegas Golden Knights: Adin Hill

(Two Years, $4.9 Million, M-NTC)

Adin Hill’s new two-year, $9.8 million extension is far from the worst contract in the league, but it might be the most ironic. With Hill, the Golden Knights proved that goaltending in the playoffs really does boil down to having the hot hand at the right time. But then, they gave him a hefty extension that pays him like a mid-range starting goaltender — even though he’s started just 71 regular season games over the last three seasons. You could argue that the Golden Knights were just rewarding a major player in their Cup championship, except that completely flies in the face of how they built the Cup team in the first place. There’s nothing incredibly wrong with Hill at this number for just two years. It’s just such an odd decision for this franchise. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher all around.

Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov

(Two years, $7.8 million, M-NTC) 

The Washington Capitals are a team in transition. Under normal circumstances, they might rebuild. But with Alexander Ovechkin so close to breaking Wayne Gretzky’s once-unbreakable goals record, the franchise’s attention has focused to helping him reach that mark. Fortunately for them, most of their contracts also play out along that timeline. Only Dylan Strome, Darcy Kuemper, and now Tom Wilson are currently signed beyond the end of Ovechkin’s contract after the 2025-26 NHL season. So it’s hard to say that any of their contracts are really dreadful based on those facts. The one clear exception to that rule is Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kuznetsov was once a terrific young player and a key piece of Washington’s core. He lead the postseason in points with 32 the year the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. And even as recently as the 2021-22 season, he was nearly a point per game player (78 in 79 games). But a series of off-ice issues has strained the relationship between player and team, and no one values Kuznetsov at $7.8 million a season anymore. Rumors insist that the Capitals will look to move on from the 30-year-old Russian this summer, but they’ll have to find a taker. There could still be a high-impact player in there, but it’s a big risk for any team to take. Soon, it might be Wilson in this spot. But for now, it’s Kuznetsov’s ignoble place.

Winnipeg Jets: Neal Pionk

(Two years, $5.875 million)

The Winnipeg Jets don’t have any truly terrible contracts, but Neal Pionk is not much of a defensive standout, and he’s making $5.875 million a season for two more seasons. His metrics in his own end are poor, and he doesn’t produce enough offensively to justify paying nearly $6 million for him. The good news for Jets fans is that they have few bad contracts and only one very long deal, which belongs to Josh Morrissey, the centerpiece of their defense. Contracts like Pionk’s don’t kill teams, but they’d probably rather be free of it.

Spending Never Stops

Many speculated whether the flat-cap era would lead to a new and more cautious approach to contracts, but a quick look at the dealings this offseason makes it clear that won’t be the case. GMs signed several contracts that will almost certainly appear on this list in future seasons, and money flew around on free agency day with reckless abandon. Some things never change, and bad contracts in the NHL fit right in alongside death and taxes.