The fourth and final position we are going to look at with overpaid players is the defencemen. These players aren’t generally paid a ton of money, but it seems like half the time when they are the contracts look bad real quick. Here are the top-10 most overpaid defencemen in the NHL in 2021-22.
10. Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million)
Erik Karlsson is having himself a bounce-back year but it doesn’t change the fact that he is the highest-paid defenceman in the NHL and fourth-highest paid player. He has 10 goals and 33 points this season but has once again missed a significant amount of time that has hurt the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks are really hoping that injuries won’t cause Karlsson’s play to regress once again since he is still under contract for five more seasons at this very high amount. At the time of signing, he was still getting some Norris Trophy consideration, but injuries take a toll and he just makes this list due to his cap hit compared to the defencemen in the NHL.
9. Erik Johnson ($6 million)
Erik Johnson isn’t having a bad year, but as he gets older and less efficient all around, his contract starts to look worse. He is having his best season since 2017-18 but the Colorado Avalanche are paying him $6 million to be a third-pairing defenceman.
The Avalanche defence could be considered the best in the league and the team will not be able to afford to keep overpaying for a player in Johnson’s role. Luckily for them, he has just one more year remaining, but they may have to lose a player or two during that time. He has upped his offensive production while playing significantly less time, but as I mentioned that’s the problem. His possession metrics are just below average for playing on a team as dominant as he is.
8. Jeff Petry ($6.25 million)
Jeff Petry used to be worth every penny of what he was getting paid, but this season has spelled trouble for him and the Montreal Canadiens. He started the season pointless in his first nine games and through 28 games, he had just two assists. Since then, in part due to the coaching change, he has recorded four goals and 14 points in the last 29 games. But even those numbers aren’t worth over $6 million this season.
The previous four years saw Petry hit double digits in goals and reach 40 points each season. He has also been a non-factor this season on the power play. His expected goals for/against are the worst it’s been for him since before joining the Canadiens in 2014-15. At 34 years old it will be tough to turn this around for next season even possibly under a full season being coached by Martin St. Louis. Players or defencemen don’t typically get better at this point in their careers after it seems like Petry’s peak has already come and gone.
7. Anton Stralman ($5.5 million)
Some of you may have forgotten about Anton Stralman since the Arizona Coyotes are a bottom-feeder and his name doesn’t come up a lot. He has had an alright season for being on the last-place team and his possession metrics are just about what you’d expect from a team that gets outshot and outscored almost every night.
His contract this season is worth it for the Coyotes since they are in a transition period where they took on a lot of bad contracts and money to restock their prospect pool and draft picks. Stralman would be a bottom-pair defenceman who is a solid penalty killer on most teams but plays a bit more on the Coyotes. For the talent he possesses and displays when on the ice, he isn’t worth $5.5 million, but he’s not higher since he’s on this team and playing a larger role.
6. Danny DeKeyser ($5 million)
Danny DeKeyser has been a non-factor offensively this season after he used to be able to at least contribute a decent amount throughout the season. He has just seven assists in 46 games and is a minus for just the second time in his career.
He plays the fourth-most among the defencemen on the Detroit Red Wings but has lucked out being a left defenceman since the right side is the strong point of the team. He has to compete with Marc Staal who is a solid shutdown player that should be on the third pairing and fringe NHLers Jake Walman and Olli Joulevi. DeKeyser has dropped off from last season and his possession metrics are very bad for starting almost the same amount in the offensive and defensive zone.
5. Tyler Myers ($6 million)
Two Vancouver Canucks’ defencemen make this list, but with the right implementation in the lineup, they would either not be so high or they could be taken off of this list completely. At number five is Tyler Myers is being paid $6 million per season for two more seasons after this one.
Myers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are normally defence partners but that doesn’t do either of them any favours. Myers’ best analytics comes when he is paired with Quinn Hughes and it isn’t even close to any other pairing formed this season for the Canucks. Together, Myers and Hughes have spent 200 minutes on the ice together and have a 62.5 goals for percentage (GF%) and a 53.49 expected goals for percentage (xGF%).
Myers has spent 828 minutes on the ice with Ekman-Larsson and has a 50 GF% with a 48.48 xGF%, much worse than with Hughes. Since the majority of the season has been spent paired with Ekman-Larsson, Myers has had a much worse season than he could’ve put together, thus landing him high up on this list.
4. Nikita Zaitsev ($4.5 million)
Nikita Zaitsev’s contract isn’t massive, but he has fallen off even further this season and has played the least amount of minutes on average in his six-year career thus far. For the little that is contributed at this point and the money that is going to have to be allocated to younger and better players, the $4.5 million won’t look any better after this season either.
Zaitsev has not been very good at all in a defence pairing with anybody except Thomas Chabot, and he has been ruled out for the remainder of the season for a while now. The Ottawa Senators need to figure out what to do with this contract if they are planning on taking a step forward with still two more years remaining on the deal. He is a third-pairing defenceman at best that doesn’t contribute offensively even while playing on the top pairing. He should be making half of what he is at best for a bottom-pairing defenceman on a non-playoff team.
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($7.26 million)
Ekman-Larsson was expected to be an offensive defenceman for the Canucks after they traded to bring him and Conor Garland over from the Coyotes. Outside of Hughes, no other defenceman on the team has been a solid contributor offensively. Ekman-Larsson has just four goals and 17 assists and isn’t part of the first power-play unit.
He makes just less than Hughes and killed penalties more often before acquiring Travis Dermott. He has just an average amount of blocked shots and hits. He would have to be stellar at one end of the ice or another to be worth as much money as he’s making, especially with another younger and more skilled defenceman also being paid a high amount. He’s been good defensively, but at a much higher cost than it’s worth on a team strapped for cap.
2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($7 million)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s contract has gotten out of hand for the Sharks who are trying to transition to a younger team but stay competitive. It doesn’t help when a ton of the money is tied up in veterans who are past their primes. Vlasic is the worst of them making $7 million to play just over 15 minutes a night on the third pair.
He was a healthy scratch earlier this season which makes matters worse that his contract lasts for four more seasons, making him 39 when it ends. It’s not like he was awarded a huge contract due to winning the Stanley Cup like many are, he was given this deal to set him up until he is well beyond his prime years after a first-round exit.
1. P.K. Subban ($9 million)
Finally, the most overpaid defenceman in the NHL is P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils. He is in the top-25 paid players in the NHL this season and his skill level and production are nowhere near anyone else that high. Lucky for the Devils his contract is over at season’s end.
Subban is playing on the third pairing and hasn’t been a very effective defenceman since 2017-18 while he was still with the Nashville Predators. The Devils really did the Predators a favour by taking Subban off their hands, as the one-time Norris Trophy winner has fallen off offensively. His point totals are consistently low now with just 21 points in 66 games this season, significantly less shots per game, next to no power-play time, and prone to taking bad penalties. Don’t expect him to sign for even a third of his current contract next season.
Any surprises above? Let me know in the comments if you agree with the list or who should be switched around.