The first day of the National Hockey League’s Free Agent frenzy started on the 1st of July and was true to it’s name; It was one hell of a frenzy. Over half a billion dollars was spent by 30 general managers. With the money spent and the players heading to their respective teams, it’s only natural that these contracts are met with a certain level of criticism.
You make too much money? You’ll know about it. Too long a contract? People are counting down the days until your bought out. It’s a cruel, cruel world for these millionaires. With social media nowadays, you’re only a hashtag away from having your words reach these players directly. Why talk to a friend about how horrible this deal is when you could tweet the player themselves and let them know how you feel.
In a more respectful manner, we take a look at some of the best and worst contracts in day 1 and 2 of this years Free Agency. “Let’s start with the bad news,” they would say. And so, we shall:
Free Agent Frenzy: The top 10 WORST NHL Contracts
10. Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche [3 years, $5.33 million AAV]
A leader that is chalk-full of charisma and character, coming off a 30-goal season with the Boston Bruins, you may ask yourself why Iginla is in the “bad” category. Despite his numbers last season, Iginla’s play as a whole has declined. His foot speed is a total downgrade, the physical element that he once had to win board battles is not what it used to be and his play without the puck is less than average. He remains a player that finds himself in the right spot at the right time but the Colorado Avalanche are paying him just over $5 million a year until he hits the age of 40. By then, who knows how far he will have regressed. The term is too long and any team would and should have given him 1 year and no more.
9. Clayton Stoner, Anaheim Ducks [4 years, 3.25 million AAV]
A decent third pairing defenseman on the Minnesota Wild, Stoner will amount to nothing more than a decent third pairing defenseman on the Anaheim Ducks. With Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Francois Beauchemin and Hampus Lindholm, Stoner is reduced to playing third line minutes with a possible pairing including Sami Vatanen. To pay a player of this level over $3 million a year is bad. To pay him that amount for 4 years, that’s insanity. The Ducks are quite top heavy on defense, but they could use another top-4 guy. Unfortunately Stoner is not a top-4 defenseman and he is getting paid like one, for the next 4 years no less. As much as Stoner is loved and his old school defensive side is appreciated, cap hit and term just don’t make sense.
8. Nikolai Kulemin, New York Islanders [4 years, $4.19 million AAV]
Kulemin has always been a very serviceable player. Great defensive-forward with exceptional IQ and he can become your hardest working player on the ice at any given moment. His offensive upside? A total mystery. Last season, Kulemin put up 20 points. Ever since his 30-goal campaign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kulemin’s production has vanished. While his defensive game remains consistent, his lack of putting up points makes this deal a real head-scratcher. For instance, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty will make a cap hit of $4.5 million next year. He scored 39 goals last year. He had more goals than Kulemin had points. Speaking of defensive attributes, over $4 million per year is way too much for a player like that.
7. Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs [4 years, $2.95 million AAV]
Is Komarov a valuable asset? Absolutely. He is gritty, he gets under your skin, he hits hard and he plays with a fiery, tenacious attitude. He has all the makings of a bottom-6 player, including the lack of offensive input. So why pay him nearly $3 million a year for the next 4 years? There is no reasoning. Leo will give you everything you could desire as a 4th liner, yet he bolted to the KHL when he felt he was receiving the short end of the stick and now he’s back once again, receiving this load of cash as a welcome home gift. It is just too much money and term for a player that has shown tangibles but very little production result during his stay in the NHL that last time he was here.
6. Tanner Glass, New York Rangers [3 years, $1.45 million AAV]
Glass is a good fighter and plays with a ton of heart and determination. He is gritty and can provide decent service on a team’s penalty kill. Outside of that, Tanner Glass is not even a mediocre NHL’er. Glass is a black hole when it comes to puck possession and he is viewed by many as the worst player in the National Hockey League. It’s hard to justify a contract given to him, let alone one that pays him more than a million dollars per year for three years. What Glen Sather was thinking, we will never know. Perhaps hope is that Glass pulls a Benoit Pouliot and becomes one of the better 4th line players in the league. The likelihood of that happening is about as great as myself earning a contract in the NHL.
5. Deryk Engelland, Calgary Flames [3 years, $2.9 million AAV]
A 13th forward that can switch to a 7th defenseman. He’s versatile, he can hit hard and he can fight. That’s where it ends with good things we can say about Engelland. Okay, okay, he’s a good character guy with a lot of heart and passion. Does the justify a near-$3 million pay for the next 3 years? Don’t think so. The Calgary Flames management has admitted to overpaying Engelland, just to make things clear. He fills a need, so there’s always a silver lining but Engelland filling that position means the Flames could have paid two or three guys to fill that position and they probably would have saved money too.
4. Kyle Quincey, Detroit Red Wings [2 years, $4.25 million AAV]
To bring to light how poor this deal is, Detroit Red Wings fans were so embarrassed, they pretended like it never happened. Some described it as a horrible nightmare. Others questioned the sanity of their general manager. Quincey is an absolute turnover machine and, at very best, a bottom-pairing defenseman that you hesitate to throw out there at any given moment. Now, for the next two years, Quincey is making top-4 money.
3. Benoit Pouliot, Edmonton Oilers [5 years, $4 million AAV]
One of the first signings that had every sit back in their chairs and remain speechless for a short while. Pouliot has been somewhat of a journeyman NHL’er, signing contracts of 1-2 years maximum and usually ending up on another team by season’s end or in the off season. Rather unusual for a player that was selected 4th overall in his draft year. Pouliot finally hit his stride playing on a third line with the New York Rangers that saw him, alongside Derek Brassard, add secondary scoring and terrific shut-down play. However, that is one year compared to the many years where he struggled, riddled with injuries and looked sloppy in all three zones off the ice, with and without the puck. He made his money and he is smiling now, but the Edmonton Oilers won’t be soon enough.
2. Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers [5 years, 5.5 million AAV]
Brendan Shanahan did his best to convince Bolland to remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs because he loved his style, character and grit. Yet, at $5.5 million for the next 5 years, all you can do is say thank you and move along. That kind of money is usually given to a player in the top-6, even first-line kind of player. Bolland is a third-liner at best that declined with the Maple Leafs in offensive production. It’s a very hefty pay to give to the type of player Bolland is and to do so for the next 5 years is too risky. Prediction; Bolland is a buy-out candidate half-way through his contract.
And now, the very worst contract of this years’ UFA market…
1. Brooks Orpik, Washington Capitals [5 years, 5.5 million AAV]
Don’t get us wrong, Brooks Orpik will provide everything the Washington Capitals need. A physical, shut-down defensive defenseman that is reliable and consistent in his own end. He is exactly what the Capitals needed on their back-end and boy, did they ever pay him to get him to come over. At his annual cap hit, let’s take a look at some comparable, according to capgeek.com;
James Wisniewski – $5.5 million AAV: He produced 51 points, playing on Columbus’ top PP unit.
Dan Girardi – $5.5 million AAV: Played on New York’s top defensive pairing and was a key figure in helping the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup finals.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – $5.5 million AAV: Young stud in Arizona who is on the rise to the top of their defensive core, he put up 44 points in 80 games.
According to the AAV of Orpik’s contract, he is set to make more than his former teammate Paul Martin, who led the Pittsburgh Penguins in points during the Stanley Cup run last year! More than Sergei Gonchar, Keith Yandle and Jay Bouwmeester. Zach Bogosian, too. Heck, Duncan Keith makes just over $38,000 more than Orpik and he WON THE NORRIS TROPHY! Orpik makes almost the same amount as the best defenseman in the league last year, as a bottom-pairing, shut-down defenseman that put up 13 POINTS LAST YEAR.
Yes, he is reliable. Yes, he’s what the Capitals craved for their defense, but… he makes more money than three Brooks Orpiks should be making and he makes it for the next 5 years, as a 33-year-old. This is no longer 2009 Brooks Orpik, folks. This is a much slower, banged up Orpik that will continue to slow down and get banged up until he hits the age of 38.
Next time, we take a look at the 10 BEST contracts awarded since the start of this Free Agent madness.
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