Thursday, September 5, 2013

15 Worst Contracts In Hockey 2013

Here is my 2013 list of the worst contracts in hockey. Several players from my 2012 worst contracts list have already been bought out in accordance with the new CBA's "Compliance Buyouts" (and two before the season, thanks to what we'll call "The Gomez/Redden Rule"). The new buzz word is "cap recapture penalty", which was included to retro-actively punish teams where teams will be penalized when players on very long-term contracts retire before the end of their contracts.

Vincent LeCavalier has lost his title belt for the worst contract in hockey, which he held for the last two seasons. Shawn Horcoff has graduated from the list because while his cap hit of $5.5M is high, his actual salary is only $3.5M. Last year the list was compiled at the end of the season and before free agency. This year I decided to wait until the end of summer, so that free agent signings could be included.

1) Roberto Luongo, VAN: 9 more years at $5.3M - The only professional athlete that I can remember to step up to the podium and tell the world that his contract sucks (in the sense that he's making too much money for too many years). When he does retire, his "cap recapture" penalty will be ridiculous (unless of course he decides to keep playing into his mid 40s). The cap hit is still decent for 2013, but it is the remaining term and his current age that make this the worst contract in the NHL. I agree with you Roberto, this contract sucks.

2) James Wisniewski, CLB: 4 more years at $5.5M - This signing has received much ridicule since the day it was signed, during a free agency period that offered very few offensively talented defensemen (notwithstanding Ehrhoff of course, who also got a big pay day that summer). Wisniewski has been plagued by injuries while not being all that good of a hockey player (certainly not at the wage he's getting paid). He scored 51 PTS the season before signing this contract, and never before or since has even come close to 50. Over 8 NHL seasons, his second best output was 30 PTS. If this were baseball, we'd have serious questions/allegations about how his production spiked by that much in a contract year.

3) Tyler Myers, BUF: 6 more years at $5.5M - Few people even blinked when this contract was signed, but ever since that day Myers has done nothing but play below expectation. If he can ever find the player he was during his rookie season, maybe this contract won't look so bad, but in the meantime this contract sucks. He is only 23 years old and should have his best years ahead of him, but it's looking unlikely that he'll ever be able to top the 48 PTS he scored as a rookie. His production has fallen every since, bottoming out at 8 PTS in 39 GP after the lockout.

4) David Jones, CGY: 3 more years at $4M - Congrats Jay Feaster on adding one of the worst contracts in the NHL that the Colorado Avalanche had to be very happy to see go. After the lockout he scored a paltry 9 PTS in 33 GP, embarrassing the Avalanche management for signing the contract in the first place. Then they went out and played hardball with Ryan O'Reilly, demanding he take less money than Jones, who is an inferior player. Granted that GM has since been reduced to a "paper work" role, letting Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy make the personnel decisions.

5) Travis Zajac, NJ: 8 more years at $5.7M - That is way too much money for a 40 point player who experienced a 20% decline in production after the departure of Parise. He had 20 PTS in 48 GP after the lockout. He's being over-paid by about $1.5M over 8 years. He declined after losing Parise, and expect him to decline after losing Kovalchuk. There is limited upside to Jaromir Jagr at this stage of his career, so expect Zajac to be on this list for the forseeable future.

6) Ville Leino, BUF: 4 more years at $4.5M - He had 53 PTS in 81 GP in Philadelphia before becoming a free agent, and Buffalo bit on a too long of a contract at too high of a price. He has scored 32 PTS in 79 GP in a Sabres jersey. That's nearly a 40% decline in production after signing the contract. It's astonishing that Buffalo did not buyout this contract, perhaps giving him one more year to prove his worth. Does anyone have any confidence that he'll return to 50 point form? Don't count me in that club.

7) Martin Havlat, SJ: 2 more years at $5M - His fall from grace has been substantial. In his last season in Minnesotta (2011) he scored 62 PTS in 78 GP. Since being traded to San Jose, he has scored 45 PTS in 79 GP. Time and injuries have finally started to catch up with Havlat, who signed a backloaded contract that will see him make $6M in the last year. That only adds insult to injury. San Jose will (or should) consider buying him out next season if they are unable to trade him.

8) Marc Andre Fleury, PIT: 2 more years at $5M - I want to believe that "the Flower" will regain the form that carried the Penguins to 2 Stanley Cup finals appearances; but his collapses in the last two playoffs have been spectacularly bad. He seems to have developed the same bipolar-type affliction as Roberto Luongo is rumoured to have, that when things are good, he's good; but as soon as he falters, the wheels come off the bus. Can he come back from consecutive playoff meltdowns, or will Tom Vokoun be the top goaltender in Pittsburgh this season?

9) Valtteri Filpulla, TB: 5 more years at $5M - Two years ago I argued that Steve Yzerman was the best General Manager in hockey. What a difference two years can make. That is way too rich of a contract for Filpulla, even if he puts up big points playing with Stamkos. It's not hard to find a decent player who could put up big points feeding pucks to the league's top sharp shooter for far less that $5M (think Chris Kunitz or Pascal Dupuis for under $4M). As a Red Wings fan, I'd say that sometimes Filpulla looks great out there, but he will go through long stretches where he is completely invisible and you almost forget he's on the team.

10) Ed Jovanovski, FLA: 2 more years at $4.13M - It's difficult to say if Jovocop has anything left in the tank. Injuries and old age have reduced him to a shell of his former self, which was just about where he was at when he signed this contract. Somehow I suspect that Dale Tallon would like Jovo to retire, so his 35+ salary can help them make the floor without having to actually pay him. Somehow I suspect that's what Tallon had in mind when he offered Jovo this contract, a means of circumventing the salary floor.

11) Brian Campbell, FLA: 3 more years at $7.1M - He had a very good season last year as Florida made the playoffs for the first time in a long time, but this year he regressed and was -22. No matter which way you measure it, he is not worth that much money. He's at best a $5M per year player, and is an above average puck moving defenseman. Furthermore, unlike with Hossa, Chicago did not front load this deal, so the Panthers are on the hook for the full price remaining on the contract. Ouch.

12) RJ Umberger, CLB: 4 more years at $4.6M - This has to be one of the league's more overrated players. He has 58 PTS in his last 125 GP (which works out to 37 PTS per 82 GP). That's not a player who should be earning nearly $5M. The worst part is that now departed GM Scott Howsen offered him this contract after his production fell from 57 PTS to 40 PTS. After a 30% decline in production, Howson gave him a 20% pay raise.  Not the brightest move.

13) David Booth, VAN: 2 more years at $4.25M - Booth was often rumoured as a buyout target for the cap-strapped Canucks, but he'll have at least one more season to prove his worth. His first two seasons with the Canucks were mostly disappointing as injuries hampered his production, with 68 GP and 32 PTS. To make matters just a little bit worse, his contract was back loaded, so he'll be making closer to $5M over the last two years of the deal.

14) Erik Cole, DAL: 2 more years at $4.5M - Here is a player so angry at the new CBA that he has threatened early retirement, and yet somehow Joe Nieuwendyk decided to trade one of his top scorers to acquire him? Joe has since lost his job as GM, and there is a really good chance that the Eric Cole acquisition was cited as one of the reasons he got shit canned.

15) Zbynek Michalek, PHX: 2 more years at $4M - The fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins shipped him out of town at a time when they were desperate for quality defensemen should tell you everything you need to know. He was on their blueline for that defensively catastrophic Philadelphia series that set goal scoring records. That's the Zbynek I'll always remember.

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