Here is my list of the 15 worst NHL contracts of 2015. The amount listed at total money is calculated by Average Annual Cap Hit multiplied by years remaining. I tried to stick mainly to contracts with at least 2 seasons remaining, but could not exclude Bryan Bickel, the AHL's highest paid player. By that standard, Tanner Glass should probably be here too. There are no expiring contracts on the list because those can all be easily unloaded for assets at the trade deadline.
1) David Clarkson, Clb, $21M owed over 4 more years @ $5.2M AAV - It's a wonder that the Leafs managed to unload this contract. Granted, they took back another terrible contract in return. The worst thing Nonis ever did as Leafs GM was sign Clarkson. Ironically the best thing he ever did was dump his contract on the Blue Jackets.
2) Nathan Horton, Tor, $21.2M owed over 4 more years @ $5.3M AAV - Normally I try to avoid putting players on the worst contracts list due to injury, except in situations where the player had injury issues prior to signing the contract. When they signed Horton, he was already injured which put his insurance premiums very high. To save some money, Columbus management decided to wait until he was healthy insure the contract. He returned to the line-up, played 36 games in 2014, and hasn't played since. With no insurance the team has to pay for him not to play, which was why he fit so comfortably in the pockets of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's unlimited budget. When this is all said and done, Horton will have been paid $37M to play 36 games. Not too bad.
3) David Bolland, Fla, $16M owed over 5 more years @ $5.5M AAV - Dale Tallon has been receiving a lot of praise for the Florida Panthers team he has built here in 2015, but he certainly doesn't hit home runs on every contract. One mulligan I'm sure he'd love to take is Dave Bolland, who has been paid a lot of money to sit in the press box so far in the 2015/16 season.
4) Dustin Brown, LA, $35M owed over 6 more years @ $5.8M AAV - Dustin Brown has done a lot for the LA Kings organization and was rewarded with a luxurious contract that should take him to the end of his playing career. Problem is, he's got a lot of hard miles on the odometer, and he has started to slow down with age.
5) Marian Hossa, Chi, $26M owed over 5 more years @ $5.3M AAV - We are still waiting for one of the players with the inflated "cap recapture penalties" to retire. Not sure Hossa will be retiring soon, but he is on pace for his worst statistical season in over a decade. He has been very effective in his mid 30s, but alas father time is finally starting to win that battle. He's scheduled to make $7.9M this season, $4M next season, then $1M after that. All signs point to him retiring in the summer of 2017. If he does, that contract won't be "off the books" for Chicago. No, they are going to be feeling it for years to come. But hey, they won 2 Stanley Cups with him. Despite the pain that's coming, this contract was absolutely worth the price.
6) Jordan Staal, Car, $42M owed over 7 more years @ $6M AAV - Every year that Jordan Staal makes this list, I say the same thing "the best 3rd line center in the NHL". Any club that has him pencilled into their 3rd center spot is in great shape, but no team paying their 3rd line center that much money is going to make it very far. He's more of a $4.5M player, but locked in at too high a price for too long a time period.
7) Ryan Suter, Min, $67M owed over 9 more years @ $7.5M AAV - Suter is still a very good defenseman in this league that many teams would love to have, but he's now 30 years old with 9 years left on the contract. Generally I don't put these long term contracts on the worst contracts list until the player's production value falls below the Average Annual Value of the contract (call it the Henrik Zetterberg rule). The problem with Suter is that Minnesota played him way too much in the early years of the deal and the negative effects of the work load are starting to show.
8) Andrej Sekera, Edm, $27M owed over 5 more years @ $5.5M AAV - Yes it is true that Edmonton needed help on their blueline, but when I saw this contract last summer, I cringed. He was not what Edmonton needed, even if he's put up a few points. The Edmonton defense has been terrible and this guy is on the ice lots.
9) Phil Kessel, Pit, $48M owed over 6 more years @ $8M AAV - When the Pens acquired Kessel, I may have predicted he'd score 90 goals this season. He's on pace for 23. Granted, this isn't all bad for Pittsburgh with Toronto paying 15% of the remaining salary. There are no forwards making as much or more money as Kessel with fewer points. He's currently at the low end of expected production for a forward with that AAV.
10) Vincent LeCavalier, LA, $9M owed over 2 more years @ $4.5M AAV - If it were not for retirement rumours, this contract would probably be higher on the list. His professional career should be over, but if God forbid he decided to play out the contract, it makes no sense that the Kinds acquired him. Even with Philly paying part of the freight, it's still a terrible contract.
11) Jimmy Howard, Det, $15.9M owed over 3 more years @5.3M AAV - The emergence of Petr Mrazek makes this contract even more ominous for the Red Wings, who will soon have to sign him long-term. I'm sure Holland would love to dump this contract, but good luck finding a buyer. They might have to package a prospect into the deal to get anyone to bite on their expendable former #1 goalie who has struggled this season in a back-up role.
12) Matt Carle, TB, $11M owed over 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV - He was a highly coveted free agent when they signed him, but now he's barely their 6th defenseman. He has more healthy scratches than points.
13) Kevin Bieksa, Ana, $8M owed over 2 more years @ $4M AAV - He's one of those guys who is getting old fast, after having a very physical pro career.
14) Bryan Bickel, Chi, $4M owed over 1 more year @ $4M AAV – The Blackhawks can't even give him away.
15) Luca Sbisa, Van, $7M owed over 2 more years @ $3.6M AAV - He is too mistake prone to ever be relied upon on a winning team. He's just a depth guy who should never be paid more than $1.5M
Honourable mentions to)
Mike Smith, Ari, $17M owed over 3 more years @ $5.7M AAV –
Craig Smith, Nsh, $17M owed over 4 more years @ $4.2M AAV -
Ryan Getzlaf, Ana, $41M owed over 5 more years @ $8.2M AAV, -
Nick Leddy, NYI, $33M owed over 6 more years @ $5.5M AAV -
Marian Gaborik, LA, $24M owed over 5 more years @ $4.9M AAV -
Matt Moulson, Buf, $15M owed over 3 more years @ $5M AAV -
Carl Hagelin, Ana, $12M owed over 3 more years @ $4M AAV -
Mike Green, Det, $12M owed over 2 more years @ $6M AAV -
Matt Stajan, Cgy, $6M owed over 2 more years @ $3.1M AAV -
Eddie Lack, Car, $5M owed over 2 more years @ $2.7M AAV -