Monday, January 9, 2017

Best NHL Contracts of 2016

Welcome to my annual NHL Best Contracts list. This was a very difficult list to build compared to the Worst Contracts list because there are no shortage of team friendly contracts to choose from. I tend to avoid contracts with only 1 season left, but in the case of John Tavares made an exception for the former 2 time winner of best contract in hockey (and by best I mean the best bang for your buck from the team perspective). Also, there are no entry level contracts on this list. Since they all come from the same cookie cutter, I only list post entry level deals

My past best contracts lists can be viewed here.

1) Nikita Kucherov, TB, 2 more years @ $4.8M AAV – I’d love to know how Steve Yzerman pulled this one off after Kucherov has established himself in the elite tier of goal scorers. It’s possible that someone in the Tampa front office had naked pictures of him and threatened to release them to the public unless he signed this team friendly contract that locked him in below market value for another 2 years. That’s the only thing that makes any sense.

2) Tyler Seguin, Dal, 2 more years @ $5.7M AAV – Boston Bruin fans might never get over this one. He’s one of the best players in the league who locked in long term below market value. The Stars will probably miss their perfect window to capitalize on the bargain contracts to Benn and Seguin. Once these guys start earning market value, it will be considerably more difficult for Jim Nill to build a championship roster.

3) Roman Josi, Nsh, 3 more years @ $4M AAV – If Josi went UFA tomorrow, he’d probably get north of $7M per season. Nashville has him at a great price for 3 more seasons. I’m sure his agent deeply regrets locking his client in to this much term at such a low price, costing both of them a boatload of money. This might also be one of the most “untradeable” contracts in the league as no team would trade a top defenseman getting paid such a low sum.


4) Max Pacioretty, Mtl, 2 more years @ $4.5M AAV – On the list of contracts that cost a player millions of dollars, this one is up there. Perennial 30 goal scorers tend to cost much more than this, and he’ll be over 30 years old when it expires. Will he seek additional compensation on his next contract because he outperformed his current contract (like an Edwin Encarnacion)? If so Montreal might want to let him walk UFA instead of forking out a max type deal.

5) Wayne Simmonds, Phi, 2 more years @ $4M AAV – Simmonds has been returning terrific value on this deal since it was signed in 2012. It’s another contract that cost a player millions of dollars during his years of peak production that he’s unlikely to recover in his next round of negotiations. His agent timed it poorly such that he’s unlikely ever to get a max pay day.

6) Artem Anisimov, Chi, 4 more years @ $4.5M –  You can probably attribute some of Anisimov’s elite production to the presence of Patrick Kane, but whatever the reason he’s putting up great value for the Blackhawks. It’s a little bit comparable to Chris Kunitz who has put up big numbers playing with Sidney Crosby, but with virtually nobody else. Tough to say if Anisimov could make more money on the open market, since most prospective buyers would be aware of the Kane-Effect.

7) Justin Faulk, Car, 3 more years @ $4.8M AAV – His production is down but he’s still one of the more incredible bargains in the league. He’s no Roman Josi, but still a talented top pairing defenseman who will be getting a big pay raise when this contract expires. In hindsight, he and his agent screwed up and signed too long when a shorter deal would have made more sense. He got the kind of deal that Montreal should have given PK Subban but instead forced him into a low price, low term bridge deal, which cost that franchise a lot of money two years later. Faulk shows how skipping the bridge deal can lead to big savings down the road.

8) John Tavares, NYI, 1 more year @ $5.5M AAV – There is one more year left on one of the most team friendly contracts signed in the salary cap era. Tavares cost himself millions and it’s not like the Islanders used the money they saved to build a winner. Soon he’ll be gone (or so I assume) and the team will have missed a window of elite talent at a bargain price that doesn’t come around very often. Sure that year they almost beat the Penguins in the playoffs felt like a championship, but it wasn’t.

9) Devan Dubnyk, Min, 4 more years @ $4.3M AAV – Leads the NHL in Save Percentage (.941) and Goals Against Average (1.75) and has to be the leading candidate for the Vezina. That level of production under contract for 4 more years is tremendous value. He’s proving this season to be more than just a one hit wonder. Considering his career was all but dead when he arrived in Minnesota, this has been a remarkable story.

10) Eric Staal, Min, 2 more years @ $3.5M AAV –Staal has been doing great in Minnesota, and it begs the question of what other offers he had on the table in the summer time. Did he take less money to move closer to Thunder Bay? Regardless of how the Wild managed to pull this off, they’re getting great value from this signing. The demise of Eric Staal may have been exaggerated by his supporting cast in Carolina rather than skill decline.

11) Nazem Kadri, Tor, 5 more years @ $4.5M AAV – Kadri might have signed his long term contract a year too soon, as he has played well enough to get a Selke trophy nomination.  This is a great contract for the Maple Leafs re-building process. Kadri and has agent must not have thought he was capable of elevating his game to the next level by locking in at this term and price. Had he become UFA this summer, he’d have scored more money than this.

12) Charlie Coyle, Min, 3 more years @ $3.2M AAV – He’s on pace for 27 goals 68 PTS this season at 24 years old.  He’s heading into prime production at a mind numbingly low price. Sure the Wild carry some bad contracts, but they also have some great contracts to offset them. The competitiveness window is still open for this franchise, at least until Ryan Suter starts to break down and they lose defense depth in the expansion draft and maybe wiff on a few of their blue chip prospects.

13) Victor Rask, Car, 5 more years @ $4M AAV – This type of contract can be a huge risk for teams if the player regresses (like Rostislav Olesz or Cody Hodgson), but they can also produce some of the best bargains when players improve. I was critical of this deal when it happened, but the early returns have been great for Carolina. He’s a very versatile player who plays power plays, kills penalties, takes faceoffs, scores goals, and may already be the Hurricanes best player. The people of Quebec are going to love him.

14) Mats Zuccarello, NYR, 3 more years @ $4.5M AAV – The Norwegian Wayne Gretzky. By far the greatest player Norway has ever produced, may have hit his peak last season. His coming out party as a world class player was at the Sochi Olympics, which has carried over into his NHL play. 60 points for $4.5M AAV is fantastic value.


15) Paul Byron, Mtl, 2 more years @ $1.2M AAV – Last year Paul Byron scored 11 goals in Montreal. That was a career high. Halfway through 2016/17 he already has 12 and is on pace for 26. Anytime you can get a 20+ goal scorer for a little over a million dollars, that’s a win. They’ve got him under contract at that price for another 2 seasons. Sure this is probably his career year and he’ll start to regress next season, but he needs to make the list for what he’s done in 2016.


HONORABLE MENTIONS


Cam Atkinson, Clb, 1 more year @ $3.5M AAV 

Adam Henrique, NJ, 2 more years @ $4M AAV

Rickard Rakell, Ana, 5 more years @ $3.9M AAV

Brendan Gallagher, Mtl, 4 more years @ $3.7M AAV 

Alec Martinez, LA, 4 more years @ $4M AAV

Oliver Ekmanlarsson, Ari, 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV  

Dougie Hamilton, Cgy, 4 more years @ $5.75M AAV

Rasmus Ristonlainen, Buf, 5 more years @ $5.4M AAV 

Ryan McDonagh, NYR, 2 more years @ $4.7M AAV  

John Klingberg, Dal, 5 more years @ $4.2M AAV

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