Welcome to my annual NHL Worst Contracts List for 2016. It's largely based on performance for the first half of the 2016/17 season. These are not necessarily the worst players in the league, but the worst contracts. Ryan Suter is still a very good player, but next generation of Minnesota Wild fans will be lamenting that contract for years after his retirement.
Generally I try to avoid listing contracts that are only bad because of an injury, unless the contract was already bad prior to the injury. I'm looking at the contracts that were mostly based on poor decision making, or rewarding a player for past performance when he's unlikely to repeat that production going forward.
My past Worst Contracts lists can be viewed here.
*note* The dollar figure "owed" beside a player name is remaining cap hit on the contract.
1) Andrew Ladd, NYI, $33M owed over 6 more years @ $5.5M AAV - He’s on pace to score 26 PTS in 82 GP, the worst PTS per game average of his entire career, at 31 years of age with 6 years left on his contract. This might be the new normal for Ladd, or things are going to plummet even further if and when Tavares leaves town.
2) Zach Parise, Min, $60M owed over 8 more years @ $7.5 AAV – It’s hard to argue against what Minnesota is doing this season, but that’s a whole bunch of money left to be paid to an over 30 forward having his worst statistical season since he was a rookie (not counting the 13 game season of 2010/11). Also there is a massive “cap recapture” penalty coming when Parise retires that will be a gut punch for Wild management.
3) Loui Eriksson, Van, $30M owed over 5 more years @6M AAV – This contract was confusing from day one. It’s a “win now” acquisition for a team that should be focused on re-building. Loui is having the worst PTS per GP season since he was a rookie. After scoring 63 PTS with the Bruins last season, he’s on pace for 36 PTS in 2016/17.
4) Bobby Ryan, Ott, $36M owed over 5 more years at $7.25M AAV – His production has dropped significantly in 2016, below what you’d expect from someone with that price tag (worst points per game since his rookie season). I recall last year a local rink had a giant billboard of Bobby Ryan for Head and Shoulders shampoo “shoulders are meant for greatness, not dandruff.” I found that confusing. If shoulders are meant for greatness, why is Bobby Ryan your spokesman? That billboard has since been taken down.
5) Dustin Brown, LA, $29M owed over 5 more years @ $5.8M AAV – Long gone are the days of 20 goals and 50 PTS for the 32 year old former captain. The last few seasons he’s fallen to a 10 goal 30 point player. He earned this contract for helping the Kings win Stanley Cups in the past, but it’ll be hard for them to win any more while carrying contracts like this.
6) David Clarkson, Clb, $15.7M owed over 3 more years @ $5.2M AAV – Normally I try to exclude contracts that are bad because of injury from this list, but Clarkson was on the list prior to his current injury. If he never plays hockey again, then Columbus can burn the contract on Long term IR. If he does return from injury, it continues to be a terrible contract.
7) Ryan Suter, Min, $60M owed over 8 more years @ $7.5M AAV – It’s a little awkward putting Suter on this list because he’s still among the league’s best defensemen. Unfortunately there is a day of reckoning coming at some point in the future when he decides to retire. When he does, expect “cap recapture penalty” to be trending among the top Google searches in the state of Minnesota. If he and Parise retire the same year (and they have almost identical contracts), the Wild organization is screwed.
8) Marian Hossa, Chi, $21M owed over 4 more years @ $5.3M AAV – This is the last year of the contract over $1M. Is he coming back next season to play at age 38 for a big pay cut? It’s unlikely, but I haven’t heard anybody talking about a Marian Hossa farewell tour. Granted I’m sure plenty of people are talking about it in Chicago. Chicago can’t really afford this “cap recapture” penalty, although Stan Bowman has proven effective at keeping this team competitive while salary cap compliant.
9) Henrik Zetterberg, Det, $24M owed over 4 more years @ $6M AAV – He is proving to still be a very effective player at age 36. But after next season the “back dive” portion of his contract kicks in and he must decide if he wants to play at age 38, 39, 40 for $3.5M, $1M, $1M. If he retires then Detroit is going to get hit with a significant penalty. Granted the playoff streak should be over by then so it won’t be so big of a deal.
10) Semyon Varlamov, Col, $11.8M owed over 2 more years @$5.9M AAV – When Patrick Roy arrived in Colorado he must have sprinkled some kind of magic fairy dust on this guy, who had a miracle season getting nominated for the Vezina Trophy. He earned himself a nice big new contract that summer, and it looks like he’s gotten worse with each passing day.
11) David Bolland, Ari, $11M owed over 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV – I should just copy and paste the write-up for David Clarkson. Normally I try to exclude contracts that are bad because of injury from this list, but Bolland was also on the list prior to his current injury. If he never plays hockey again, then Arizona can burn the contract on Long term IR. If he does return from injury, it continues to be a terrible contract.
12) Matt Belesky, Bos, $11.4M owed over 3 more years @ $3.8M AAV – He has lost some time to injury this season, but prior to the injury he was producing very little offense. Boston should have known he was unlikely to repeat his 22 goal season of 2015, but paid him at that level and his production has been gradually declining ever since.
13) Petr Mrazek, Det, owed 1 more year @$4M AAV – If your objective is to tank the season then Mrazek is a fantastic starting goaltender. A year ago at this time he had among the best save percentage in the NHL, then after his 24th birthday on Feb 14 he has been among the league’s worst goalies, and Detroit keeps playing him.
14) Jussi Jokinen, Fla, owed 1 more year at $4M AAV – He scored 18 goals last season and is currently on pace to score 5. He may have hit that proverbial wall in his career. I’m not sure what kind of analytics Florida’s front office used to forecast his future production and reward him with this contract, but obviously it failed. Also, see David Bolland.
15) Kevin Bieksa, Ana, owed 1 more year at $4M AAV – It might be time for the 35 year old defenseman to retire. In 2008/09 he scored 43 PTS. This season he is on pace for 7. He has lost a step and at this point provides little more than veteran leadership on a young blueline with a little bit of toughness sprinkled in.
Anze Kopitar, LA, $70M owed over 7 more years @ $10M AAV -
Jordan Staal, Car, $36M owed over 6 more years @ $6M AAV –
Ryan Nugenthopkins, Edm, $24M owed over 4 more years @ $6M AAV -
Marian Gaborik, LA, $19.6M owed over 4 more years @ $4.9M AAV -
Carl Soderberg, Col, $14.2M owed over 3 more years @ 4.8M AAV -
Sedin Twins, Van, $14M owed over 1 more year.
Craig Smith, Nsh, $12.6M owed over 3 more years @ $4.2M AAV -
Mikkel Boedker, SJ, owed $12M over 3 more years @ $4M AAV -
Mike Smith, Ari, $11.4M owed over 2 more years @ $5.7M AAV –
Benoit Pouliot, Edm, $8M owed over 2 more years @ $4M AAV -
Eddie Lack, Car, $2.7M owed over 1 more year -