What are the 10 best and 10 worst contracts given to players in the salary cap era coming off their entry level contracts? The best list mostly excludes players who signed for more than 10% of the salary cap. This is looking at the best bargains, not necessarily just the best players. Hence why Crosby and McDavid aren’t here. I could easily have made the best 30 contracts coming off entry level. There are a bunch of good ones to choose from.
1) John Tavares, Islanders, Sept 14 2011, 6 years $33M: Signed by Garth Snow. They got an MVP candidate for $5.5M AAV. This was listed on my “15 best contracts in hockey” from beginning to end, and ranked as the #1 best bargain for multiple seasons. 344 GP, 335 PTS over the first 5 seasons.
2) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa, Oct 11 2016, 3 years $14.3M: Signed by Steve Yzerman. This contract is unreal for one of the league’s top goal scorers. It confused me at the time. He must not have been willing to miss games and just accepted the best offer even though he’s clearly worth much more. The average price for 30+ goal scorers coming off entry level is $5.5M AAV, and that’s not even accounting for cap inflation. Where were the offer sheets? The Lightning could get 140 Goals for $14.3M. Wow.
3) Victor Hedman, Tampa, Dec 1 2011, 5 years $20M: Signed by Steve Yzerman. This has to be in the top 10 best contracts in the whole NHL under the salary cap era. He had 232 PTS in 335 GP from the blueline. Yzerman signed him at low point in his production. By the second season of the contract he scored 55 PTS.
4) Jonathan Quick, LA, Oct 23 2009, 3 years $5.4M: Signed by Dean Lombardi. He won a Stanley Cup and was the playoff MVP. Bargain. Over those 3 regular seasons he went 88 W-56 L, with a 2.16 GAA and .919 SV%. Came 2nd in Vezina voting in year two.
5) Kris Letang, Pittsburgh, Mar 30 2010, 4 years $14M: Signed by Ray Shero. In the first year of this contract Letang nearly doubled his point production up to 50 PTS in 82 GP. He averaged close to 24 minutes per game, quickly becoming the Penguins best defensemen.
6) Claude Giroux, Philadelphia, Nov 8 2010, 3 years $11.3M: Signed by Paul Holmgren. He scored 227 PTS in 207 GP, which is a steal at that price. They managed to get “Peak Giroux” at a discount, but then over-payed on his next contract.
7) Jamie Benn, Dallas, Jan 24 2013, 5 years $26.3M: Signed by Joe Nieuwendyk. He went from being a good player at age 23, elevating into the elite tier of players by age 24. He finished this contract with 357 PTS in 363 GP. This is probably among the 10 best value contracts signed in the entire salary cap era.
8) Tyler Seguin, Boston, Sep 11 2012, 6 years $34.5M: Signed by Peter Chiarelli. He never played a game in Boston under this contract. He was traded in July 2013 and Bruins fans have not stopped complaining about it since. He scored 84 PTS in year one.
9) Roman Josi, Nashville, June 10 2013, 7 years $28M: Signed by David Poile. This is one of the best bargains in the NHL right now and probably makes the list for 10 best NHL contracts since 2005. His points per game almost doubled from the last year of his entry level to the 2nd year of this contract. I guess his agent didn’t expect he’d be as good as he’s become. This contract cost his client millions of dollars going 7 years for that low number.
10) Andrei Vasilevsky, Tampa, July 1 2016, 3 years $10.5M: Signed by Steve Yzerman. Leave it to Yzerman to hit another big home run on a contract coming off entry level. This goalie could be a Vezina nominee every year of this contract and a strong contender to win the award at least one of them.
1) Thomas Vanek, Buffalo, July 6 2007, 7 years $50M: Signed by Darcy Regier. This was an offer sheet signed by the Edmonton Oilers and matched by Buffalo. He did score 424 PTS over the span of this contract, but in hindsight the team would have been way smarter to let him go to Edmonton and take the 4 first round picks compensation.
2) David Booth, Florida, July 1st 2009, 6 years $25.5M: Signed by Randy Sexton. He scored 60 PTS the season before earning this contract and never came close to that point total again. They managed to trade him to Vancouver (with a 3rd round pick) for Sturm and Samuelsson in an exchange of bad contracts.
3) Rostislav Olesz, Florida, June 30 2008, 6 years $18.8M: Signed by Jacques Martin. This was an example of giving a long-term contract to a young unproven player that blew up in their face. He scored 26 PTS in 56 GP the season before signing this contract. He would finish it in the AHL before being bought out.
4) Cody Hodgson, Sep 11 2013, 6 years $25.5M: Signed by Darcy Regier. He scored 20 goals and 44 PTS while averaging 18m of ice time per game in year one, then in year two his production completely collapsed down to 13 PTS in 78 GP and was bought out. He retired a year later at age 26.
5) Cam Barker, Chicago, July 6 2009, 3 years $9.25M: Signed by Dale Tallon. This contract was bought out. The Blackhawks did not win a Cup until they traded this contract to Minnesota. His career took a steep nose dive almost the moment he left Chicago.
6) Jared Cowen, Ottawa, Sep 13 2013, 4 years $12.4M: Signed by Brian Murray. I’m not too sure how the wheels fell off this bus, but his career was looking promising before it started to nose dive in 2015. He was eventually dumped on Toronto but played zero games with that team before being bought out.
7) Alexey Marchenko, Detroit, July 1 2016, 2 years $2.9M: Signed by Ken Holland. He only played one season of 41 GP before his contract was terminated. The Leafs claimed him off waivers from Detroit, then bought out the contract a few months later.
8) Damien Brunner, New Jersey, Sep 24 2013, 2 years $5M: Signed by Lou Lamoriello. He scored 32 PTS in 77 GP for the Devils before his contract was terminated and he returned to Switzerland.
9) Nail Yakupov, Apr 13 2015, 2 years $5M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. He played 100 games and scored just 32 PTS while being traded to St. Louis. He’s probably the worst 1st overall pick since Patrick Stefan.
10) Anders Lindback, July 6 2012, 2 years $3.6M: Signed by Steve Yzerman. His two seasons in Tampa saw him post a 2.90 GAA and a SV% below .900. That’s not worth $1.8M AAV.