What have been the 10 best and 10 worst multi-year NHL contracts given out to players who are at least 35 years old in the salary cap era? These are contracts that if the player retires before the end of the contract, it will continue to count against the salary cap. For this reason, teams are reluctant to give out long term contracts to players in this category. There may be a few below who had not yet officially hit 35 when they signed the contract, but we're dealing with a somewhat limited sample size so I decided to include everyone.
The best list could also be called the "10 best players who aged well" and remained productive into their late 30s, which is not terribly common in the NHL.
1- Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, June 30 2006, 2 years $15M: Signed by Ken Holland. A 2-year contract that won 2 Norris trophies and a Stanley Cup. Drop the microphone…
2- Tim Thomas, Boston, Apr 3 2009, 4 years $20M: Signed by Peter Chiarelli. Boston won a Stanley Cup, a playoff MVP, and a Vezina trophy on this contract. That’s worth whatever you paid even if he sat out the last year.
3- Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, Dec 26 2007, 2 years $14.9M: Signed by Ken Holland. Nick was merely nominated for the Norris trophy under this contract, but still took the team to another Stanley Cup finals.
4- Sergei Zubov, Dallas, July 30 2005, 3 years $12M: Signed by Doug Armstrong. Sure, cap inflation puts the AAV closer to $7.5M in 2017 dollars, but that’s not too expensive for an elite puck moving defenseman who scored 160 PTS in 202 GP at age 35, 36, 37. He was a special player.
5- Martin St. Louis, Tampa, July 1 2010, 4 years $22.5M: Signed by Steve Yzerman. He remained a dominant offensive player into his late 30s, with 280 GP and 255 PTS on this contract.
6- Joe Thornton, San Jose, Jan 24 2014, 3 years $20.3M: Signed by Doug Wilson. Jumbo didn’t put up any 100-point seasons on this deal, but 197 PTS in 239 GP is still really good.
7- Ray Whitney, Carolina, Apr 13 2007, 3 years $10.6M: Signed by Jim Rutherford. Whitney is another player who aged well, with 228 GP scoring 196 PTS over these 3 seasons.
8- Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa, Oct 30 2008, 4 years $19.5M: Signed by Brian Murray. This was a back-diving contract that passed 40 years old, and surprisingly he played out the entire term. He also played well scoring 187 PTS in 246 GP.
9- Teemu Selanne, Anaheim, Sep 28 2008, 2 years $5.25M: Signed by Brian Burke. That’s a good price for 119 GP and 102 PTS. This was the only multi-year contract Selanne signed under the salary cap.
10- Andrew Brunette, Minnesota, July 1st 2008, 3 years $7M: Signed by Doug Risebrough. Brunette played 244 games and scored 157 PTS. His production dipped a bit in the 3rd year, but he still proved to be a bargain.
Worst (ranked only by size of contract)
1- Brian Rolston, New Jersey, July 1 2008, 4 years $20.3M: Signed by Lou Lamoriello. He scored 59 PTS at age 34 before signing this contract. Lou gave him a 4-year deal and he did not even breach 40 PTS in those 4 seasons. By age 38 he scored just 24 PTS in 70 GP, the last season of his NHL career. With cap inflation that AAV is closer to $6.5M.
2- Ed Jovanovski, Florida, July 1 2011, 4 years $16.5M: Signed by Dale Tallon. Jovocop was pretty much done when he inked this deal at age 35. It turned out to be a terrible idea, as are many long-term contracts given out to 30+ defensemen. He scored 19 PTS in 109 GP in Florida.
3- Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton, July 1 2009, 4 years $15M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. Khabibulin wasn’t very good for Chicago prior to signing this contract, so I’m not sure what the Oilers thought they were getting for this 35+ player. He had just 33 Wins, 67 Losses, with a 3.00 GAA and .903 SV%, backstopping the team to zero playoff games and helping them secure 3 first overall picks.
4- Brian Gionta, Buffalo, July 1 2014, 3 years $12.8M: Signed by Tim Murray. They gave a multi year contract to a 35-year-old and he averaged 34 PTS per season. He retired at the end of this contract.
5- Jaroslav Spacek, Montreal, July 1st 2009, 3 years $11.5M: Signed by Bob Gainey. You thought that you were buying a 45-point defenseman and you got less than half of that. He was eventually shipped out of Montreal for a bad Tomas Kaberle contract.
6- Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota, June 24 2013, 3 years $10.2M: Signed by Chuck Fletcher. This was not a smart contract. In 3 seasons he played just 44 games with 12 Wins, a 3.06 GAA and .893 SV%.
7- Dainius Zubrus, New Jersey, July 1 2013, 3 years $9.3M: Signed by Lou Lamoriello. A 3-year deal to a 35-year-old player. He scored just 10 PTS in 74 GP in year two before being bought out.
8- Stephane Robidas, Toronto, July 1st 2014, 3 years $9M: Signed by Dave Nonis. They signed a defenseman who had just broken his leg twice in the same season. He only played 52 games with Toronto before retiring due to leg issues. Who could have predicted that?
9- Willie Mitchell, Florida, July 1 2014, 2 years $8.5M: Signed by Dale Tallon. This contract was more about bringing in a mentor for Aaron Ekblad than it was to acquire a functional defenseman. Willie did not have much left in the tank at this point.
10- Brad Stuart, Colorado, Sep 29 2014, 2 years $7.4M: Signed by Joe Sakic. The Avalanche overpaid (via trade) for a declining asset and then turned around and gave him a 2-year deal at age 35. He lasted one season before being bought out.