NHL Free Agency: The 10 Worst Contracts Handed Out This Summer

Brad KurtzbergContributor ISeptember 12, 2012

NHL Free Agency: The 10 Worst Contracts Handed Out This Summer

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    Okay, here we go. Another one of those lists that is sure to make the fans of a lot of teams angry and upset.

    That is not the intention of this article, and please read the ground rules on this opening page before writing comments about the players on this list.

    I am NOT saying that signing these players was a bad idea or even a bad move. In some cases, the contract itself is just a problem. Maybe it's too much money for this particular player, or maybe the length of the deal is just too long.

    Even if these players excel next year, it doesn't necessarily mean the contract handed out was a good one, especially if the contract was a lengthy one.

    As always, feel free to disagree with any deal I have on this list, but tell me why. Also, let me know if there's any bad deals you feel I missed, and please tell me why they belong on this list.

10. Sheldon Brookbank

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    The Blackhawks inked Brookbank to a two-year, $5 million contract.

    The bottom line on Brookbank is that he is a journeyman defenseman who will get third-pairing minutes and a few minutes on the penalty kill at best. Last year, he played just over 15 minutes per game—not a lot of minutes for a defenseman.

    Brookbank will be 32 by the time the season starts, and while he is a quality AHL player, at the NHL level, he's more or less a body. You can expect nearly no meaningful offensive production from Brookbank and steady play in his own zone at best.

    The bottom line is the Hawks could call up a younger player from the AHL to duplicate what Brookbank does for less money. No, $2.5 million per season is not a lot of money for a veteran player, but Brookbank's production doesn't even match that fairly humble salary number. This isn't a horrible contract, but it wasn't a good value, dollar for dollar, either.

9. Alexander Semin

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    The Hurricanes signed Semin to a one-year, $7 million contract.

    This deal is a gamble, plain and simple, but it's not a large gamble because it's just a one-year contract.

    Semin scored 40 goals in 2009-2010 and topped the 30-goal mark in a season on two other occasions.

    Yes, you have to overpay to sign UFAs, and free agents who can score like Semin does are a rare commodity, but the Hurricanes are paying Semin like a steady 35- to 40-goal scorer, and his production just hasn't reached that level yet.

    If he produces 35 or more goals, the Hurricanes will get their money's worth. If not, and if Semin doesn't play smart hockey in his own zone, this will be a very bad—albeit short—contract.

8. Sheldon Souray

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    The Ducks signed Souray to a three-year, $11 million deal for an average of $3.66 million per season.

    While this contract is in no way close the deal he signed that forced the Oilers to send him down to the AHL for salary-cap purposes, Souray is now 36 and well past his prime.

    Last year, he had some productive moments for the Stars, but his final season numbers were just six goals and 21 points in 64 games.

    While Souray can still help out on the power play, he just isn't going to produce a lot of value for this contract if his production is the same as it was a year ago. In addition, Souray will be 39 when this deal expires, so expect his numbers to drop in the future rather than improve.

7. P.A. Parenteau

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    P.A. Parenteau signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

    Parenteau was almost a career AHL player before the New York Islanders gave him a final chance and the Hull, Quebec, native made good.

    In the last two seasons, Parenteau has produced 53 and 67 points playing on a line with Matt Moulson and John Tavares.

    Parenteau should have some talented linemates in Colorado, but many question whether or not he will be as productive without Tavares.

    Parenteau will be 30 during the coming season, so he should have some productive seasons left, but this contract is a bit of a gamble on the Avs' part.

6. Jiri Hudler

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    Hudler signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Flames.

    The good news is that Hudler is only 28 and did average a point per game during his one season in the KHL. He also had two seasons with more than 20 goals in the NHL.

    But Hudler has mostly played third-line minutes on some talented Detroit teams, so it's not clear what his production will be when he gets top-six minutes with Calgary. That is the chance the Flames are taking with this deal. They are essentially paying Hudler like a consistent 25-goal, 55- to 60-point scorer before knowing for certain if he will match that production.

    If he does, this is a good deal; if he can't, obviously it isn't.

5. Jason Garrison

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    The Canucks signed Garrison to a six-year, $27.6 million contract, an average of $4.6 million per season.

    Vancouver is paying Garrison like a top-10 defenseman in this league, but even though he will turn 28 during the coming season, he has had only one truly productive NHL season.

    If last year was a fluke, the Canucks horribly overpaid for Garrison. If last year was the beginning of a productive career, they made a good deal.

    We'll see if this gamble pays off.

4. Dennis Wideman

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    The Flames inked Wideman to a five-year, $26.25 million contract, an average of $5.25 million per season.

    At 29, Wideman is still in his prime, and he has been a fairly productive defenseman, scoring an average of 40.5 points per season over the past five years.

    Calgary did have to overpay to sign Wideman before he hit the open market, but they are paying him like he scores 50 to 60 points a season rather than 40, and they are now committed to him until he is 34 years old.

    The Flames probably did what they had to do, but to get good value from this long-term deal, Wideman has to stay healthy and produce closer to his career-best 50-point season in 2008-09 than his average 40-point season of recent years.

3. Zach Parise

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    The Wild signed Parise to a 13-year, $98 million contract. While the deal is heavily front-loaded, it averages to $7.538 million per season.

    It's not that the Wild did the wrong thing by singing Parise as an unrestricted free agent. Parise is a consistent point producer, a leader in the locker room and was the most sought-after forward available on the free-agent market.

    But regardless of the player, any contract that lasts 13 seasons is a huge risk. If Parise gets injured in the second year of the deal, his career could be ended, or he could not play at such a high level after the injury (see the New York Islanders and Rick DiPietro).

    The risk could be reduced if the new CBA has an buyout clause in it, but that is not a certainty at this point.

    The length of the deal puts Parise on this list.

2. Ryan Suter

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    The Wild signed Ryan Suter to an identical 13-year, $98 million, front-loaded contract that they signed Parise to.

    Again, it's not the talent of the player that is the issue, but the length of the contract which creates a huge risk for the team signing the deal.

    The 13-year term puts Suter on this list, even if signing him was a good move by the Wild.

1. Shea Weber

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    The Predators matched the Flyers offer sheet for Weber and signed him to a 14-year, $110 million contract for an average of $7.857 million per season.

    Did the Preds do what they had to do when they matched the Flyers offer for Weber? Absolutely. They already lost Ryan Suter and couldn't afford to lose both of their top-flight defensemen.

    But a 14-year contract is just too risky and not a smart move. Essentially, Nashville stepped up to the plate when they had to, but the deal they were stuck with was full of risk and was not a great one.