NHL Free Agency: 10 Most Ridiculous Contracts of the Summer
Five established NHL stars have signed new contracts lasting a full decade or longer this summer. A sprinkling of younger players who could have been free agents by 2013 have instead been locked in for an extended period, but with compensation that has yet to match their skill set or performance.
Two other members of this summer’s free agency class are the centers of mild, yet not-so-negligible risks. One of them has had his career-long employer renew him for two years when one would be more rational while another is seeing teams take a chance by not taking a chance on him.
Based on a combination (in descending order of importance) of length, financial implications and what can be expected from the individual players in question, the 10 new contracts posing the boldest question marks are as follows.
10. Martin Brodeur
As brilliant as Brodeur was in the last postseason in sheer defiance of his age, the question must be asked: What happens if, in the first year of his new two-year pact?
No guarantees either way, but if Brodeur is lassoed by Father Time before his deal is up, the Devils could have a hard time swallowing or trying to shed his $4.5 million cap hit.
9. Jason Arnott
In this case, the absurd aspect stems from the fact that Arnott is still lacking a contract and still sitting among the unsigned free agents.
His latest employer, the St. Louis Blues, have implicitly turned him loose out of a desire to open and expand roles for younger talent. That may be fine for them, but plenty of other teams could use the likes of the 37-year-old Arnott, who upon posting back-to-back 17-goal seasons, is still a reliable third-line center and an invaluable veteran presence.
8. Jordan Staal
The $6 million cap hit is relatively reasonable and the exciting prospect of a long-term working partnership between Staal and his older brother, Eric, speaks for itself in the Hurricanes’ circles.
Even so, signing anybody on for 10 years all at once is a touch excessive.
Furthermore, that aforementioned $6 million cap hit and salary is slated to remain in effect until Staal is 34. There is no guarantee he will still be worth that much by that point.
7. Sidney Crosby
It’s no surprise that Crosby currently trails only Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin in terms of boasting the NHL’s priciest cap hit. Nor is it much of a shocker that he will start reeling in eight figures in 2013-14.
Still, to reiterate a point made in the Staal slide, any contract like the one Crosby signed in late June (i.e. one that lasts a decade or longer) is automatically absurd.
As much the Penguins and their captain want to retain their relationship for the balance of his career, there would be nothing wrong with exercising a little more prudence and pacing themselves with the long-term deals.
6. Jordan Eberle
Eberle is a gratifyingly skilled player and will be a pivotal contributor to the Oilers’ ascension.
With that said, when both are healthy and at the top of their game, he is not on the same par as Taylor Hall, who will make an identical $6 million after each player’s entry-level pact expires.
Eberle’s new deal, signed on Aug. 30, makes one wonder what will soon be in store for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, does it not?
5. Cam Fowler
Approaching the final year of his entry-level deal with the Ducks, Fowler still has ample time to acclimate to the NHL and start burgeoning into a more reliable two-way blueliner.
But after he ran away with the team’s lowest plus/minus rating in back-to-back seasons (minus-25 in 2010-11 and minus-28 in 2011-12), now is not the time to start thinking about doubling his salary. Yet Anaheim has chosen to go ahead and give him a new deal that will carry a $4 million cap hit beginning in 2013-14.
If there is a 2012-13 campaign, it will be on Fowler to make his third NHL season the charm and start justifying his new contract before it even kicks in.
4. Milan Lucic
If a team is looking for a clutch third-liner, then Lucic is the right man to pursue. In that regard, his Boston Bruins were wise to extend him for another three years, effective when his current contract expires next summer.
But as of 2013-14, with an annual income of $6 million, Lucic will be second only to captain Zdeno Chara as the highest-paid Bruin. This means he will be grossing more than any of his fellow forwards despite the fact that his first five NHL seasons have proven him to be much more effective, especially in the playoffs, when he plays fewer minutes.
If the Bruins are going to dole out $18 million to Lucic, then a 6-year deal worth $3 million each season would make infinitely more sense.
3. Shea Weber
Granted, the Predators were forced to match an equally absurd offer by the Philadelphia Flyers, but that, too, reeked of desperation.
All things considered, Weber is certainly worthy of an average annual income pushing close to $8 million. But for Nashville, that means taking on an individual cap hit of that magnitude for each of the next 14 years.
It’s not all mind-boggling. Weber’s salary will eventually slim down to $3 million and then $1 million, at which point he may or may not still be a Norris-caliber defenseman.
However, he will continue to reel in no less than $6 million per year for the next decade until he is 36. Even after that, his cap hit will trump his salary, which could prove problematic for the Predators if his skills are on the decline at that point.
1-2. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
As far as deals signed in the summer of 2012 go, the State of Hockey has taken on two Webers at once.
By 2022-23, that cap hit will be more than three times the number of their actual salary. By the following year, it will be more than seven times.
In each of the 13 seasons, the two alone will consume more than $15 million worth of cap space, which will require the Wild to be financially diligent as they go about building a contender around Parise and Suter.