Ranking the 11 Most Untradeable Contracts in the NHL

Franklin Steele@FranklinSteeleAnalyst IIApril 2, 2013

Ranking the 11 Most Untradeable Contracts in the NHL

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    The NHL lockout (2005 edition) brought a plethora of changes to the game we all know and love. The trapezoid. The death of the two-line pass. And of course our good friend parity. We've seen some interesting things so far, eight years into the NHL's salary cap era.

    Businessmen will always be such, and over the last couple of years, the managers and money men that make the NHL run have come up with some clever ways to try and stay green in the books while staying competitive out on the ice.

    Creative accounting, if you will. Not quite Enron-creative but close enough.

    One of the unforeseen consequences of the freshly imposed cap was the birth of the multi-decade, multimillion-dollar contract. And that has lead to several general managers getting a few things wrong. Hilariously wrong.

    That's easy to say for us fans as armchair GMs, but come on. Some of the deals that have been dolled out over the years wouldn't have happened on a business simulator like EA's line of NHL games—and make no mistake, with every year that passes, these video games are becoming more and more about the business side of things.

    It's with a teary eye that I begin this slideshow. It has been a long time since I've been able to pick out awful (or in this case, untradeable) contracts without smashing on Scott Gomez. His number has been retired to the rafters of the worst deals ever, and with a moment of silence, I solemnly move on.

    Thanks for the memories Scottie, but thankfully there are still plenty of deals to pick on.

    As always, feel free to make your respective arguments for or against in the comments. To be clear I don't think any of these guys are bad hockey players. In fact, mostly all of them are pretty damn good. For various reasons though, each of these guys owns an untradeable contract.

11. David Booth

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    The trade for David Booth didn't cost the Vancouver much outside of some moving parts. They sent Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm to the Florida Panthers for the winger, hoping that he could reach his ceiling with the obviously more talented squad.

    He played in 56 games after the deal and posted a respectable 16 goals and 13 assists before the end of the season.

    Things were looking good heading into the 2013 season for Booth, who was probably hoping to build on his success as a Canuck. Then the injury bug that seems to follow him everywhere bit, and according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Vancouver has placed him on the long-term injured reserve list in order to open up some cap space heading into the trade deadline.

    This isn't the first time that an injury has derailed Booth's season.

    He was the victim of one of the first head shots that brought the issue to the forefront in the NHL—Booth missed 48 games with that concussion. Jaroslav Spacek gave him another concussion not five months later, and there was some concern that his career was over.

    The guy can play some great hockey, but he's become quite the injury risk. Not exactly the kind of player I'd want to have inked for three more years with a payout of $4.25 million per.

    Because of the inherent injury risk, and because of the term left on this deal, Booth has an untradeable contract.

10. Ville Leino

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    As the old saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure. In this case, one team's player who seems to overvalue himself is another team's unfortunate contract.

    I understand that the (then) newly rich Buffalo Sabres were hurting for a center, and that perhaps they needed to overpay a bit to plug that hole down the middle. That still doesn't change the fact that they grossly overpaid Ville Leino and gave him a rather stupid term to boot.

    He was so bad for the Detroit Red Wings that the most patient front office in the NHL traded him for an AHL-caliber fighter. The forward found some success after joining the Philadelphia Flyers. In 2010-2011 he posted 53 points in 81 games, more than doubling his point total from the previous three seasons combined.

    Leino decided to test the free-agent market, and the Sabres pounced with their six-year pact worth $27 million.

    I can just imagine Leino's agent making the phone call to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. "Well, the Sabres just offered 27 million dollars over six...make it 30 and he's yours!"

    To which Holmgren probably replied "...and I thought I was crazy." 

9. Danny Briere

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    Danny Briere is an interesting specimen among the most untradeable contracts in hockey. Mostly because there may be a few teams out there that would take on the aging forward for one simple reason: He is arguably the best player in the league come playoff time.

    If you need an OT winner or a clutch goal then you hope that the rebound ends up on Briere's stick.

    So it comes down to a simple question then. Is the guy worth $6.5 million over the next three years (until he is 38 years old) simply for the dozen or so goals he can put up in the playoffs? If the answer is yes, then it's probably an answer from a true Stanley Cup contender.

    A squad that is trying to put as many eggs in one basket as possible.

    I know there was some recent interest in Briere, but if you look at the two or three teams that inquired (the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins were named in Frank Seravalli's recent report for the Philadelphia Daily News), they are teams that have legitimate Cup hopes this season.

    Aside from a few front-runners, the interest in Briere is likely nonexistent. He costs too much, is getting too old and is mostly known these days for his work in the postseason.

8. Johan Franzen

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    Maybe I am being hard on Johan Franzen here because I watch a lot of Detroit Red Wings hockey. He currently has 18 points in 28 games for the Wings, so his stat line isn't too shabby. Neither are his typical numbers, which seem to have settled around 55 points a season.

    Fifty-five points a season seems like a good deal for a few bucks less than $4 million a season, right?

    That creative accounting will get you every time.

    Mule's contract is typical of the (clearly) cap circumventing deals that became the norm early during the reign of the last CBA. The Wings are on the hook until the 2019-2020 season for Franzen's salary—the team will pay him $5 million a season for the next three years before his deal falls to $3.5 million for the 2016-2017 campaign.

    I have four simple reasons I feel that Franzen's contract is untradeable, despite feelings that he should become the centerpiece of a deal in the near future.

    1. Inconsistency
    2. He's getting old
    3. Injury risk
    4. Inconsistency

    Franzen turns into a ghost for long, long stretches of play for the Wings. You can watch a few games in a row and catch yourself wondering "wait, is Mule hurt again?"

    Frankly I think teams around the NHL can do better than add a 33-year-old on-again-off-again sometimes-superstar that is on the downward slope of his career for this kind of dough.

7. Matt Carle

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    Three productive offensive seasons while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers landed journeyman Matt Carle a lucrative, long-term contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Looking to add to the defensive core of Victor Hedman and...well, Victor Hedman, Steve Yzerman and co. extended a six-year, $5.5 million dollar a year deal.

    That's more money than Niklas Kronwall and Dustin Byfuglien mak, and on par with the likes of Duncan Keith and Keith Yandle.

    I'm not sure how Carle ended up in the same zip code as those guys, but at this point he shouldn't be.

    He's posted 12 points in 34 games for the disappointing Lightning. In fact, the team has had major issues this season due to the performances of highly touted new players. Carle, Sami Salo and Anders Lindback were supposed to represent a new direction in Tampa.

    The defense has instead been a sieve, allowing three goals a game en route to becoming the 23rd worst defensive team in the NHL. Not even Steven Stamkos can dig you out of a three goal deficit in every game.

6. Vincent Lecavalier

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    Vincent Lecavalier was a face of the Tampa Bay Lightning for a long time (read: before Steven Stamkos started scoring 1,230 goals a season). He's been their captain since 2008. He's helped the team bring a Stanley Cup to Florida and has been one of the classiest players in the NHL.

    Add all of these things together, and is the 32-year-old worth more than $7 million a year until 2019-2020?

    Over the span of the three seasons before Vinny inked his 11-year deal with Tampa, he had scored 267 points in 240 games, which helps explain his daunting cap hit. Since the deal however, his production has slipped for four consecutive seasons.

    That's never a good sign.

    His role has changed for the Lightning. I understand that Marty St. Louis and Stamkos are called on to do a lot more of the heavy offensive lifting while Lecavalier watched their backs in all three zones. Sadly, that just isn't a role a guy making more than $7 million a year should have.

    Is there a team out there that thinks that he could be a 70 or 80-point player if given the chance? With this kind of cap hit and term, I don't think so.

5. Marian Hossa

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    When Marian Hossa is healthy, he's among the top 10 or15 best players in the NHL.

    The key words there are obviously when and healthy.

    Hossa is an absolute dog in all three zone, and is an extremely underrated defensive forward. He chases down loose pucks and harasses puck carriers until his legs go rubbery and is good for the occasional point or 80.

    When. He's. Healthy.

    Often that isn't the case for Hossa, who has yet to play a full 82-game season for the Chicago Blackhawks. He came awfully close last season, skating in 81 contests, but all told since he signed with the 'Hawks in 2009, Hossa has missed nearly 50 games due to injury (not counting the playoffs).

    He's locked into a $63.3 million deal until 2021, and sadly players don't tend to get more durable as they age.

    It'd take a GM with quite a stomach to take on that kind of risk in return for the kind of top-end assets Hossa would command via trade.

4. Dennis Wideman

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    I contemplated writing "LoL" on this slide and moving on, but I suppose everyone deserves their breakdown. So here it goes.

    Sometimes I look at a contract and wonder if a GM had any information on a player besides the stat lines that Yahoo!, ESPN and the like do such a good job of keeping up to date and available. You know, the same information that fantasy hockey GMs worldwide use to make their choices?

    Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster is the worst in pro hockey. He could very well be the worst manager in all of sports, but I don't follow the other major leagues that closely. 

    He recently managed to receive the rough equivalent of an empty Easter Egg basket from the Pittsburgh Penguins for longtime captain Jarome Iginla—not before requiring the Boston Bruins to sign forward Matt Bartkowski to a one-way contract so that he'd be able to play for Calgary...you know, once the Flames and Bruins completed their deal for Iggy.

    Oh, wait.

    Then there was the embarrassing Ryan O'Reilly offer sheet debacle.

    Before all that went down though, there was the laughable Dennis Wideman deal. Wideman has broken the 40-point barrier twice over his 10-year career, and one of those two years happened to be before he became a free agent this last offseason.

    Feaster decided that WIdeman's first 40-point season in four years warranted a contract worth $5.5 million.

    Again, that is the kind of money that offensive anchors make. The kinds of players that you build Cup champions around. Like Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, who Wideman shares a cap hit number with.

    Maybe I should have just stuck with "LoL" after all.

3. Ilya Bryzgalov

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    This isn't how things were supposed to go for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Philadelphia Flyers. For all intents and purposes, GM Paul Holmgren traded several major pieces away to make room for the space faring, airy netminder.

    Those pieces may or may not have come together in Los Angeles after a series of odd events to win a Stanley Cup while the Flyers and their faithful were at home on the couch watching and wondering "what if."

    If Bryz didn't receive a deal to become the savior almighty for all of Philadelphia's net issues then maybe the deals are easier to deal with. Instead, the Flyers inked him to a nine-year deal worth $51 million. The 32-year-old is under contract until 2020, and one year after losing in the second round of the playoffs, Philly is in danger of missing the dance all together.

    Bryz is near the top of the NHL in games started and has allowed more goals than any other netminder in the NHL this season. His save percentage is almost sub-.900 (well outside of the top 30 in the category), and he is giving up nearly three goals a game on average.

    If Holmgren were to shop his "centerpiece" netminder over the summer, I guarantee that there'd be no takers.

2. Alex Ovechkin

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    Facts are facts: Alex Ovechkin currently sits in sixth place in goal scoring and has been one of the leagues hottest players as of late.

    Yet those stars that adorn his jersey might as well be Riddler-esque question marks.

    For what it's worth, I think AO is one of the classic cases of how a bad environment can have a negative impact on performance out on the ice. He's had three different coaches over the last three years and has earned the reputation as somewhat of a coach killer.

    Adam Oates seems to have found the magic with Ovie, but will he ever be a 100-point player again? The answer seems to be no. Defenders have learned to close the gap on him before he can get going, and goalies have learned his tendencies by now. Such is the life of a prolific goal scorer.

    So that leaves us with "off seasons" worth 60, 70 or maybe even 80 points. Which are outstanding numbers, but they aren't $10 million a year numbers. That echelon is reserved for guys like Sidney Crosby, that will undoubtedly put up at least a point a game, make something happen every time he's on the ice and work his tail off in practice to maintain his status as "greatest player in the world."

    Ovie? He's stuck in pre-2013 Patrick Kane territory. Which is perfectly fine. He could win a Cup, and he'll score a lot of goals doing it, but there isn't a GM around that could afford to part with the assets it'd take to land Ovechkin.

1. Rick DiPietro

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    Rick DiPietro's contract is so bad that the New York Islanders couldn't give it away for free. It doesn't get worse than that.

    The sad story of this fallen-from-grace puckstopper is well accounted, known and recited, and I'm afraid that one day we'll see DiPietro's story recounted on the Hallmark channel. I'm also afraid that he'll never play another game in the NHL again.

    His 15-year, $67.5 million deal is not only the most untradeable contract in all of hockey, but it is without a doubt one of the worst contracts ever between an NHL team and player. I would get into how bad the deal has been, but I try not to think about sad things before I go to bed.

    Have it at in the comments though. Best "Rick DiPietro is awful" joke gets a high five.