Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
Taking into account fellow NHLers with similar deals, past performance and each player’s outlook over the course of their current contracts, here are the five worst for the 2013-14 season:
All salary and cap-hit figures taken from capgeek.com.
Montreal Canadiens forward Rene Bourque.
2013-14 Salary: $4 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.33 million
Cap Comparable: Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings)
2013-14 Salary: $3.5 million (goes up to $7.25 million in 2014-15)
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.175 million (goes up to $5.875 million in 2014-15)
There was a time when Rene Bourque was one of hockey’s best-kept secrets.
Scoring 58 points in 73 games in 2009-10, Bourque signed a six-year, $20 million deal with the Calgary Flames. Had his play stayed at that level up to this point, his current $3.33 million cap hit would be considered a bargain. That he finds himself on this list indicates it didn’t, though…not even close.
While he scored 148 points (75 goals) between 2008-2011 in 211 games as a Calgary Flame (.70 points per game), Bourque managed just eight (five goals) in 38 games after being traded to the Montreal Canadiens in 2012 (.21 points per game).
In the 27 games he did dress last season (concussion), he actually played relatively well and showed actual hustle. Compared to the previous season, when, instead of an immovable object, the 6’2”, 213-pound winger played more like one that just didn’t move at all, it was night and day.
Seeing as he still totaled just 13 points, though, Habs management might prefer to see him and his contract get a move on out of town instead.
Montreal Canadiens forward David Desharnais in front of New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
2013-14 Salary: $3.5 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.5 million
Comparable: Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins)
2013-14 Salary: $3.725 million (goes up to $4 million in 2014-15)
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.725 million (goes up to $3.825 million in 2014-15)
Pittsburgh Penguin Chris Kunitz owes a lot of his success to Sidney Crosby, but David Desharnais, by a similar token, is only valuable to the Habs due to his chemistry with Max Pacioretty.
For example, David Desharnais signed his current four-year, $14 million deal after scoring 60 points in 2011-12 as part of Montreal’s colloquially named “Two and a Half Men” line with Pacioretty and Erik Cole.
Conversely, Kunitz signed his latest three-year, $11.55 million extension after scoring 52 points during the last 48-game, lockout-shortened season.
Desharnais meanwhile struggled to rediscover the same playmaking touch he displayed the previous season, notching just 28 points in 48 games in 2013.
Admittedly, as far as first-line centers go, Desharnais makes quite the paltry amount.
If he’s able to get back to where he was in 2011-12, the deal is poised to end up being quite the steal. However, considering either Lars Eller or Alex Galchenyuk are similarly poised to steal Desharnais’ first-line spot in the not-too-distant future, he may not get a chance to.
Current-Montreal Canadiens forward Daniel Briere.
2013-14 Salary: $4 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $4 million
Cap Comparable: Chris Stewart (St. Louis Blues)
2013-14 Salary: $4.1 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $4.15 million
While Daniel Briere brings to the Canadiens an all-star-caliber talent, the last time he made the All-Star Game was in 2010-11 when he scored 68 points in 77 games. Since then, a lot has changed, including him sustaining two concussions.
The soon-to-be 36-year-old is obviously not the player he once was. It’s perhaps more telling that he’s not even Michael Ryder, the player Montreal let pursue free agency in order to sign him as a replacement.
Over the last two years, Briere has 65 points and 22 goals (104 games). Ryder, who is almost three years younger, has 97 points and 51 goals (128 games). Also of note, Ryder went on to sign for $3.5 million per year with the New Jersey Devils.
Now, Ryder obviously has his consistency issues and was worth letting go (but not necessarily in favor of Briere). Additionally, when one considers a guy like 27-year-old Damien Brunner is still available (having been just invited to the Devils’ training camp), it boggles the mind.
Obviously, it’s in the name to a certain extent, as Briere is a Francophone from Gatineau. It’s a name not that far removed from Breyers, though, with about the same best-before date.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler.
2013-14 Salary: $5.75 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.5 million
Cap Comparable: Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
2013-14 Salary: $5.125 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.875 million
Goaltender Carey Price is being paid like an elite goalie. And, while he has the talent to be in a group of peers made up of guys like Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist, he has yet to justify his salary on a consistent enough basis.
He even signed his current six-year, $39 million contract after a 26-28-11 season, indicating the pact was based more on potential than actual performance.
Needless to say, Habs general manager Marc Bergevin took a mighty big risk on a goaltender who had just one playoff series win to his credit at the time (and still does).
If you look at the three closest cap comparables to Price at capgeek.com, they have each either won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy (Cam Ward) or Vezina Trophy (Ryan Miller, Lundqvist) as the league’s best goalie. Price hasn’t even been nominated.
To reiterate the initial point in this slide, the deal can end up being quite a decent one seeing as Price has five more seasons to make good on all of that potential. However, looking back on his career up to this point, it’s unfortunately just as likely, if not more so, that he ends up a bust.
Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Gionta and New Jersey Devils defenseman Alexander Urbom.
2013-14 Salary: $5 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $5 million
Cap Comparable: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
2013-14 Salary: $4.55 million (goes up to $7.5 million in 2014-15)
2013-14 Cap Hit: $5 million (goes up to $6.5 million in 2014-15)
Whereas Price has the potential to be an elite player in the NHL, captain Brian Gionta has been forced to get by on grit and sheer determination. Those characteristics undeniably have their merits, but, alone, they usually cost teams much less.
It might seem unfair to compare Brian Gionta to Patrice Bergeron when the latter’s salary is going to go up so drastically next year. However if you consider just what Boston Bruins fans got out of Bergeron over the term of his current three-year contract, it’s just as unfair to Habs fans.
Bergeron, who, like Gionta, has had his share of injury problems, has nonetheless been one of Boston’s steadiest, more reliable contributors offensively and defensively. Since his last contract kicked in, he has scored 96 points in 123 games (.78 points per game).
Over that same time frame, Gionta, who is admittedly defensively aware himself, has scored 41 in 79 (.52). To add greater insult to injury, Bergeron’s current cap-friendlier deal only came into effect the season after he helped to lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup.
Meanwhile, the 2008-09 New Jersey Devils that impacted then-Habs GM Bob Gainey so greatly to the point of convincing him to sign Gionta? They lost in the first round of the playoffs to a Carolina Hurricanes team that has not made the postseason since.
For the record, since signing with the Canadiens that summer, Gionta’s overall points-per-game average is 0.60 (133 points in 222 games). Over that same four-year period, Bergeron’s is 0.74 (205 in 275).
Now, one might argue that Bergeron is a Bruins lifer and that a) he quite possibly took a hometown discount to stay with Boston and b) it’s not as if Bergeron was ever going to sign with the Habs, so the point is moot.
I mean, it’s not like Montreal had a choice between Bergeron and Gionta and just said “What the hell? We have enough forwards over 6’0”. Let’s go with a short guy instead.” Believe me, that conversation in no way, shape or form has ever taken place.
Remember Gionta in part came to Montreal because his former linemate, Scott Gomez, had just been traded to the Habs and he in theory (but not in practice) could have taken less as well.
As for Bergeron never signing with the Habs? He most likely would have had the Habs selected him in the second round of the 2003 NHL entry draft with their 40th pick instead of Cory Urquhart. Bergeron went five picks later.
While looking back that far is perhaps irrelevant here, the future is just as bleak for Gionta. Set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, Gionta, based on his performance, will likely not be re-signed by the Habs or any team for that matter for anywhere close to his current salary.