The implementation of a salary cap was supposed to curb reckless spending by NHL general managers. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, however, some GMs legally circumvented the cap by signing several players to extremely long-term, heavily front-loaded contracts to gain a lower average cap hit on their salaries.
The latest CBA capped contract lengths, but it hasn't curbed reckless spending. The Toronto Globe & Mail's James Mirtle projected the salary cap could rise to $100 million by 2021-22. That increases the likelihood of some players signing deals beyond their true worth. Player performance and salary-cap recapture penalties are ticking time bombs, which could lead to buyer's regret for some teams.
The following is a list of 10 players with the worst contracts in the NHL right now and the reasons why those deals are so bad.
Contract terms: Seven years, starting in 2012-13. $38.5 million, $5.5 million average annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: The Sabres believed they were signing a budding superstar to an affordable long-term contract.
Why it's a bad deal: The Sabres invested too much too soon on a young defenseman who had yet to fully establish himself as an NHL star. Since signing that deal, Myers has struggled, looking nothing like the confident, young blueliner he was in his first two NHL seasons. The contract added to the pressure he faced to meet mounting expectations.
Contract terms: Seven years, starting in 2013-14. $37.1 million, average annual cap hit of $5.3 million.
Reason behind this deal: The Blue Jackets saw the 28-year-old Horton as an affordable replacement for departed power forward Rick Nash.
Why it's a bad deal: When Horton's healthy, he averages 50-60 points per season, but his physical style makes him prone to injury, including two concussions in as many years. He's yet to make his Blue Jackets debut as he's still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Given Horton's injury history, it's doubtful they'll see a full return on their investment.
Contract terms: 10 years, effective 2011-12. $40 million total salary, $4 million average annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: Under wealthy new ownership in the summer of 2011, the Sabres inked Ehrhoff during an uncharacteristic free-agent spending spree.
Why it's a bad deal: The Sabres heavily front-loaded Ehrhoff's contract, paying out $18 million of his total salary within the first two years. Seemed like a good idea at the time, until salary cap recapture penalties were implemented in the new CBA. If he retires over the final three years of the deal, the recapture penalties will be $3 million per season against the Sabres' cap.
Contract terms: Seven years, starting in 2013-14. $36.75 million in total salary, $5.25 million annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: The Maple Leafs signed Clarkson believing him to be a late-blooming power forward.
Why it's a bad deal: Clarkson hasn't established himself as a reliable power forward, reaching the 20-goal mark only once (30 goals in 2011-12) in his NHL career. He's entering his 30s, when gritty forwards like himself typically go into decline. Clarkson will make $7 million per season in actual salary in the fourth and fifth years of his contract. That's a gross overpayment for a player of his limited offensive skills.
Contract terms: 12 years, starting in 2009-10. $63.3 million total salary, $5.275 million average annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: The Blackhawks signed him to provide experienced scoring depth.
Why it's a bad deal: While Hossa helped the Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups, he's been plagued by back and shoulder injuries in recent years. He's approaching his late 30s, when his performance will inevitably decline, making his contract burdensome for the Blackhawks. If he retires in the final five years of his deal, they'll incur salary-cap recapture penalties worth between $3.675 million to $4.275 million.
Contract terms: 12 years starting in 2010-11. $64 million in total salary, $5.333 million average annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: The Canucks didn't want to lose him to free agency.
Why it's a bad deal: Luongo's still a very good goalie, but the 34-year-old's best seasons appear to be behind him. His contract proved too expensive to trade last season, forcing management to instead move Cory Schneider. As CanucksArmy.com's Cam Charron observed, if Luongo retires during the final three years of the deal, the Canucks get hit with salary-cap recapture penalties worth over $4 million per season.
Contract terms: Nine years, starting in 2011-12. $60 million in total salary, $6.666 million annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: The Rangers signed him as an unrestricted free agent to center their first line.
Why it's a bad deal: Richards' numbers have declined since his 91-point performance in 2009-10 with Dallas. Given his age (33), the odds are against him regularly reaching 70 points. If he retires in the final three years of the contract, the New York Post's Larry Brooks noted the Rangers will incur salary-cap recapture penalties of over $5.66 million per season. No wonder there's talk of Richards receiving a compliance buyout in June.
Contract terms: 13 years, effective 2012-13. $98 million total salary each, $7.538 million average annual cap hit.
Reason behind these deals: The Wild signed them for their skills, experience and leadership.
Why they're bad deals: It's in the latter years of their respective deals when these contracts could get troublesome as their performances inevitably decline. Forwards tend to peak earlier than defensemen, making Parise a riskier long-term investment than Suter. They also fall under the cap-recapture rules, meaning the Wild will incur penalties between $3 million and $6.5 million per season each if they retire within the final six seasons of their respective contracts.
Contract terms: 14 years beginning in 2012-13. $110 million total salary, $7.857 million annual cap hit.
Reason behind this deal: The Predators matched an offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in July 2012.
Why it's a bad deal: If Weber's performance declines, this deal becomes burdensome for the budget-conscious Predators. Though the actual salary drops to only $6 million over the final four years of the contract, the cap hit remains the same throughout. Should he retire during the deal's final five years, the Predators could incur salary-cap recapture penalties between $4.8 million to $6.8 million over the remaining tenure.