NHL's Biggest Overpaid and Underpaid Moneymakers

Keegan McNally@Keegan_McNallyCorrespondent IIAugust 17, 2011

NHL's Biggest Overpaid and Underpaid Moneymakers

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    The man pictured here is Brad Richards, the newest member of the New York Rangers. Richards also is the proud owner of a $12 million paycheck come this season, the third highest in the league's history.

    With the free agency debacle over with and the season right around the corner, it is time now to look at each NHL team's highest paid player and determine if they are worth their weight in gold on the ice.

    Keep in mind that although Brad Richards may be earning $12 million next season, he only has a cap hit of $6.7 million per season. Ah yes, the miracles of contract signing have made it possible for a player to earn double his cap hit in one season but, not burden his team over the cap. Therefore, this list will solely be about each player's cap hit in order to keep everyone on a level playing field. Let's begin.

Anaheim Ducks: Lubomir Visnovsky

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    Cap hit: $5.6 million for two more years

    An offensive juggernaut on defense for the Anaheim Ducks, Visnovsky will be taking up a hefty chunk of payroll with a $5.6 million cap hit next season. However, this hefty chunk is necessary. The highest scoring blueliner from last season and second highest goal scorer on defense definitely deserves this hit. Did I mention he was a +18 and played over 24 minutes a game with the Ducks last season? With Mike Green of Washington only earning $.35 million less than Visnovsky this season and scoring only 24 points, I'd say he is actually slightly underpaid.

    Analysis: Underpaid slightly. 

Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara

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    Cap hit: $6.9 million for 7 more years

    The biggest man in the NHL has the third biggest cap hit among NHL defenseman. The perennial Norris Trophy nominee and Stanley Cup winner boasts the hardest shot in the league, longest reach of anyone and consistent 40 or more point seasons throughout his career. The Bruins captain can't be considered overpaid for the leadership and intangibles he possesses. Although, we shouldn't call him underpaid either as near $7 million for seven years is a big pill to swallow.

    Analysis: Fair cap hit and term length for Big Z.  

Buffalo Sabres: Thomas Vanek

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    Cap hit: $7.1 million for 3 more years

    Consistently one of the top goal scorers for Buffalo of the last five years, Vanek will be earning $7.1 million for  more years, on the downswing of his contract. Although Vanek can be considered an offensive threat, only averaging 63 points a year for the past four years just doesn't cut it for this much money. This often happens as a player will have one amazing season, such as Vanek did in 2006-2007, and will immediately be plopped with a new, overpaying contract at their feet.

    Analysis: Overpaid. 

Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla

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    Cap hit: $7 million for 2 more years

    It is no secret that Calgary is in financial trouble. Hitting the 10th spot in the Western Conference but, still being the 4th highest paying team in the league does not bode well for any franchise. Jarome Iginla, however, is not the problem. There has been a lot of talk about trading away his big contract in order to free up some cap space and restock the barren prospect pool that Calgary has but, talk can be cheap. Iginla is a consistent 85-point scorer and the face of this franchise. Perhaps fans shouldn't be looking in his direction when pinking at losing contracts (cough cough: Bouwmeester at $6.7 million).

    Analysis: Fair.

Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal

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    Cap hit: $8.2 million for 5 more years

    Eric Staal may be the brightest spot in this franchise but, he still is earning far too much money. His leadership skills are great and he can put pucks in the net, just not enough of them; 75-, 70-, and 76-point seasons will not get you superstar-like money on most teams but, on a Carolina team that spends barely to the cap floor I guess it doesn't matter. 

    Analysis: Overpaid but, seminecessary for Carolina.

Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews

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    Cap hit: $6.3 million for 4 more years

    Toews and Kane actually have the exact same cap hit, salary and term. So for everyone who is wondering where Kane is....

    Analysis: Fair

    Toews, however, is a different kind of player. He is oozing with leadership from the moment he steps onto the ice until the ending buzzer. If anyone wants an inspiring performance, watch this video. Minutes left in Game 7, Toews makes a gorgeous effort to put the puck on net and eventually gets rewarded with a shorthanded tally. If there was a poll out there that asked what the most exciting moment of the whole 2011 postseason was, I would answer with this goal. You can't put a price on leadership but, I'd peg it at over $6.3 million.

    Analysis: Slightly underpaid...slightly. 

Colorado Avalanche: Paul Stastny

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    Cap hit: $6.6 million for 3 more years

    Stastny, although good, hasn't put up the numbers to earn him his paycheck. With only one season over a point per game (2008) and only 57 points last season, this contract can be considered a slight overpayment. However, the Avalanche, weeks from training camp, are still not up off the salary cap floor and money is the least of their worries.

    Analysis: Overpaid, but it doesn't matter. 

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash

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    Cap hit: $7.8 million for 7 more years

    Nash has all the tools to be a prolific goal scorer in the NHL except one: a surrounding cast. The offense in Columbus could best be described as lackluster and worst be described as pathetic. However, with the addition of Jeff Carter look for Nash's goals to go down but, assists to go way up this season perhaps sending Columbus to the playoffs. 

    Analysis: Term is a bit long but, Columbus needs a star somewhere other than on their jerseys. Overpaid still.

Dallas Stars: Mike Ribeiro

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    Cap hit: $5 million for 2 more years

    Perhaps one of the only offensive forces left on the Stars, Ribeiro managed to put up 71 points last season in 82 games. A very effective forward, Ribeiro probably could be commanding a million more dollars on a couple of clubs in the league. Also, it is a bit odd that the once-dominant Stars have their biggest contract at only $5 million a season. 

    Analysis: Underpaid. 

Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk

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    Cap hit: $6.7 million for 3 more years

    Do I have to give a reason here? One of the greatest Russians in the league today can put up more than a point per game and be exceptional defensively. Although he is getting older, Datsyuk will be worth every penny in the coming three years.

    Analysis: Fair with a slight underpayment.

Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Smyth

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    Cap hit: $6.25 for this season

    Although this cap hit is not the fault of the Oilers, $6.25 million for Ryan Smyth is a bit ridiculous. Thank Colorado for this contract. Smyth can be a force in front of the net and will definitely help his old Oiler team but, he still has not put up more than 60 points since 2006. 

    Analysis: Overpaid.

Florida Panthers: Brian Campbell

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    Cap hit: $7.1 million for 5 more years

    Want to know how much money was spent on each and every one of Campbell's points last season? $262,000 thousand. That's only 27 points if any of you whipped out your calculators. Chicago made a good move by moving this contract to the one place where contracts go to die: Florida. 

    Analysis: You know the answer. 

Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar

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    Cap hit: $6.8 million for 5 more years

    Although not quite a point-per-game player in the past few seasons, Kopitar has shown flashes of brilliance at the tender age of just 23. With a stacked Kings team this year, look for Kopitar to finally get over the PPG hump. 

    Analysis: Fair.

Minnesota Wild: Dany Heatley

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    Cap hit: $7.5 million for 3 more years

    To be fair, the Wild needed to make this trade. What good is having someone like Mikko Koivu if he has no one to pass to? That being said, Heatley is still not worth $7.5 million, no matter how wicked his wrist shot is. It can't be expected that he will put up any better numbers than he did last year for San Jose and those numbers weren't pretty.

    Analysis: Overpaid.

Montreal Canadians: Scott Gomez

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    Cap hit: $7.4 million for 3 more years

    Although not as ridiculous as Campbell's, Gomez's contract is still laughable. Never regaining his 84-point form that he once had with Jersey, Gomez only managed to put up 38 points last season with his Montreal squad. At this point it would be stupid for Montreal to buy out this contract but, it still must sting a little to read $7.4 million and only 38 points.

    Analysis: Overpaid.

Nashville Predators: Shea Weber

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    Cap hit: $7.5 million for this season only

    How many suits do you think Weber can buy with that much money? Almost everyone in the league thought that once Weber went into arbitration he would be locked in for more than one year with the struggling Nashville squad. Weber is the biggest name on the team besides Rinne, and will be worth every penny of his contract in the coming season. For Nashville's sake, they better find a way to lock him up after the season is over. 

    Analysis: Fair.

New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalcuk

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    Cap hit: $6.7 million for 14 more seasons

    This contract almost makes me laugh. Kovalchuk does have arguably the best wrister in the game but, he won't for 14 more seasons. I don't understand how owners can think players can be worth this much money when they are in their late thirties and even forties in this case. Only posting 60 points for the Devils last season didn't help his cause either.

    Analysis: $6.7 would be fair; 14 years is just insane however.

New York Islanders: Brian Rolston

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    Cap hit: $5.1 million for this season

    Recently traded from New Jersey to the Islanders, Rolston can provide veteran leadership while putting up some points while he does it. You know who else does that? Mike Knuble of Washington and he earns $3 million less while putting up more points.

    Analysis: Overpaid but, it doesn't matter on this NYI team that still needs to get to the floor.

New York Rangers: Marian Gaborik

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    Cap hit: $7.5 million for 3 more seasons

    Gaborik has the potential to be worth that money for the New York Rangers. Only problem is, last season he wasn't. Only putting up 48 points after a career high 86 in 2010 isn't a good sign for the highest paid player in New York. However, with the addition of Brad Richards expect Gaborik to once again return to his 40-goal scoring days next season.

    Analysis: Overpaid because of last season's performance. Will be worth it at the end of next season.

Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza

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    Cap hit: $7 million for 4 more years

    Ottawa wants to keep Spezza on as long as possible in order to replace the legendary Alfredsson as head of the franchise when he decides to retire. Although Spezza isn't quite the offensive force he was four seasons ago, it would be hard to find a team that wouldn't give him $7 million a season for his work. 

    Analysis: Fair but, Ottawa needs to find someone to be on his wing soon.

Philadelphia Flyers: Daniel Briere

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    Cap hit: $6.5 million for 4 more years

    Briere obviously has some talent. He can put up decent numbers in both the regular season and playoffs, and he can lead by example. However, he was overpaid at free agency for one stellar season way back in 2007 that saw him put up 95 points. Since then he hasn't broken 73.

    Analysis: Overpaid, but not by much.

Phoenix Coyotes: Keith Yandle

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    Cap hit: $5.25 million for 5 years

    Two important things make this a fair deal for the Coyotes: Age and ability. Yandle is only 24 and about to reach the prime years of his NHL career as  a defenseman. He also has shown that he can be a staple on the blueline, posting 59 points last season.

    Analysis: Fair.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby

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    Cap hit: $8.7 million for 2 more years

    Obviously one of the biggest names in hockey isn't overpaid at $8.7 million. Crosby put up four straight 100-point seasons and was on his way to a fifth before suffering a concussion in early January. However, there has been a lot of talk lately about Crosby's health and it has been over eight months since his injury. I would be wary about his effectiveness come season time. For Pittsburgh's and the hockey world's sake, we should all hope Crosby will be 100 percent effective in October. 

    Analysis: Fair and hopefully will stay that way.

San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton

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    Cap hit: $7 million for 3 seasons

    With San Jose about to ice their best roster ever in October, Thornton will be expected to lead by example in this coming season. One of the best set-up men in the league has posted at least 60 assists in five of his last six seasons. You would be hard-pressed to find a team that wouldn't take Jumbo Joe at $7 million.

    Analysis: Fair and actually a slight underpayment.

St. Louis Blues: Andy McDonald

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    Cap hit: $4.7 million for 2 more years

    Fifty points in 58 games isn't too shabby for the 33-year-old McDonald. McDonald, however, needs to stay healthy in order to be worth his cap hit and in order for St. Louis to sniff the playoffs once again. 

    Analysis: Fair.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Vinny Lecavalier

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    Cap hit: $7.8 million for 9 more years

    One big season; one albatross contract. Is anyone seeing a pattern here? After Lecavalier posted a 108-point season in 2007 he was rewarded with an $85-million contract that will see him locked in Tampa until he is 40. The problem is, however, Vinny hasn't put up more than 70 points in the last three seasons, and he only had 54 in 2011.

    Analysis: Overpaid.  

Toronto Maple Leafs: Dion Phaneuf

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    Cap hit: $6.5 million for 3 more years

    Once the most sought after defenseman in the NHL, Phaneuf has fallen off the horse as of late. Only posting 62 points in his last two seasons combined (less than Visnovsky posted just this season), Phaneuf appears to be on the downswing in Toronto. Hopefully Phaneuf can finally break through his slump and help Toronto into the playoffs once again.

    Analysis: Overpaid.

Vancouver Canucks: The Sedins

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    Cap hit: Two identical contracts of $6.1 million for the next three years

    Back-to-back Art Ross Trophy winners and recent recipients of Stanley Cup heartache, the Sedins are a force to be reckoned with. With their talents playing together it is likely that they will never be split up in their entire NHL careers. That seems to suit the Vancouver management just fine.

    Analysis: Underpaid.

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin

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    Cap hit: $9.5 million for the next 10 years

    Ovechkin better hope his recent point setback is just a slump. Arguably the most well-known hockey player in the world probably brings in more money to Washington than they give him just by brand recognition. Interesting note, Ovechkin's contract at $124 million is the largest ever given to a hockey player.

    Analysis: Fair but, he better come ready to play in October.

Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien

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    Cap hit: $5.2 million for 5 more years

    Byfuglien was crucial in the Chicago victory in 2010. A highly effective offensive defenseman, Byfuglien will be the face of the Winnipeg franchise for the next five years. $5.2 million for 53 points in a defenseman isn't a bad return.

    Analysis: Fair.

Thanks for Reading!

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    All numbers were provided by capgeek.com. Hopefully you enjoyed the list, and if you have any comments don't hesitate to, well, comment!