The Worst Contract on Every NHL Team
Any time you are dealing with a salary-cap league, there is going to be an intense focus on the money teams spend and how they spend it. Every dollar you spend on one player is a dollar you cannot spend on other players.
Get an All-Star or a franchise player for a reduced rate or on a good contract, and it gives you a massive advantage in constructing your roster.
Spend it in the wrong places or on the wrong player, and it can hold you back for years.
Here, we take a look at the latter situations and pick out the worst contracts on each of the 32 NHL teams.
Anaheim Ducks: John Gibson
There was a time not that long ago when John Gibson was one of the best goalies in the NHL and a key part of a Stanley Cup contender.
But over the past three years, his play has regressed closer to league average (and sometimes even below league-average level), and he is no longer one of the top goalies in the NHL. But he is still paid like one.
Gibson has five more years remaining on his current deal with a salary-cap hit of $6.4 million per season. That is a huge investment in a goalie who has not topped a .905 save percentage since the 2018-19 season. Maybe a better team in front of him will help him bounce back, but when you pay a goalie that much money, you expect him to mask some flaws for everybody else.
Arizona Coyotes: Lawson Crouse
This is a new deal just signed this offseason, and it pays Lawson Crouse around $4.5 million per year over the next five years.
It is not necessarily a bad deal but more of a risky one because Crouse is still a bit of a mystery.
He is coming off a 20-goal season, but he has never performed at that level on a consistent basis. It is the type of deal that could work out in the long term if Crouse continues to develop as hoped, but that is far from a given.
The Coyotes have dealt so many veteran players away in the past few years that they do not really have many long-term deals that are obviously bad investments.
Boston Bruins: Charlie Coyle
The Bruins have done an amazing job over the years in getting their franchise players to sign below-market deals. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and David Krejci have all consistently signed for team-friendly deals, which has given the Bruins a huge edge in constructing their roster.
Sometimes, though, they miss.
Charlie Coyle to this point has been one of those misses.
He is signed for four more years at a $5.25 million cap hit per season and has not produced to that level since joining the Bruins. His production is not all that different from what it was in Minnesota, but you would like to see more for that sort of contract.
Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner
When Jeff Skinner first arrived in Buffalo, it looked like he and Jack Eichel were going to be the team's one-two punch for the next decade. After scoring 40 goals in his first year with the team, the Sabres signed him to a long-term contract with a $9 million cap hit per season.
His play immediately regressed down to just 21 goals over the next two years, and the Eichel relationship with the team rapidly deteriorated and resulted in this year's trade to the Vegas Golden Knights.
None of it worked out as anybody planned.
Skinner did bounce back a little this past season with 33 goals, but he's looking more like a complementary player than a star.
Calgary Flames: Nikita Zadorov
The Flames have done a masterful job building their roster and do not have many albatross deals.
The worst deal on the roster isn't even really that bad and probably belongs to Nikita Zadorov, who is signed for two more years at just under $4 million per season.
If this is the worst deal your team has, you are doing something right and can absolutely live with that. Zadorov is a big, physical presence but does not really provide much offense and is down the team's depth chart a little. You do not need to spend that much on your fifth or sixth defenseman.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jesperi Kotkaniemi
This is another team where there are not many bad contracts. I do not even hate this deal, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi is still a bit of a mystery, and the Hurricanes have him signed for eight years at over $4 million per year.
There is a lot to like about his play and potential, but he has not yet reached it and you would like to see him get there sooner rather than later.
But again, there are not many contenders for bad contracts on this team, as all of its core players are signed long term for team-friendly deals. It's a great front office that has built an outstanding team that should be competing for the Stanley Cup every year.
Chicago Blackhawks: Seth Jones
Let's start with this: Seth Jones was not anywhere near as bad as his most vocal critics would have you believe this past season.
He was fine and did a lot of good things.
Having said that, this contract (and the trade to bring him to Chicago) was a misguided move by a franchise that had no direction and no idea what it was doing. He is one of the highest-paid defenders in the league with a $9.5 million cap hit per season (for another eight years!), and he is not at that level.
It is even more frustrating for Chicago when the team traded Alex DeBrincat this offseason because it did not want to pay him big money to be part of a rebuilding team in the future.
Chicago also gave up a ton of draft assets and young players to acquire Jones from Columbus, and it has set the team back.
Colorado Avalanche: Josh Manson
The biggest issue with Josh Manson's contract in Colorado is that he is an expensive luxury the Avalanche do not need. At all.
Their defense is already loaded with Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, Devon Toews, Bowen Byram and Erik Johnson, which makes Manson at best the fifth- or sixth-best all-around defenseman on the team.
He has a $4.5 million cap hit per season for the next four years to be that.
He is not a cap killer by any means (Manson is a fine player), but they do not really need him. Especially at that price.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Erik Gudbranson
Columbus had a fascinating offseason.
The Blue Jackets landed the top free agent on the open market by shockingly signing Johnny Gaudreau and then managed to get Patrik Laine re-signed to give them two offensive stars to build around.
But they also had to trade Oliver Bjorkstrand, an underrated player, for nothing but draft picks to get salary-cap relief.
They might have been able to avoid that had they not also signed Erik Gudbranson in free agency to a four-year contract and a $4 million cap hit per season. Gudbranson is a big body who plays an extremely physical game, but he does not provide much beyond size and checks. He is not a great defender (at least statistically speaking), and he is not going to bring much offense. Columbus has done a nice job rebuilding its blue line over the years (the Seth Jones trade helped a ton with that), and this just seemed like an unnecessary move.
The Blue Jackets would have been better off skipping this deal and keeping Bjorkstrand.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn
The Stars have a couple of options here with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin both making over $9 million per year and not being top-line players anymore.
Even though Seguin's deal runs longer, he remains a better player than Benn.
So Benn is our pick.
He still has three years remaining on his contract and counts $9.5 million against the cap. His production has rapidly declined over the past few years, going from a scoring champion several years ago down to a 20-goal, 50-point player now.
You cannot blame the Stars for signing Benn to this contract when they did, but it has not aged well.
Detroit Red Wings: Ben Chiarot
The Red Wings entered the offseason with a massive amount of salary-cap space and a clear desire to speed up their rebuild.
They used a lot of that cap space, and they used a lot of it wisely.
The one big swing and miss might be the four-year contract to Ben Chiarot that carries a $4.75 million cap hit per season.
This is the type of free-agent contract that does not age well and will almost certainly end with a salary-retained trade, a buyout or waivers. Chiarot is a sought-after player given the way teams keep trading significant assets for him and signing him to big deals, but his teams always perform worse when he is on the ice versus when he is not. That is a concern.
Edmonton Oilers: Darnell Nurse
This is a like the player, hate the contract situation.
Darnell Nurse is good, and he is probably Edmonton's best defenseman, but the Oilers badly overpaid him with a $9.25 million per year salary-cap hit on an eight-year deal.
He had a monster year during the 56-game 2020-21 season and cashed in on that performance with a mega-contract that makes him one of the highest-paid defenders in the league.
But is he the type of defenseman that a Stanley Cup contender can rely on to play 25 minutes in every situation at a high level? I am not convinced. He is probably better suited to be a No. 2-type defenseman on that sort of team. The Oilers need to be careful with how they spend lower down their lineup given how much they are paying Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and this is the type of small overpay that can add up.
Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky
Sergei Bobrovsky has had a fascinating career.
He is on the short list of goalies to have won two Vezina Trophies, and he helped carry some average Columbus Blue Jackets teams to the playoffs.
When he got to the playoffs, he had some epic meltdowns.
Four years ago, he signed a massive seven-year, $70 million contract in free agency with the Panthers and was supposed to solve their goalie issue.
He has not done that and has continued his postseason struggles.
Bobrovsky's 2021-22 season was a nice bounce-back campaign, especially as he was able to hold off top prospect Spencer Knight for the team's starting goalie job, but when your goalie has a $10 million cap hit per year, that goalie better be a season-changer.
There was a time when Bobrovsky was that player in Columbus.
He has not been that player for several years, and now he is 34 years old and still has four more years remaining on his current deal.
Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty
This would have been a wild thought five or six years ago, as Drew Doughty was one of the top all-around defenders in the league and a cornerstone player on a consistent Stanley Cup contender.
But he has rapidly slowed down the past few years and is no longer an $11 million-per-year player.
He did bounce back this past season and helped solidify a young Kings defense (before he was injured), but he is a shell of the player he was at his peak.
He still has five more years remaining on that deal, and the Kings desperately need him to keep playing at the level he played this past season to make that deal at least somewhat worth it.
Minnesota Wild: Jonas Brodin
If we wanted to get technical about it, the worst cap numbers on the books are the buyouts going to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, which are going to wreck the team's salary-cap situation over the next few years.
But those do not really count since they both play for different teams now.
Of the players still on the roster, Jonas Brodin's $6 million cap hit per year is one that stands out.
It is not a totally empty contract, as Brodin is still one of the Wild's better defensemen, but that money could be spent in a better way given the salary-cap crunch the team is dealing with.
Montreal Canadiens: Josh Anderson
This contract was a massive gamble the minute it was signed, as Josh Anderson was coming off a major injury and had scored just one goal in the year before signing it.
He quickly stormed out of the gate in his first season with the Canadiens, mostly because of a huge boost in his shooting percentage, but rapidly cooled off as his percentages inevitably regressed. The Canadiens were hoping he could be a top-line player and a building block. That has not happened, and it is now probably the worst contract on their books.
He is signed for five more years at a $5.5 million cap hit per season but is probably only a 15-20 goal, 30-35 point player.
Nashville Predators: Ryan Johansen
The Predators were hoping that Ryan Johansen would be their No. 1 center and paid him as such back in 2017 when they re-signed him to an eight-year, $64 million contract extension.
That is a big chunk of change for a center who averages about 15 goals and 50 points per 82 games and is not a dominant defensive player.
Johansen did have a nice 2021-22 season with 26 goals, but that number was boosted by an unsustainable 22 percent shooting percentage. He is an 11.7 percent shooter for his career, or about half of what he shot this past season.
Regression should be expected this season, and that contract goes back to being a problem.
Nashville obviously feels it is a problem as the Predators left him unprotected in the Seattle expansion draft (along with Matt Duchene) with the hope that the Kraken would take him. They did not.
New Jersey Devils: John Marino
John Marino was one of the Devils' big offseason additions, as they acquired him from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Ty Smith and a 2023 third-round pick.
When he first made his NHL debut a few years ago, Marino looked like a diamond in the rough and a steal for the Penguins. He was one of the top rookies in the NHL, a standout defensive player, and he showed enough offensive flare to make it look like he was on track to being a top-pairing defender.
But his career sort of stalled after that, and his contract became too much for the Penguins to carry around on their books.
The Devils are swimming in salary-cap space, but it is still probably one of the weakest deals on the team. Marino can defend extremely well, but he is not going to be a game-changer offensively.
New York Islanders: Kyle Palmieri
The Islanders have collected quite a few tough contracts over the past few years. They have a ton invested in their bottom forwards and have signed aging forwards who are not big producers to long-term deals.
Kyle Palmieri is one of the players who falls under the latter category.
He was a fine trade addition during the 2020-21 season, but the contract they re-signed him to (one that pays him $5 million per season) looks regrettable.
The Islanders have a desperate need for more impact players around Mathew Barzal but have been unable to add any in large part because of the money they have spent on the fringes of the roster.
Palmieri is supposed to be one of their top forwards, but he is not a player who teams are going to lose sleep over in their preparation.
New York Rangers: Jacob Trouba
The Rangers made Jacob Trouba their captain this offseason, and he is a popular player in New York for his physical play, but this contract is not one of their better ones.
He counts for $8 million against the salary cap for another four years and might only be the second- or third-best defenseman on the roster, depending on highly you already think of K'Andre Miller.
The Rangers have a surprising salary-cap crunch and had to say goodbye to a lot of important depth this offseason, with Frank Vatrano, Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp all leaving. They probably could have found better uses for the $8 million that Trouba is counting against the cap.
Ottawa Senators: Nikita Zaitsev
The good news for the Senators is that Nikita Zaitsev's deal only runs for another two years and is not a huge figure in either year. It is just not a good or valuable deal.
Zaitsev is not going to bring any meaningful offense to the table, and he is not a shutdown defender.
He does bring some experience to a young blue line (and roster), but he is not a key part of the rebuild, long-term future or someone who moves the needle in a significant way. Along with the $4.5 million salary-cap number, his deal also has a modified no-trade clause in it.
Ottawa has re-signed most of its young core to long-term deals (Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle, Joshua Norris), and they all look like strong contracts that should work out as hoped.
Philadelphia Flyers: Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Ristolainen has been one of the least productive defenders in the league for most of his career, but the Flyers were willing to look past that when they gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire him.
They were also willing to look past it again (including in his first year with the Flyers) when they re-signed him to a five-year, $25.5 million contract extension.
It makes even less sense when you look at the type of team the Flyers have.
This might be one of the worst rosters in the league on paper and is a team that should be rebuilding, not trading first-round picks for veteran defenders.
The Flyers were unable to make a big score in free agency or the offseason due in large part to not having the necessary salary-cap space or the ability to move some contracts. Contracts like Ristolainen's prevented them from making meaningful improvements to the roster.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Kasperi Kapanen
The Penguins were able to move some of their biggest problem contracts this offseason with the trades of Mike Matheson and John Marino.
But re-signing Kasperi Kapanen to a two-year deal worth over $3 million per season was an odd move for a team that has salary-cap issues.
Kapanen has every tool at his disposal to be a top-line player, but he has never been able to put it together in Toronto or Pittsburgh. The Penguins have invested a ton in him over the years in the hopes that it will happen.
They drafted him with a first-round pick in 2014, traded him for Phil Kessel and then traded another first-round pick (and a pretty good prospect) to re-acquire him. They then gave him a multiyear contract extension after a disappointing season.
That is a lot to invest in a player who might score 15 goals in a good year.
The good news: even if Kapanen provides more of the same this season, it is a short-term deal.
San Jose Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
At his peak, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of the most underrated defenders in the league and a major part of the Sharks' core. He helped them be a consistent contender and reach the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Final.
But Father Time remains undefeated, and it has caught up to Vlasic in recent years.
He also has a $7 million cap hit per year for another four years.
This is a team in desperate need of a rebuild and has some ugly contracts for aging players on the roster, including Vlasic and Erik Karlsson. Some might argue that Karlsson's $11.5 million per year cap hit is a worse contract, but I think he is a better player than Vlasic at this point and can perform at a decent level and provide some offense.
Seattle Kraken: Philipp Grubauer
When the Kraken built their initial roster, they clearly had the intention of building it from the goal line out.
They invested big money in Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger to be their franchise goalies, but they turned out to be the biggest weakness on the team and helped sabotage their inaugural season.
Grubauer was coming off an outstanding year with Colorado when he signed in Seattle, but that was one of the most goalie-friendly situations in the league. The Avalanche had the league's best defense, a dynamic offense that could provide a ton of offensive support, and all of their goalies in recent years have performed at a similarly high level.
It turned out to be very different for Grubauer when he played for an expansion team. He had one of the worst seasons of his career with the Kraken, and there is no guarantee he bounces back.
He is signed for five more years with a $5.9 million cap hit per season. That is a big investment in someone who has not consistently been a top-tier starting goalie.
St. Louis Blues: Jordan Binnington
When Jordan Binnington first arrived in St. Louis, he helped save the 2018-19 season and backstopped the team to its first-ever Stanley Cup. (He technically played a game in 2015-16 as well.)
But his career has been on a steady downward trend since then with a couple of miserable postseason performances. The Blues paid him around $6 million per year on a long-term deal when there was still some question as to how good he was going to be. A couple of years later, that is still open for debate.
What makes it even worse for the Blues is that Binnington was clearly their second-best goalie a year ago behind Ville Husso, but they had to let Husso go because they could not afford to keep him under the cap.
It will be interesting to see if they kept the correct goalie.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nicholas Paul
The Lightning are always pressed against the top of the NHL's salary cap, but they manage to find a way to keep the players they want and acquire the ones they need.
They do not make many mistakes.
They spent this offseason re-signing a lot of core players, including Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak to long-term deals. They also re-signed Nicholas Paul to a seven-year contract with a cap hit of more than $3 million per season.
Paul was one of their big trade-deadline additions during the 2021-22 season and played a big role in their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. He is a fine player, but do you really need to sign a depth guy to a seven-year contract? How many seasons will he actually play as a member of the Lightning before being traded or bought out?
Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Murray
The Maple Leafs' Achilles heel this season is going to be in goal, where they are relying on the duo of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov to backstop a hopeful Stanley Cup contender.
Given the way Murray and Samsonov have played the past couple of seasons, that is a gigantic risk.
What makes the Murray addition so wild is that he counts for more than $6 million against the cap for the next two years and they did not even get Ottawa to retain any salary on a contract it was almost certainly desperate to dump.
Murray has two Stanley Cup rings on his resume with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he has struggled the past few years.
The Maple Leafs are gambling he can bounce back in a new environment and on a better team than the Senators team he struggled with the past two years.
Vancouver Canucks: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
The Canucks were a few years too late in acquiring Oliver Ekman-Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes, and his addition was one of former general manager Jim Benning's big going-away presents to the team.
There was a lot of concern over Ekman-Larsson's play when he was acquired by the Canucks, and it seemed obvious that it was trending in the wrong direction.
Still, the Canucks saw a potential top-pairing defenseman who could help anchor their blue line alongside Quinn Hughes. But at a cap hit of more than $8.25 million per season for another five years, his contract is looking like a big negative on the Canucks' cap. He also has a no-movement clause on that contract.
The good news for the Canucks is they also received Conor Garland in that trade, but his play might not be enough to make up for the negative value Ekman-Larsson's deal currently brings.
Vegas Golden Knights: Reilly Smith
The Golden Knights operate their team like it is a video game and the salary-cap rules are turned off. They always go for the big fish, and it has wrecked their salary cap.
This offseason they re-signed Reilly Smith to a three-year contract at $5 million per year against the cap. It is not a huge deal, but Smith is on the wrong side of 30 and has shown signs of slowing production in recent years.
If he does not reverse that trend, this is going to be another deal that Vegas could do without.
He was a key part of the Golden Knights' initial success, but like the rest of the organization, he might have already peaked.
Washington Capitals: T.J. Oshie
When the Capitals initially signed T.J. Oshie to his current contract, there was always a concern that it would not age well.
It has not.
But given how much Oshie contributed to a Stanley Cup-winning team during the 2017-18 season, I can guarantee you there is nobody in Washington that cares how it has aged.
Still, we are being objective here, and a 36-year-old Oshie at a salary-cap hit of $5.75 million for another three seasons is not going to bring value. His play has rapidly declined in recent years, as he was limited to just 11 goals in 44 games this past season.
Superstars can maintain much of their production deep into their 30s, but a second-tier player like Oshie is going to decline more noticeably. That might already be starting to happen.
Winnipeg Jets: Nate Schmidt
The Jets have some great forwards and a top-tier goalie, but their one big weakness has been on defense.
They attempted to address that before the start of the 2021-22 season by acquiring Nate Schmidt for next to nothing from the Vancouver Canucks.
Part of the reason they gave up so little: they were willing to take on all of Schmidt's remaining contract that carries a cap hit of $5.95 million per season for another three years.
Schmidt's career got off to a strong start in Washington and then Vegas for the expansion Golden Knights, but he never took another step forward. He has some offensive ability and does provide some value, but he is not somebody who is going to help lead the top of your defense.