Every NHL Team's Worst Contract for the 2015-16 Season

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

Every NHL Team's Worst Contract for the 2015-16 Season

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The marginal increase in the NHL's salary-cap ceiling for 2015-16 forced general managers to spend more frugally on their player payrolls. However, every team enters the upcoming season carrying at least one bad contract.

    Some players, like Los Angeles' Dustin Brown (pictured above), were signed before their performance began to significantly decline. Others, like Chicago's Bryan Bickell, were paid far more than their actual worth. All of the contracts on this list take up invaluable salary-cap space, making it difficult for teams to invest in more affordable depth. 

    The following slideshow lists every NHL team's worst contract for 2015-16, factoring in contract details and recent performance. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the comments section.

Clayton Stoner, Anaheim Ducks

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    Christine Cotter/Associated Press

    Current contract: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner is entering the second year of his four-year, $13 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit and actual salary for this season is $3.25 million.

    2014-15 statistics: Stoner tallied eight points in 69 regular-season games and one point in 16 postseason games. He averaged 17:38 in ice time per game, with 128 hits and 84 blocked shots.

    Why it's the worst: While the Ducks enter this season with a reasonable payroll, they're overpaying Stoner. A physical third-pairing defenseman, he saw the lowest average ice time among their blue-line regulars last season. 

Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Current contract: Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith is entering the third season of his six-year, $34 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $5.67 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $6.5 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 62 games, Smith compiled a record of 14 wins, 42 losses and five overtime losses. The 33-year-old also had a goals-against average of 3.16 and a save percentage of .904.

    Why it's the worst: Since carrying the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, Smith's performance has steadily declined. The Coyotes' poor defense contributed to his woeful stats, but former backup Devan Dubnyk posted better numbers prior to his trade to Minnesota. The only good thing to say about Smith's contract right now is it helps the budget-conscious Coyotes reach the salary-cap minimum. 

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Current contract: Boston Bruins defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara is entering the fifth season of his seven-year, $45.5 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $6.9 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $7 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: Chara tallied 20 points in 63 games. The 38-year-old averaged 23:20 in ice time per game, with 125 hits and 99 blocked shots. 

    Why it's the worst: Chara's contract is an example of how risky it can be to sign an aging star to a long-term deal. He was still in his playing prime when this contract went into effect in 2011-12. In recent years, however, age and the physical toll of NHL action have caught up to him. Chara's contract has now become burdensome for the Bruins.

Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Current contract: Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson is entering the second season of his five-year, $25 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $5 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $6 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 77 games, Moulson scored 13 goals and 41 points. The 31-year-old led the Sabres in assists and finished second in points. 

    Why it's the worst: Moulson's numbers last season were below those expected of a scoring winger earning his type of salary. Perhaps playing alongside new Sabres centers Ryan O'Reilly or Jack Eichel will improve his performance. If not, Sabres management will come to regret Moulson's contract.

Ladislav Smid, Calgary Flames

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Current contract: Calgary Flames defenseman Ladislav Smid is entering the third season of his four-year, $14 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $3.5 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $3.75 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: Injuries limited Smid to only 31 games last season. The 29-year-old tallied one point and averaged 13:58 in ice time per game. 

    Why it's the worst: Smid can't be blamed for missing most of last season to injury, but he's slid down the Flames' blue-line depth chart. With the offseason addition of Dougie Hamilton, Smid could become a very expensive seventh defenseman. Flames management could try shedding his contract via trade later this season.

Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    Current contract: Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal is entering the third season of his 10-year, $60 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $6 million.

    2014-15 statistics: Sidelined by a broken leg for nearly half the season, Staal tallied 24 points in 46 games. On the offensively anemic Hurricanes, the 26-year-old still finished eighth in scoring.

    Why it's the worst: Staal is a solid two-way center, but he's being grossly overpaid for his services. His career-best season (25 goals, 50 points) was in 2011-12, when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Staal may be a key part of the Hurricanes roster, but he's not worth $6 million annually—and probably never will be.

Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Current contract: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell is entering the third season of his four-year, $16 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $4 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: Bickell scored 14 goals and 28 points in 80 games. The 29-year-old also had five points (all assists) in 18 playoff games. He led the Blackhawks in hits with 205.

    Why it's the worst: Bickell received his current contract on the heels of his solid 2013 playoff performance. Since then, however, he's failed to play up to expectations. With the Blackhawks possessing limited salary-cap space for 2015-16, Bickell could become a cost-cutting candidate before the start of the season.

Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche

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    Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

    Current contract: Defenseman Francois Beauchemin signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract this summer with the Colorado Avalanche. His annual salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: With the Anaheim Ducks last season, Beauchemin tallied 23 points in 64 games, along with nine points in 16 playoff games. He was among the Ducks' leaders in ice time, hits and blocked shots. 

    Why it's the worst: The Avalanche signed Beauchemin this summer to bring experience and leadership to their defensive corps. However, they raised the 35-year-old's salary by $1 million per season. It's unusual for a player at this late stage in his career to receive that kind of pay bump. While Beauchemin played well on a deep Ducks defense last season, the aging veteran could struggle to adjust in Colorado.

David Clarkson, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Current contract: Columbus Blue Jackets right wing David Clarkson is entering the third season of his seven-year, $36.75 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $5.25 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $5.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 61 games split between the Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs, Clarkson scored 10 goals and 15 points. 

    Why it's the worst: The Blue Jackets agreed to take on Clarkson in order to ship Nathan Horton, who has a potentially career-ending back injury, to the Leafs. Through two seasons filled with injuries and suspensions, the 31-year-old managed only 26 points. While Clarkson may be a more serviceable player than the sidelined Horton, he's still among the league's most overpaid.

Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

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    Sanford Myers/Associated Press

    Current contract: Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza is entering the first season of a four-year, $30 million contract. The 32-year-old's annual salary-cap hit and actually salary for 2015-16 is $7.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 82 games, Spezza tallied 17 goals and 62 points. He finished third in team scoring.

    Why it's the worst: Spezza's numbers last season were respectable, but they were also his lowest through 67-plus games in a season since 2003-04. With his best years behind him, Spezza is a now a second-line center earning first-line money for the next four seasons.

Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Current contract: Detroit Red Wings right wing Johan Franzen is entering the seventh season of his 11-year, $43.5 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $3,954,545, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $5 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: Injuries limited the 35-year-old Franzen to only 22 points in 33 games. Four of those goals came on the power play. Three were game-winners.

    Why it's the worst: Franzen's contract is one of those front-loaded deals from the previous collective bargaining agreement designed to give the Wings a favorable salary-cap hit. Injuries have limited his effectiveness, while age will soon take its toll. His playing days could end before his contract expires. 

Teddy Purcell, Edmonton Oilers

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Current contract: Edmonton Oilers right wing Teddy Purcell is entering the final season of his three-year, $13.5 million contract. His annual salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 82 games, Purcell scored 12 goals and 34 points. He tied for fourth in team scoring and tied for second in power-play goals with five.

    Why it's the worst: Since Purcell's career-best 65-point season in 2011-12 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, his production has steadily declined. Given the Oilers' depth in talented young wingers, he will be an expensive checking-line winger in the upcoming season. Purcell will become an unrestricted free agent next July. 

Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Current contract: Florida Panthers center Dave Bolland is entering the second season of his five-year, $27.5 million contract. His salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $5.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: Injuries limited Bolland to 23 points in 53 games. He tallied one shorthanded goal and averaged 16:21 in ice time per game.

    Why it's the worst: Bolland is being paid as a top-six forward, but he's best suited as a third-line center. Injuries and inconsistency have hampered him throughout his career. It's unlikely the Panthers will ever get full value out of this contract.

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Current contract: Los Angeles Kings right wing and captain Dustin Brown is entering the second season of his eight-year, $47 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $5.875 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $7.25 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 82 games, Brown tallied 11 goals and 27 points. The 30-year-old led the Kings in hits with 242. 

    Why it's the worst: Brown's best seasons appear to be behind him. He last reached the 50-point mark in 2011-12 and is coming off two straight 27-point performances. Given his decline and the Kings' limited salary-cap space, Brown's contract will become increasingly burdensome.

Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Current contract: Minnesota Wild center and captain Mikko Koivu is entering the fifth season of his seven-year, $47.25 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $6.75 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $7.29 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 80 games, Koivu scored 14 goals and 48 points. He ranked among the Wild leaders in assists and points. He also tallied four points in 10 playoff games. 

    Why it's the worst: Since Koivu's contract began in 2011-12, his production has declined. He's earning first-line dollars while putting up second-line numbers. His career-best season (71 points) was in 2009-10. Injuries have been a factor, and with Koivu now 32, age will also affect his performance.

Lars Eller, Montreal Canadiens

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Current contract: Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller is entering the second season of his four-year, $14 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $3.5 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $2.5 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 77 games, Eller scored 15 goals and 27 points. Seven of those goals were game-winners. The 26-year-old also tallied three points in 12 playoff games. 

    Why it's the worst: With 30 points in 46 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Eller seemed poised to emerge as a quality two-way center. Since then, however, he hasn't come close to that point total. Consistency remains an issue for Eller, as his play doesn't measure up to his cap hit.

James Neal, Nashville Predators

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current contract: Nashville Predators winger James Neal is entering the fourth season of his six year, $30 million contract. His salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 67 games, Neal scored 23 goals and 37 points, along with four goals and five points in six postseason games. The 27-year-old also tied for second on the Predators in goals.

    Why it's the worst: Neal's numbers were down significantly last season compared to those he put up with the Pittsburgh Penguins. While injuries contributed to the decline, it's doubtful he will equal what he used to tally skating alongside superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.

Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Current contract: New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac is entering the third season of his eight-year, $46 million. His salary-cap hit is $5.75 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $6.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 74 games, Zajac scored 11 goals and 25 points. He was among the Devils leaders in shorthanded goals

    Why it's the worst: Zajac's production last season was nowhere near what's expected of a top-six forward carrying his salary. His best season (67 points) was in 2009-10, and there's little indication he'll ever come close to those totals again. Zajac's contract could become an increasing burden on the Devils' salary-cap payroll.

Mikhail Grabovski, New York Islanders

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current contract: New York Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski is entering the second season of his four-year, $20 million contract. His salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: Injuries limited Grabovski to only 51 games and 19 points. The 31-year-old was held scoreless in three playoff games. 

    Why it's the worst: The Islanders paid far too much for Grabovski to fill the role of third-line center. His recent concussion history raises questions about his health over the remainder of his contract. With three years left on Grabovski's deal, it could have long-term salary-cap consequences for the Isles.

Dan Boyle, New York Rangers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Current contract: New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle is entering the final season of his two-year, $9 million contract. His salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 65 games, Boyle tallied nine goals and 20 points. His playoff stats were better, with 10 points in 19 games.

    Why it's the worst: Injuries contributed to Boyle's subpar regular-season performance. He redeemed himself with a solid postseason effort. Still, $4.5 million is a lot of money to invest in a 39-year-old defenseman whose best years are well behind him. Fortunately for the Rangers, this is also the final season of his contract.

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Current contract: Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan is entering the first season of a seven-year, $50.75 million contract. The 28-year-old will earn $6.5 million in actual salary this season, with an annual salary-cap hit of $7.25 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 78 games, Ryan scored 18 goals and 54 points. He finished fourth in team scoring. Five of those goals were game-winners.

    Why it's the worst: A four-time 30-plus scorer with the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan hasn't come close to those numbers since joining the Senators in 2013. His 18 goals in 2014-15 were his lowest in a full NHL season. The Senators expect much more from the 28-year-old Ryan. If his production doesn't improve, it will have long-term consequences for the cost-conscious Senators. 

Andrew MacDonald, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current contract: Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald is entering the second season of his six-year, $30 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $5 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: Injuries limited MacDonald to 12 points in 58 games. He averaged 20 minutes of ice time per game. 

    Why it's the worst: MacDonald has struggled since joining the Flyers via trade from the New York Islanders in 2014. While injuries played a part in his poor performance last season, the 28-year-old seems out of his depth as a top-four defenseman. Signed by former general manager Paul Holmgren, MacDonald's contract could be a costly recurring headache for current GM Ron Hextall.

Rob Scuderi, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Current contract: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi is entering the third season of his four-year, $13.5 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $3.375 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $3 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: Scuderi tallied 10 points in 82 games, and was held pointless through five playoff games. He blocked 110 shots and averaged 19:08 minutes of ice time.

    Why it's the worst: A reliable blue-line stalwart for the Penguins during their championship run in 2009, Scuderi has clearly lost a few steps since returning to Pittsburgh in 2013. Now 36 and past his prime, the Penguins are overpaying for a third-pairing defenseman.

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Current contract: San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau is entering the second season of his three-year, $20 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $6.67 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $6.5 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 82 games, Marleau scored 19 goals and 57 points. The 35-year-old was fifth on the Sharks in points and among the team leaders in game-winning goals.

    Why it's the worst: Marleau's numbers fell sharply from his 33-goal, 70-point performance in 2013-14. While he's usually overcome subpar production in the past, Marleau's now at the age when a player's performance significantly declines. The Sharks are paying first-line money for a winger that's no longer capable of playing that role.

Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Current contract: St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny is entering the second season of his four-year, $28 million contract. His salary-cap hit and actual salary for 2015-16 is $7 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 74 games, Stastny scored 16 goals and 46 points. He led the Blues with seven game-winning goals. Stastny was held to only one goal in six playoffs games.

    Why it's the worst: Statsny was signed to bolster the Blues' production as their first- or second-line center. However, he struggled offensively and at times was skating on their third line. That's not what was expected from one of the Blues' highest-paid players. If Stastny fails to rally back, they could have a very expensive mistake on their hands. 

Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Current contract: Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan is entering the second season of his six-year, $34.8 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $5.8 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $6.4 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 77 games, Callahan scored 24 goals and 54 points. The 30-year-old finished fifth in team scoring. He also tallied eight points in 25 playoff games.

    Why it's the worst: Callahan had a very good first full season with the Lightning, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain that production. The 5'11”, 190-pounder's physical two-way style tends to leave him banged up by season's end. Callahan's contract could become a hindrance to the Lightning's efforts to re-sign their young stars in the coming seasons.

Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Current contract: Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf is entering the second season of his seven-year, $49 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $7 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $8 million. 

    2014-15 statistics: In 70 games, Phaneuf tallied 29 points. He also collected 108 PIM and averaged 23:43 in ice time, leading the Leafs in both categories. Phaneuf was among the club leaders in hits and blocked shots.

    Why it's the worst: Phaneuf is earning the salary of a top-two defenseman, but he's best suited for second-pairing duties. Despite his booming shot and ability to log big minutes, the 30-year-old tends to be inconsistent at both ends of the ice. Mike Babcock, the new head coach of the Leafs, will have his work cut out for him improving Phaneuf's game.

Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Current contract: Vancouver Canucks right wing Alexandre Burrows is entering the third season of his four-year, $18 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $4.5 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 70 games, Burrows scored 18 goals and 33 points. He finished fourth on the Canucks in goals and sixth in points. 

    Why it's the worst: Since his career-best 35-goal, 67-point performance in 2009-10, Burrows' production has declined. At 34, his best seasons are behind him and he's no longer a reliable scoring winger. His cap hit is hampering the Canucks' rebuilding efforts

Brooks Laich, Washington Capitals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Current contract: Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich is entering the fifth season of his six-year, $27 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $4.5 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 66 games, Laich tallied seven goals and 20 points. The 32-year-old also collected two points in 14 playoff games. 

    Why it's the worst: Laich is making far more than his true worth as a checking-line forward. Injuries have limited his effectiveness in recent years. A former three-time 20-plus goal scorer, Laich's best seasons are now in the past. His cap hit is now a hindrance for Capitals management. 

Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Current contract: Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is entering the fourth season of his five-year, $19.5 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $3.9 million and his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.25 million.

    2014-15 statistics: In 50 games, Pavelec had a record of 22 wins, 16 losses and eight overtime losses. He had a goals-against average of 2.28, a save percentage of .920 with five shutouts.

    Why it's the worst: Inconsistency has dogged Pavelec throughout his NHL career. He can be outstanding in some games, horrible in others. Jets management is stubbornly sticking with Pavelec as their starter, but his performance over his career shows little reason to justify that faith.

    Player stats via NHL.com. Salary information via General Fanager.