Our buddy David Staples of the Edmonton Journal has a thought-provoking piece on Cult of Hockey that asks "Who has the scariest contract in the NHL?"
It's a cautionary tale of economically uncertain times, as well as a chance to remind the world that the Nashville Predators have David Legwand signed for $4.5 million per season until 2014. Because who wouldn't put a premium on a chronic underachiever with 23 points in 46 games this season?
Staples identifies a contract from every team that he considers "scary," meaning that because of "a combination of age/term/salary/cap issues" they could become very troubling deals for teams going forward. You can divide them into three categories:
Necessary Evils: Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers is going to be a $5.5 million cap hit until 2015; but he's also an offensive dynamo entering his prime that demanded both the price tag and the time commitment. Brian Campbell's $7.1 million per year until 2016 has the fresh smell of fiscal irresponsibility, but that's free-agent bidding wars for you.
The Unforeseen Boondoggles: Sure, maybe the Anaheim Ducks should have anticipated that yet another backup goalie would push Jean-Sebastien Giguere, making his $6 million a season deal through 2011 look like overpayment. But who really knew, right?
The Worst Contracts in Hockey: Staples doesn't come right out to say it, but his list contains some of the absolutely disastrous contracts in the NHL, but on the evidence we have already and the projections going forward. Let's take a look, shall we?
Staples provides the cap commitment for the following three seasons next to the team name, along with the contract figures for the player from NHLNumbers.com:
Colorado $53.7 mil. $43.8 mil $21.6 mil
Scary deal: Ryan Smyth, $6.2 mil until 2011/12.
He's leading the Avalanche in scoring by default this season, and will surpass his 37 points in 55 games from the first year of his contract. But he's a 32-year-old winger with a higher cap hit than anybody on the Boston Bruins or the Montreal Canadiens, and he may still miss the 60-point mark this season. A Colorado Avalanche free-agent coup that now looks like blatant overcompensation.
Dallas $55.2 mil. $39.4 mil $19.2 mil
Scary deal: Sean Avery, $3.8 mil until 2011/12
We'll just let that one linger, like when you eat a rotten leftovers; you know, sloppy ...
New York Isles. $47.8 mil. $30.8 mil. $24.5 mil.
Scary deal: Rick DiPietro, 26. $4.5 mil. until 2020/21.
Well, yeah. In the New York Islanders' defense, the $4.5 million cap hit remains a very respectable number, and the team was lauded for it last season when other long-term contracts were being locked in around the League. But DiPietro's been as sturdy as cracked porcelain, and there's no reason to believe that isn't going to be the case as he gets older.
Philadelphia $67.5 mil. $54 mil. $43.8 mil.
Scary deal: Daniel Briere, 30, $6.5 mil. until 2014/15.
Too soon? Probably. What makes this contract sting is the redundancy, as the Philadelphia Flyers have seen Mike Richards and Jeff Carter cement themselves at center while Briere battled inconsistency and injuries. That said, he had nine points in nine games this season, and can no doubt be an offensive producer on the wing for this team. You just wonder whether the Flyers would have reallocated the $6.5 million for a sniper and a solid defenseman rather than a free-agent Briere.
Tampa Bay $49.3 mil. $37.8 mil. $31.5 mil.
Scary deal: (tie) Ryan Malone, 28, $4.5 mil. until 2014/15
And Vincent Lecavalier, 28, $6.9 mil. until 2019/20.
The Vinny contract is actually a good one, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to have a $4.5 million cap hit for Ryan Malone until he's 36. Malone's had a nice recovery this season from a putrid start, and he's going to be an important character guy if the Bolts ever contend. But the financial commitments around this roster are beginning to reveal this as a serious overpayment.
Washington $58.5 mil. $45.9 mil. $30.1 mil.
Scary deal: Michael Nylander, 35, $4.9 mil. until 2010/11.
A bust, intensified by his feuding with Coach Bruce Boudreau and minimal impact in the lineup. The no-movement clause he was given in the deal has handcuffed the Washington Capitals in ways that probably didn't anticipate when they signed him; then again, they probably didn't anticipate Nylander would have 59 points in 85 games over the course of two seasons, either.
Those are, we think, the worst of the worst from Staples list. We'd add Wade Redden's ghastly free agent deal ($6.5 million cap hit through 2014) with the New York Rangers, and the New Jersey Devils' indefensible commitment through 2013 to the enigmatic Dainius Zubrus (even at a $3.4 million hit per season). But there's one other contract that Staples mentions that we can't really decide is scary, bad or just a necessary evil:
Pittsburgh $55.6 mil $46.4 mil. $37.4 mil.
Scary deal: Marc-Andre Fleury, 23, $5.0 mil. until 2014/15.
A $5 million cap hit didn't seem that egregious during the Stanley Cup playoffs, did it?
Any other contracts that could be considered the worst in hockey?