Every year in free agency it seems that many teams get too set on a particular player and often times end up overpaying to bring in their services. Despite it happening so often, general managers (GMs) continue to make the same mistakes year after year. Sometimes, it takes time for a contract to turn out bad, as a player can live up to the deal he signed for a period of time but begin to slow down to age and/or injury. In other cases, some contracts are bad from the minute they are signed.
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This list will have both sorts on them, with plenty being deals that their respective GMs would move on from in a heartbeat if it were that easy. It is important to note that this list doesn’t take the term of the contract into effect, as it is simply just the worst deal each team has on their books for the 2021-22 season. With that being said, let’s take a look.
Jakob Silfverberg, $5.25 million AAV
If you were to ask most hockey fans who the Anaheim Ducks worst contract is right now, they would probably tell you it’s Adam Henrique, who has a cap hit of $5.83 million. However, Henrique led the Ducks in scoring during the 2019-20 season with 26 goals and 43 points and has outproduced another high paid forward in each of the last two seasons in Jakob Silfverberg.
Silfverberg, 30, has been a fairly decent goal scorer since joining the Ducks back in 2013-14, scoring 20 or more goals on four occasions. However, his production, particularly during last season, was not up to par for the money he makes. The Ducks are a team that is projected to struggle once again in 2021-22, and having a contract like this on the books certainly doesn’t help.
Loui Eriksson, $6 million AAV
There were a ton of contracts that could have been put on this list for the Arizona Coyotes given that they have taken on plenty of bad deals this offseason in order to stock up on draft picks, but Loui Eriksson takes the cake. It could have very easily been Andrew Ladd as well seeing that he has spent the majority of the past two seasons in the AHL, but Eriksson was selected simply because he has the slightly higher cap hit.
Eriksson never came close to living up to his six-year, $36 million deal he signed with the Vancouver Canucks back in 2016. The now 36-year-old has failed to put up 30 points in a season since signing the deal, and had just one assist in seven games in 2020-21. It is hard to believe now given how bad things have gone for him in recent years, but he was at one point considered one of the most underrated players in the entire NHL. Unfortunately, he is a shell of the player he once was, and shouldn’t be counted on to do much of anything for the Coyotes.
Charlie Coyle, $5.25 million AAV
Over the years, Boston Bruins players have seemed to really buy into taking lower deals than they are worth in order to help the team’s success. Players like Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand are all extremely underpaid and have been for years. As such, it was tough to pick a name for them on this list, but the one that stood out was Charlie Coyle.
The Bruins signed Coyle in 2019 to a six-year extension with an AAV of $5.25 million. He hasn’t really lived up to that money, particularly this past season where he had just six goals and 16 points in 51 games. However, with the departure of David Krejci, Coyle will see a larger role this season and will have a chance at changing the narrative on his deal. The 29-year-old certainly has the skill to produce, making him an interesting player to monitor in 2021-22
Jeff Skinner, $9 million AAV
Despite coming off of a career year where he scored 40 goals, many were skeptical about the eight-year, $72 million deal the Buffalo Sabres gave Jeff Skinner after the 2018-19 season. The concerns surrounding the contract were fair given that his production throughout his career to that point had been inconsistent at times, and he had never hit 65 points in a season. However, while some questioned the deal, no one expected it to go as badly as it has.
In 2019-20, his first year of the deal, he recorded just 14 goals and 23 points in 59 games. Most were hoping it was just a down year and he would bounce back, but he was even worse in 2020-21 with an abysmal seven goals and 14 points in 53 games. It’s hard to say what has gone wrong so quickly for Skinner given that he is just 29-years-old, but playing in an organization that has been losing as much as the Sabres have certainly hasn’t helped the cause.
Milan Lucic, $5.25 million AAV
When former Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli signed Milan Lucic to a seven-year, $42 million deal during the 2016 offseason, many thought it was a contract that would age poorly during the final few seasons. Instead, it turned very bad in just its second year, and forced the Oilers to trade him to the Calgary Flames during the 2019 offseason in exchange for another bad contract in James Neal, who they just recently bought out.
Since joining the Flames, Lucic has actually performed reasonably well in a bottom six role, and would be a fine player if it wasn’t for his large cap hit. While fans in Calgary have embraced the once dominant power forward, there is no denying that his 10 goal, 23-point season in 2020-21 is not good enough for a contract that carries an AAV of $5.25 million.
Jake Gardiner, $4.05 million AAV
Jake Gardiner is a player who will be most remembered for his days as a Toronto Maple Leaf, where often times he was a major whipping boy for the fan base. This was despite the fact that for most of his time spent in Toronto, he was actually quite a good player, particularly offensively. However, his defensive play was suspect on too many occasions and he was also prone to making big mistakes at inopportune times.
When he signed a four-year, $16.2 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2019 offseason, many thought he would flourish due to the fact there would not be nearly the same pressure placed on him. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a good fit for the now 31-year-old, who has struggled to put up offence and has played limited minutes in each of his two seasons in Raleigh. A nagging back injury has played a big part in his poor play, so it will be interesting to see if he is now healthy what he can do moving forward.
Brett Connolly, $3.5 million AAV
Despite their struggles in recent years, the Chicago Blackhawks don’t have many bad contracts on their roster. One could argue that both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews should have taken discounts in order to help continue their past team success, but it would be incorrect to call either players deal a bad contract at this point. Instead, their worst contract comes from a player they acquired midway through the 2020-21 season in Brett Connolly.
Connolly, 29, signed a four-year, $14 million deal with the Florida Panthers during the 2019 offseason after a career year with the Washington Capitals where he put up 22 goals and 46 points in 81 games. While his first season in Florida in which he scored 19 goals in 69 games was solid, he got off to a terrible start with them last year having scored just two goals and four points in 21 contests before being traded to the Blackhawks. Hopefully his old scoring touch is able to come back this season, but early indicators from his 10 games in Chicago last season show that to be unlikely.
Erik Johnson, $6 million AAV
The Colorado Avalanche are another team that doesn’t have any really bad contracts, however if you were to remove one from the books it would be defenceman Erik Johnson’s. When healthy, Johnson is still a very dependable top four rearguard, however he has struggled with injuries throughout his career, particularly this past season where he was limited to just four games.
Due to his injury history, many thought the Avalanche may choose to buy out his deal this offseason, which has two years remaining. GM Joe Sakic instead chose to hold onto the 33-year-old, and it will be interesting to see how he is able to perform in 2021-22. Let’s hope he is fully healthy and able to live up to his $6 million cap hit and help elevate what is an already stacked blueline.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Max Domi, $5.3 million AAV
The Columbus Blue Jackets had a few potential candidates who could have made this list. Newcomer Jakub Voracek is certainly overpaid but is still capable of piling up points, while Patrik Laine had a horrendous 2020-21 season. There is also Gustav Nyquist, who missed the entire 2020-21 season due to shoulder surgery. However, the player to end up being chosen for this list is Max Domi.
Domi, 26, had an ugly first season in Columbus after being acquired in a trade from the Montreal Canadiens, scoring just nine goals and 24 points in 54 games. It was clear he didn’t mesh with former head coach John Tortorella, so perhaps he is able to turn things around in 2021-22 with a new bench boss in Brad Larsen. Unfortunately for him, his ceiling isn’t as high as his teammates in Laine who also struggled this past season, which is why Domi is the one placed on the list.
Jamie Benn, $9.5 million AAV
While some may disagree with this selection, the fact of the matter is Jamie Benn is no longer the dominating power forward for the Dallas Stars that he once was. Over his past three seasons, he has scored a combined 57 goals and 127 points in 199 games. For some players, those would be solid numbers, but they are far from for a player with a cap hit of $9.5 million.
At the age of 32, it is possible that Benn is able to turn things around in 2021-22, though given his style of play over the years paired with the fact he has had three straight down seasons, it doesn’t look very promising. He is still a very effective player, but there is no denying that he has played well below his pay grade as of late.
Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, $5 million AAV
Nearly a decade ago, numerous NHL teams were trying to land undrafted defenceman Danny DeKeyser out of college, a bid the Detroit Red Wings ended up winning. The now 31-year-old has had a very quiet 488 NHL game career, mainly due to the fact the team has mostly struggled over his tenure. While he certainly isn’t an offensive defenceman, proven by his 12 points in 47 games last season, he is solid in his own end and is a very useful NHL player.
Had this list been done just a few short weeks ago, Frans Nielsen would have been the easy choice to list for the Red Wings, however given that he was just bought out, DeKeyser was the next one up. As mentioned, he is still a solid player, but would be better suited for a second pairing role and a lower AAV. Still, Detroit could be doing far worse here in terms of bad contracts.
Plenty Are Capable of Turning Things Around
While some of the players listed above are on truly terrible deals, there are some that are still solid players and could play their way off this list with a good 2021-22 season. As mentioned in the beginning of the article, these are based simply on the worst contract a team has on their books for the upcoming season, meaning term was not considered. Check back in the upcoming days to see Part 2 of this list!
Next: Krejci Shoots Down Any Chance He’ll Return to Bruins This Season
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