Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Ten Worst Contracts (Until The Summer, Anyway)

Good news for Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier, he has had no permanent damage to his right eye after taking a high stick to the face from Chicago's Michael Frolik. He received stitches, was seen with an eye patch after the game and had an eye contusion, but should be ready to go when the Bolts face the Buffalo Sabres tonight. After a slow start to the season, Lecavalier is heating up at the right time and has 25 points in his past 25 games.

Unfortunately for Lecavalier, despite his strong play lately, he is still not doing nearly enough to earn his contract. Not only is he overpaid, but in the salary cap era, it hurts his team even more because it leaves less space to sign other players to help out the team. He shouldn't worry though, he is not alone in having a big contract that is hurting his team. Here are the 10 contracts in the NHL that hurt teams the most.

10. Kimmo Timonen, Phi: Six years, $38 million ($6,333,333 cap hit)
One of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL, Timonen plays a smart, mistake-free game, makes an excellent first pass out of the zone and can quarterback the powerplay. So why am I including him? Since joining the Flyers in 2007, Timonen has recorded 22 goals in 318 games, an average of just under six goals every 82 games. Obviously there is more to his game than just goals, but at 5-foot-10, 194 lbs. he has trouble handling the bigger forwards. On a team that features seven players with a cap hit of over $4 million and struggles to fit under the ceiling, they could use any space they could find. Not that they should get rid of him, but GM Paul Holmgren will surely be breathing easier when his contract is up.

9. Brian Rolston, NJ: Four years, $20.25 million ($5,062,500 cap hit)
The only thing keeping Rolston from being higher on this list is that his contract is up after next season. He looked attractive after three straight seasons of 30+ goals after the lockout to go along with solid all-around play.  Rolston has recorded only one season of 20 goals since signing the contract and is nearly invisible most games. All he really does is take slapshots whenever he gets open and is too slow to have much of an effect anywhere. After next season, they should have cap space in order to give Zach Parise a contract raise.

8. Ryan Smyth, LA: Five years, $31.25 million ($6,250,000 cap hit)
After failing to come to term with the Edmonton Oilers and the subsequent trade to the New York Islanders in 2007, Smyth signed a monster deal with the Colorado Avalanche. After an injury-shortened first year, Smyth has reached 20 each season since, but a cap hit of over $6 million for a player no longer the dominant crease crasher he once was. Although his contract is up after next season, they will surely need the cap space a year earlier to sign RFAs Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds; the $4 million they have now won't be enough to sign both.

7. Derek Boogaard, NYR: Four years, $6.5 million ($1,625,000 cap hit)
Sure, the cap hit isn't huge, but, well...what does he do? He has only appeared in 22 games this season and was scratched four times before a shoulder injury derailed his season. Even when he was playing he only fought the other teams' tough guys; he's too slow to really put a scare into anyone useful as sppedy forwards can easily get around him. This could have easily been switched with the Jody Shelley contract with Philadelphia.

6. Shawn Horcoff, Edm: Six years, $33 million ($5,500,000 cap hit)
Horcoff is very luck to be getting the paycheck he is receiving. A $5.5 million price tag is pretty high for someone who has onyl reached the 20 goal mark twice. The Oilers are going to have some potentially expensive RFAs to resign in the next few years, including Devin Dubnyk, Andrew Cogliano, Linus Omark and Sam Gagner and, if their rebuild is going as planned, they will want to add some key free agents to build towards a playoff run. That will be hard to do with Horcoff, who has scored 22 goals in two seasons after signing the deal, causing such a big cap hit.

5. Eric Staal, Car: Seven years, $57.75 million ($8,250,000 cap hit)
Only three players, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, have a higher cap hit than Eric Staal. It is good they got their franchise player locked up for the long-term and while they still have plenty of cap space at the moment, they may be in trouble once Jeff Skinner, Brandon Sutter and Jamie McBain are up for pay raises. As impressive as his resume is with a 100 point season and Stanley Cup under his belt, it is hard to believe he is making more per season than Brad Richards, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Lundqvist and the Sedins.

4. Rick DiPietro, NYI: Fifteen years, $67.5 million ($4,500,000 cap hit)
Truth be told, if it wasn't for his injury woes DiPietro's contract wouldn't be that bad. A $4.5 million cap hit for a reliable goalies isn't a bad deal. The key word there is reliable. In the five years since signing the deal, DiPietro has only played 162 games, an average of 32 per season, and twice failed to play 10 games due to lingering groin problems. The Islanders are still stuck with him for another decade. Should he finally stay healthy and become anywhere near the caliber goalie worth being the number one pick, this contract won't seem that bad. Until then, 15 years will seem like 30 as he spends most of his time on the shelf. Some good news for the Islanders though, next season Alexei Yashin, even though he hasn't played in four years, ceases to be their highest paid player. That distinction will fall to DiPietro who has pretty much done the same thing.

3. Scott Gomez, Mtl: Seven years, $51.5 million ($7,357,143 cap hit)
How can a guy who has only reached the 20 goal mark once in seven seasons get a contract that big? Even for Glen Sather, that's bad. He hasn't scored more than 16 since signing the deal and won't even score 10 this year. He makes almost $2.5 million more than Brian Gionta who brings a lot more to the table and is the main reason the Canadiens are so close to the cap ceiling this season. the Canadiens have to sign at least 11 players in the offseason and only $25 million to work with. Losing Gomez's cap hit would be a big help, but it's hard to imagine another team willing to take him on, especially after declining numbers the past four seasons.
2. Vincent Lecavalier, TB: Eleven years, $85 million ($7,727,273 cap hit)
Lecavalier's contract is going to be a burden on the Lightning for the next nine seasons. They have about $9 million in cap space this season, but even with Simon Gagne's $5.25 million coming off the books, that number will surely get closer to the ceiling as GM Steve Yzerman has to give raises to Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell and sign a number one defenseman and two goalies. I don't know what Lecavalier did to earn this contract. He is a good player, but take away his 52 goal season in 2006-07 and he averages just 26.8 goals per season. Not exactly Michael Jordan-like stats, so why is he receiving Michael Jordan-like money?

1. Brian Campbell, Chi: Eight years, $57.143 million ($7, 142,875 cap hit)
Campbell is one of the biggest winners of the idea of supply and demand in free agent history. The only puck-mover on the market three years ago, Campbell benefited greatly from a strong contract year, including 19 points in 20 games to end the season with the San Jose Sharks. A weak free agency class surely made him appear more attractive than he should have been to then-GM Dale Tallon. At 6-foot, 189 pounds, Campbell has trouble with bigger forwards and isn't overly physical (though I bet R. J. Umberger would love to argue that point). With five players making over $5 million and less than $30,000 in cap space, GM Stan Bowman would love for Campbell's contract to disappear. His is clearly the most burdensome in the NHL.

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