Well it’s been yet another long and boring week with no real developments of any kind on the Kovalchuk front, unless you’ve gotten extremely excited every time the Kings have announced they’re either in or out of the sweepstakes. While there’s not much doubt that Kovalchuk will be a huge contributor wherever he lands, the long-term deal he’s looking for has to be near the center of any concern teams have had in locking him up. I’m not saying Kovy’s gonna flame out by th time he turns 32, but given the state of teams that have already been burned by offering too much money over long-term deals in the last 10 years alone, it’s safe to say that every GM except Glen Sather in New York has to be a bit wary of throwing around contracts that will be on the books for more than say, 4-5 years. Here’s the five worst contracts in the NHL right now, in my unquestionably expert opinion.
5. Jeff Finger ($14 million, 4 years): We’ll start in good ol’ Toronto, where Cliff Fletcher must have left his glasses at home when drawing up this bomb of a contract in 2008. In a defensively soft free agent market, Fletcher went looking for some help for the Leafs on the back end and found Finger, a good shot-blocker that had managed just 24 points in 94 games during his first two seasons with the Avalanche. Had he been signed to a deal that was more proportional to his actual worth, most people probably would have forgotten about him already, but a cap hit of $3.5 mil a year tends to put even a good player in the spotlight. He’s played only 105 games for the Leafs in the last two years, and will likely finish his stay in Toronto with the Marlies in the AHL, unless Burke can somehow dupe another GM into taking this contract.
4. Wade Redden ($39 million, 6 years): Unlike Finger, Redden was actually a top-pairing defenseman at one point in his career. Unfortunately for Sather and the Rangers, that point was well before he ever set foot on the ice at MSG as a Ranger. With a strong corps of young blueliners behind him and the fact that his past two seasons have been his worst statistical seasons since the late ’90s, Redden has done very little to justify his cap hit of $6.5 mil. At 33, this very well could be his final contract, and he’ll probably end up retiring very well-rested, but also very wealthy.
3. Daniel Briere ($52 million, 8 years): Talk about getting hot at the right time. In 2006-07, during the final year of his contract with the Buffalo Sabres, Briere was one of the best scorers in the league, netting career highs in goals (32), assists (63) and points (95). Like his linemate, Chris Drury, the Sabres were unable to put up the kind of money he was rightfully seeking at the time, and Briere found a suitor in the Philadelphia Flyers. I hesitated to put him on this list because of his recent success in the 2010 postseason, but one run to the Cup Finals won’t be enough to justify the huge amount of money he’ll make over the next 5 years. With just 78 points in 104 games over the last two years, Briere better hope he can carry the momentum from his playoff performance into at least another season or two of top-line scoring.
2. Brian Campbell ($57.1 million, 8 years): July of 2008 was a great time to be a free agent defenseman apparently, as GMs around the league broke the bank to bring home blueliners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. Sure, Campbell was coming off a career year that saw him score 62 points with the Sabres and Sharks, but I’m sure even he was surprised with the huge offer he got from Chicago. While Campbell is certainly a valuable asset, his monster contract is a big part of the reason the Hawks have already dismantled many of the supporting cast that won them the Stanley Cup this year. With Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson all developing nicely, there’s not much room on the roster for a $7 million dollar a year defenseman that plays less than 22 minutes a game.
1. Rick DiPietro ($67.5 million, 15 years): Is there any franchise that has had worse luck with player management than the New York Islanders? It’s not bad enough that they traded away a Norris Trophy winning defenseman for a Russian superbust, or that they let an Olympic-gold medal-winning goalie slip through their fingers, they then turned around and signed their hotshot young goalie to a 15 year deal. “Not gonna let this gem get away,” must have been the mindset. Of course, how could they have foreseen that they’d be paying $4.5 million a season to a goalie that has played just 13 games in the last two years. $9 million dollars well spent, if you ask me. The math on that would come out to about $29,500 a save. What makes it worse is that, even though they may want to move on, there’s absolutely no chance they’re going to be able to move a goalie that is under contract through 2021, and will be paid the same $4.5 million a year until he’s 40.
Well, that’s the View from the Cheap Seats, and with all the money being thrown around, it’s gotten far too pricey in here for my liking, so that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading, and as always, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/editorinleaf.
Edit: With Kovalchuk’s whopping 17 year, $102 million deal that will pay him until he’s 44 (yes, 44), I’d have to go ahead and say that this is the worst UFA contract in the league. However, should Kovalchuk be the final piece that brings the Cup back to Newark, it will still be the worst contract in the league, because the Cup is wayyyy too shiny for all the fine upstanding criminals in Newark not to take a shot at jacking it. Thanks, Lou, the most storied trophy in sports will now end up as an ashtray in some crackhead’s apartment, lost in the concrete sprawl of America’s armpit.