It was a challenge finding the 10 best non-entry level contracts for the Edmonton Oilers under the salary cap. I could make a 20 worst contracts list easier than a 10 best list for this franchise. 4 of the 10 best contracts of the last 12 seasons in Edmonton came in the weeks following the end of the 2005 lockout when Kevin Lowe built a Stanley Cup contender.
1- Chris Pronger, Aug 3 2005, 5 years $31.2M: Signed by Kevin Lowe. This is a great “what if” question for Oilers fans, what if Chris Pronger had played out the remaining term on his contract in Edmonton? There would have been more playoff appearances than what they got, that’s for sure. There are some conspiracy theories out there about Pronger’s demand to leave the city.
2- Taylor Hall, Aug 22 2012, 7 years $42M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. The Hall contract might have been expensive on the “front 9” but has become a relative bargain on the “back 9”. He’s a dynamic offensive player with great speed and physicality. There are people (mostly in New Jersey) pushing him for league MVP.
3- Shawn Horcoff, Aug 19, 2005, 1 year $1M: Signed by Kevin Lowe. The Oilers managed to get Horcoff’s career year of 73 PTS for a great price at age 26. His price will continue to go up while his production continues to go down.
4- Ales Hemsky, Aug 15 2005, 1 year $900K: Signed by Kevin Lowe. Edmonton managed to get the best season of Hemsky’s career for under $1M at age 21. He scored 77 PTS in 81 GP.
5- Cam Talbot, Jan 17 2016, 3 years $12.5M: Signed by Peter Chiarelli. Talbot played a key role getting the Oilers to a playoff spot and past the 1st round. What they are getting for what they are paying is a bargain.
6- Shawn Horcoff, July 14 2006, 3 years $10.8M: Signed by Kevin Lowe. In 213 GP they got 154 PTS. He averaged 50 PTS per season during this contract, then signed an even bigger contract and never got close to 50 PTS again.
7- Ryan Smyth, Sept 14 2005, 2 years $7M: Signed by Kevin Lowe. They got 146 GP, 134 PTS, and a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in this contract. It was a much lower cap then, but Smyth’s performance would have still been a bargain accounting for inflation.
8- Sam Gagner, Aug 29, 2010, 2 years $4.5M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. 143 GP, 89 PTS. His production flatlines at around 40 PTS for several years, but his salary keeps going up. At this moment, the price is right.
9- Oscar Klefbom, Sept 19 2015, 7 years $29.2M: Signed by Peter Chiarelli. The future hasn’t exactly been decided for this one, but it looks like he’s going to be a good defenseman. It’s not a bargain yet, but it will be sooner rather than later.
10- Jarret Stoll, July 21 2006, 2 years $4.4M: Signed by Kevin Lowe. Who knows what he was on back then, but 132 GP, 75 PTS, 1178 face-off wins (55.3% W %), who plays both power play and penalty kill, is priced nice at $4.4M.
*- Gilbert Brule, Aug 12 2009, 1 year $800K: Signed by Steve Tambellini. That’s a decent price for 65 GP and 37 PTS. The good contracts for the Oilers are a bit light. Their worst contracts list was way easier.
WORST – ordered by total $ spent, there were tons of bad contracts to choose from.
1- Shawn Horcoff, July 17 2008, 6 years $33M: Signed by Kevin Lowe, traded away by Craig MacTavish. His point production declined significantly in the years following this signing, eventually getting shipped out of town for Phillip Larsen and a 7th round pick.
2- Sheldon Souray, July 12 2007, 5 years $27M: Signed by Kevin Lowe, bought out June 23 2011 by Steve Tambellini. He had one good season in an Oilers jersey with 23 G and 53 PTS. He eventually ended up in the AHL before being bought out.
3- Benoit Pouliot, July 1st 2014, 5 years $20M: Signed by Craig MacTavish. In the 3rd year of this contract he produced just 14 PTS in 67 GP and had a big ZERO PTS in 13 playoff games. That’s not what you paid for, and there are 2 years left.
4- Nikolai Khabibulin, July 1 2009, 4 years $15M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. Does this belong on the worst contracts list? Khabibulin was instrumental in the Oilers being a terrible hockey team and securing 3 consecutive 1st overall picks in the draft. In that regard, he did return value to the Oilers. He also back-stopped the team to zero playoff games.
5- Mark Fayne, July 1st 2014, 4 years $14.5M: Signed by Craig MacTavish. In the 3rd year of this contract Fayne put up decent numbers for the Bakersfield Condors, only playing 4 games for the Oilers.
6- Andrew Ference, July 5 2013, 4 years $13M: Signed by Craig MacTavish. The Oilers did not get what they thought they paid for. He had one bad season before running into injury problems, preventing the team from buying him out.
7- Nikita Nikitin, June 26 2014, 2 years $9M: Signed by Craig MacTavish. They got just 53 NHL games, and an overpriced defenseman for their farm team. Although he is NOT the most expensive defenseman in Oilers farm team history.
8- Nail Yakupov, Apr 13 2015, 2 years $5M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. He played 100 games and scored just 32 PTS while being traded to St. Louis. He’s probably the worst 1st overall pick since Patrick Stefan.
9- Gilbert Brule, July 27 2010, 2 years $3.7M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. He had a decent season and Edmonton rewarded him with too much money and his value status flipped from good to bad.
10- Cam Barker, July 1st 2011, 1 year $2.2M: Signed by Steve Tambellini. I’m not sure what the Oilers thought they were getting at that price point. Cam Barker still sucked in 2010/11. There was plenty of warning this was coming.