Monday, January 9, 2017

Best NHL Contracts of 2016

Welcome to my annual NHL Best Contracts list. This was a very difficult list to build compared to the Worst Contracts list because there are no shortage of team friendly contracts to choose from. I tend to avoid contracts with only 1 season left, but in the case of John Tavares made an exception for the former 2 time winner of best contract in hockey (and by best I mean the best bang for your buck from the team perspective). Also, there are no entry level contracts on this list. Since they all come from the same cookie cutter, I only list post entry level deals

My past best contracts lists can be viewed here.

1) Nikita Kucherov, TB, 2 more years @ $4.8M AAV – I’d love to know how Steve Yzerman pulled this one off after Kucherov has established himself in the elite tier of goal scorers. It’s possible that someone in the Tampa front office had naked pictures of him and threatened to release them to the public unless he signed this team friendly contract that locked him in below market value for another 2 years. That’s the only thing that makes any sense.

2) Tyler Seguin, Dal, 2 more years @ $5.7M AAV – Boston Bruin fans might never get over this one. He’s one of the best players in the league who locked in long term below market value. The Stars will probably miss their perfect window to capitalize on the bargain contracts to Benn and Seguin. Once these guys start earning market value, it will be considerably more difficult for Jim Nill to build a championship roster.

3) Roman Josi, Nsh, 3 more years @ $4M AAV – If Josi went UFA tomorrow, he’d probably get north of $7M per season. Nashville has him at a great price for 3 more seasons. I’m sure his agent deeply regrets locking his client in to this much term at such a low price, costing both of them a boatload of money. This might also be one of the most “untradeable” contracts in the league as no team would trade a top defenseman getting paid such a low sum.


4) Max Pacioretty, Mtl, 2 more years @ $4.5M AAV – On the list of contracts that cost a player millions of dollars, this one is up there. Perennial 30 goal scorers tend to cost much more than this, and he’ll be over 30 years old when it expires. Will he seek additional compensation on his next contract because he outperformed his current contract (like an Edwin Encarnacion)? If so Montreal might want to let him walk UFA instead of forking out a max type deal.

5) Wayne Simmonds, Phi, 2 more years @ $4M AAV – Simmonds has been returning terrific value on this deal since it was signed in 2012. It’s another contract that cost a player millions of dollars during his years of peak production that he’s unlikely to recover in his next round of negotiations. His agent timed it poorly such that he’s unlikely ever to get a max pay day.

6) Artem Anisimov, Chi, 4 more years @ $4.5M –  You can probably attribute some of Anisimov’s elite production to the presence of Patrick Kane, but whatever the reason he’s putting up great value for the Blackhawks. It’s a little bit comparable to Chris Kunitz who has put up big numbers playing with Sidney Crosby, but with virtually nobody else. Tough to say if Anisimov could make more money on the open market, since most prospective buyers would be aware of the Kane-Effect.

7) Justin Faulk, Car, 3 more years @ $4.8M AAV – His production is down but he’s still one of the more incredible bargains in the league. He’s no Roman Josi, but still a talented top pairing defenseman who will be getting a big pay raise when this contract expires. In hindsight, he and his agent screwed up and signed too long when a shorter deal would have made more sense. He got the kind of deal that Montreal should have given PK Subban but instead forced him into a low price, low term bridge deal, which cost that franchise a lot of money two years later. Faulk shows how skipping the bridge deal can lead to big savings down the road.

8) John Tavares, NYI, 1 more year @ $5.5M AAV – There is one more year left on one of the most team friendly contracts signed in the salary cap era. Tavares cost himself millions and it’s not like the Islanders used the money they saved to build a winner. Soon he’ll be gone (or so I assume) and the team will have missed a window of elite talent at a bargain price that doesn’t come around very often. Sure that year they almost beat the Penguins in the playoffs felt like a championship, but it wasn’t.

9) Devan Dubnyk, Min, 4 more years @ $4.3M AAV – Leads the NHL in Save Percentage (.941) and Goals Against Average (1.75) and has to be the leading candidate for the Vezina. That level of production under contract for 4 more years is tremendous value. He’s proving this season to be more than just a one hit wonder. Considering his career was all but dead when he arrived in Minnesota, this has been a remarkable story.

10) Eric Staal, Min, 2 more years @ $3.5M AAV –Staal has been doing great in Minnesota, and it begs the question of what other offers he had on the table in the summer time. Did he take less money to move closer to Thunder Bay? Regardless of how the Wild managed to pull this off, they’re getting great value from this signing. The demise of Eric Staal may have been exaggerated by his supporting cast in Carolina rather than skill decline.

11) Nazem Kadri, Tor, 5 more years @ $4.5M AAV – Kadri might have signed his long term contract a year too soon, as he has played well enough to get a Selke trophy nomination.  This is a great contract for the Maple Leafs re-building process. Kadri and has agent must not have thought he was capable of elevating his game to the next level by locking in at this term and price. Had he become UFA this summer, he’d have scored more money than this.

12) Charlie Coyle, Min, 3 more years @ $3.2M AAV – He’s on pace for 27 goals 68 PTS this season at 24 years old.  He’s heading into prime production at a mind numbingly low price. Sure the Wild carry some bad contracts, but they also have some great contracts to offset them. The competitiveness window is still open for this franchise, at least until Ryan Suter starts to break down and they lose defense depth in the expansion draft and maybe wiff on a few of their blue chip prospects.

13) Victor Rask, Car, 5 more years @ $4M AAV – This type of contract can be a huge risk for teams if the player regresses (like Rostislav Olesz or Cody Hodgson), but they can also produce some of the best bargains when players improve. I was critical of this deal when it happened, but the early returns have been great for Carolina. He’s a very versatile player who plays power plays, kills penalties, takes faceoffs, scores goals, and may already be the Hurricanes best player. The people of Quebec are going to love him.

14) Mats Zuccarello, NYR, 3 more years @ $4.5M AAV – The Norwegian Wayne Gretzky. By far the greatest player Norway has ever produced, may have hit his peak last season. His coming out party as a world class player was at the Sochi Olympics, which has carried over into his NHL play. 60 points for $4.5M AAV is fantastic value.


15) Paul Byron, Mtl, 2 more years @ $1.2M AAV – Last year Paul Byron scored 11 goals in Montreal. That was a career high. Halfway through 2016/17 he already has 12 and is on pace for 26. Anytime you can get a 20+ goal scorer for a little over a million dollars, that’s a win. They’ve got him under contract at that price for another 2 seasons. Sure this is probably his career year and he’ll start to regress next season, but he needs to make the list for what he’s done in 2016.


HONORABLE MENTIONS


Cam Atkinson, Clb, 1 more year @ $3.5M AAV 

Adam Henrique, NJ, 2 more years @ $4M AAV

Rickard Rakell, Ana, 5 more years @ $3.9M AAV

Brendan Gallagher, Mtl, 4 more years @ $3.7M AAV 

Alec Martinez, LA, 4 more years @ $4M AAV

Oliver Ekmanlarsson, Ari, 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV  

Dougie Hamilton, Cgy, 4 more years @ $5.75M AAV

Rasmus Ristonlainen, Buf, 5 more years @ $5.4M AAV 

Ryan McDonagh, NYR, 2 more years @ $4.7M AAV  

John Klingberg, Dal, 5 more years @ $4.2M AAV

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Worst NHL Contracts of 2016



Welcome to my annual NHL Worst Contracts List for 2016. It's largely based on performance for the first half of the 2016/17 season. These are not necessarily the worst players in the league, but the worst contracts. Ryan Suter is still a very good player, but next generation of Minnesota Wild fans will be lamenting that contract for years after his retirement.


Generally I try to avoid listing contracts that are only bad because of an injury, unless the contract was already bad prior to the injury. I'm looking at the contracts that were mostly based on poor decision making, or rewarding a player for past performance when he's unlikely to repeat that production going forward.
My past Worst Contracts lists can be viewed here.

*note* The dollar figure "owed" beside a player name is remaining cap hit on the contract.

1) Andrew Ladd, NYI, $33M owed over 6 more years @ $5.5M AAV - He’s on pace to score 26 PTS in 82 GP, the worst PTS per game average of his entire career, at 31 years of age with 6 years left on his contract. This might be the new normal for Ladd, or things are going to plummet even further if and when Tavares leaves town.

2) Zach Parise, Min, $60M owed over 8 more years @ $7.5 AAV – It’s hard to argue against what Minnesota is doing this season, but that’s a whole bunch of money left to be paid to an over 30 forward having his worst statistical season since he was a rookie (not counting the 13 game season of 2010/11). Also there is a massive “cap recapture” penalty coming when Parise retires that will be a gut punch for Wild management.

3) Loui Eriksson, Van, $30M owed over 5 more years @6M AAV – This contract was confusing from day one. It’s a “win now” acquisition for a team that should be focused on re-building. Loui is having the worst PTS per GP season since he was a rookie. After scoring 63 PTS with the Bruins last season, he’s on pace for 36 PTS in 2016/17.

4) Bobby Ryan, Ott, $36M owed over 5 more years at $7.25M AAV – His production has dropped significantly in 2016, below what you’d expect from someone with that price tag (worst points per game since his rookie season). I recall last year a local rink had a giant billboard of Bobby Ryan for Head and Shoulders shampoo “shoulders are meant for greatness, not dandruff.” I found that confusing. If shoulders are meant for greatness, why is Bobby Ryan your spokesman? That billboard has since been taken down.

5) Dustin Brown, LA, $29M owed over 5 more years @ $5.8M AAV – Long gone are the days of 20 goals and 50 PTS for the 32 year old former captain. The last few seasons he’s fallen to a 10 goal 30 point player. He earned this contract for helping the Kings win Stanley Cups in the past, but it’ll be hard for them to win any more while carrying contracts like this.

6) David Clarkson, Clb, $15.7M owed over 3 more years @ $5.2M AAV – Normally I try to exclude contracts that are bad because of injury from this list, but Clarkson was on the list prior to his current injury.  If he never plays hockey again, then Columbus can burn the contract on Long term IR. If he does return from injury, it continues to be a terrible contract.

7) Ryan Suter, Min, $60M owed over 8 more years @ $7.5M AAV – It’s a little awkward putting Suter on this list because he’s still among the league’s best defensemen. Unfortunately there is a day of reckoning coming at some point in the future when he decides to retire. When he does, expect “cap recapture penalty” to be trending among the top Google searches in the state of Minnesota. If he and Parise retire the same year (and they have almost identical contracts), the Wild organization is screwed.

8) Marian Hossa, Chi, $21M owed over 4 more years @ $5.3M AAV – This is the last year of the contract over $1M. Is he coming back next season to play at age 38 for a big pay cut? It’s unlikely, but I haven’t heard anybody talking about a Marian Hossa farewell tour. Granted I’m sure plenty of people are talking about it in Chicago. Chicago can’t really afford this “cap recapture” penalty, although Stan Bowman has proven effective at keeping this team competitive while salary cap compliant.

9) Henrik Zetterberg, Det, $24M owed over 4 more years @ $6M AAV – He is proving to still be a very effective player at age 36. But after next season the “back dive” portion of his contract kicks in and he must decide if he wants to play at age 38, 39, 40 for $3.5M, $1M, $1M. If he retires then Detroit is going to get hit with a significant penalty. Granted the playoff streak should be over by then so it won’t be so big of a deal.

10) Semyon Varlamov, Col, $11.8M owed over 2 more years @$5.9M AAV – When Patrick Roy arrived in Colorado he must have sprinkled some kind of magic fairy dust on this guy, who had a miracle season getting nominated for the Vezina Trophy. He earned himself a nice big new contract that summer, and it looks like he’s gotten worse with each passing day.

11) David Bolland, Ari, $11M owed over 2 more years @ $5.5M AAV – I should just copy and paste the write-up for David Clarkson. Normally I try to exclude contracts that are bad because of injury from this list, but Bolland was also on the list prior to his current injury.  If he never plays hockey again, then Arizona can burn the contract on Long term IR. If he does return from injury, it continues to be a terrible contract.

12) Matt Belesky, Bos, $11.4M owed over 3 more years @ $3.8M AAV – He has lost some time to injury this season, but prior to the injury he was producing very little offense. Boston should have known he was unlikely to repeat his 22 goal season of 2015, but paid him at that level and his production has been gradually declining ever since.

13) Petr Mrazek, Det, owed 1 more year @$4M AAV – If your objective is to tank the season then Mrazek is a fantastic starting goaltender.  A year ago at this time he had among the best save percentage in the NHL, then after his 24th birthday on Feb 14 he has been among the league’s worst goalies, and Detroit keeps playing him.

14) Jussi Jokinen, Fla, owed 1 more year at $4M AAV – He scored 18 goals last season and is currently on pace to score 5. He may have hit that proverbial wall in his career. I’m not sure what kind of analytics Florida’s front office used to forecast his future production and reward him with this contract, but obviously it failed. Also, see David Bolland. 

15) Kevin Bieksa, Ana, owed 1 more year at $4M AAV – It might be time for the 35 year old defenseman to retire. In 2008/09 he scored 43 PTS. This season he is on pace for 7. He has lost a step and at this point provides little more than veteran leadership on a young blueline with a little bit of toughness sprinkled in.


Honourable mentions
 

Anze Kopitar, LA, $70M owed over 7 more years @ $10M AAV -

Jordan Staal, Car, $36M owed over 6 more years @ $6M AAV –

Ryan Nugenthopkins, Edm, $24M owed over 4 more years @ $6M AAV -

Marian Gaborik, LA, $19.6M owed over 4 more years @ $4.9M AAV -

Carl Soderberg, Col, $14.2M owed over 3 more years @ 4.8M AAV -

Sedin Twins, Van, $14M owed over 1 more year.

Craig Smith, Nsh, $12.6M owed over 3 more years @ $4.2M AAV -

Mikkel Boedker, SJ, owed $12M over 3 more years @ $4M AAV -

Mike Smith, Ari,  $11.4M owed over 2 more years @ $5.7M AAV –

Benoit Pouliot, Edm, $8M owed over 2 more years @ $4M AAV -

Eddie Lack, Car,  $2.7M owed over 1 more year -


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

17 Sports Predictions for 2017

Every year I like to go on the record making a number of random sports predictions. Last year I predicted the Chicago Cubs World Series and Cleveland wins a championship.

1) Rhonda Rousey joins WWE

2) Neither CM Punk or GSP win a UFC fight

3) Tim Tebow gets on base in MLB

4) Golden State does not win a championship

5) Cleveland Indians win World Series

6) Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl

7) At least 2 current or former MMA fighters diagnosed with CTE

8) Nail Yakupov goes to either Las Vegas or Russia

9) Detroit Red Wings miss the playoffs

10)  Tiger Woods wins a golf tournament

11) Andre DeGrasse wins a gold at World Championships

12) Carolina Hurricanes relocate to Quebec

13) Sergei Bobrovsky wins either the Vezina or Conn Smythe Trophy or both

14) Neither Toronto or Montreal returns to MLS semi-finals

15) Eugenie Bouchard fires a coach

16) Tom Brady sues the NFL or Roger Goodell or both

17) Roger Goodell replaced as NFL commissioner