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Angus takes a look at some of the best contracts in hockey...

The term best contracts may be misleading, as it depends on what perspective is taken. Players and agents want to maximize their earnings, while general managers usually have opposing interests. For this column, the perspective of the general manager is taken. The 10 players selected with the best contracts are all outperforming what they earn significantly.


Gone from last year’s list because of new contracts are Corey Perry (8), Alex Burrows (5), and Jonathan Quick (2). Karl Alzner is also gone (he is a restricted free agent at the moment). Claude Giroux (1), Kris Letang (3), and Dustin Brown (4) all slid down the list because they are all only one year away from free agency status (although Giroux will become restricted free agents).


Not on this list – any player on his rookie contract (an entry-level contract, or ELC). I also tried to make note of any no movement or no trade clauses, as they tend to affect the overall cap hit and true value of a contract. And, of course, particular attention was given to RFA and UFA rights – a player with only one year left on his contract before he hits the open market has less value than a comparable player who is locked up for the long term, all else being equal.


And a quick note on the long-term contracts (Roberto Luongo, Ilya Kovalchuk, and the like) – until we know exactly what the punishment is if these players retire early (as expected with how the contracts are structured), it is tough to really gauge the true merits of these contracts. You can read more about the “cap advantage recapture penalty” here.


Other players signed to sign contracts similar to this: Jeff Carter, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Christian Ehrhoff, and Quick. Essentially these contracts allow for a team to receive a lower cap hit (and more cap space) by giving a player a front-loaded contract (most of the actual money is paid out in the first few years). The last few years of the contract carry the same cap hit as the first few, but the actual salary amount is significantly less. It is assumed that the player will retire before the contract expires (although this isn’t the case for Quick, who signed his 10-year contract at the age of 26).


Honourable Mentions:


Antti Niemi – San Jose Sharks ($3.8 million per season, signed through 2014-15)


One of the best goalies in hockey locked up to a very reasonable cap amount.


Craig Anderson – Ottawa Senators ($3.1 million per season, signed through 2014-15)


See above. Anderson has proven that his dominance in goal is no fluke.


Mark Letestu – Columbus Blue Jackets ($1.25 million per season, signed through 2014-15)


Letestu had a breakout performance in 2013 with the Jackets – can he do it over a full season, though?


Potential Bargains

Braden Holtby – Washington Capitals ($1.85 million per season, signed through 2014-15, RFA after)


A starting goaltender for less than $2 million per? Holtby needs to find more consistency in his game first.


Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay Lightning ($4.0 million per season, signed through 2016-17, UFA after)


Hedman is a very good young defenseman who will soon be a great one. He’s locked up to a low cap hit for a while.


John Carlson – Washington Capitals ($3.9 million per season, signed through 2018-19, UFA after)


A proven top pairing defenseman signed to a fantastic contract. Carlson’s future is very bright.


James van Riemsdyk – Toronto Maple Leafs ($4.25 million per season, signed through 2017-18, UFA after)



Even if Luke Schenn develops into a consistent 20+ minute-a-night defenseman, the Flyers will regret moving JVR. He’s a well-rounded winger with a ton of offensive upside. And the Leafs have to love his contract, too.


Paydays Coming

Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins ($3.5 million per season, UFA summer 2014)


Letang’s next contract will very likely double his current one. He’s one of the most dynamic players in hockey, and if the Penguins don’t reward him handsomely, another team definitely will.


Dustin Brown – Los Angeles Kings ($3.175 million per season, UFA summer 2014)


Brown is the best hitter in hockey, and he’s a talented player, too. The Kings have been lucky to have him locked up to a bargain deal through his prime years.


Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche ($3.5 million per season, RFA summer 2014) 


Duchene got back on track with a phenomenal 2013, and the Avalanche will have to pay him accordingly.


PK Subban – Montreal Canadiens ($2.875 million per season, RFA summer 2014)


Like Duchene, Subban took a “prove us your worth” contract. And prove his worth he did. Subban was a monster in 2013, and Montreal will have to crank the bank vault open for him.


Proven Stars

Andrew Ladd – Winnipeg Jets ($4.4 million per season, signed through 2015-16)


Captain, two-way winger, and now scoring star, too. Ladd does it all for the Jets.


Loui Eriksson – Dallas Stars ($4.25 million per season, signed through 2015-16)


We recently saw an uncharacteristically inconsistent season in 2013 from one of the better wingers in hockey.


Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins ($4.5 million per season, signed through 2016-17, UFA after)


Marchand is once again proving to be a big game player. His skill and talent gets overlooked sometimes because of his agitating playing style, but you can bet opposing goaltenders don’t overlook it.


Max Pacioretty – Montreal Canadiens ($4.5 million per season, signed through 2017-18, UFA after)

Pacioretty is well on his way to a strong career in Montreal. He could hit the 40-goal mark with an elite center by his side (cough, Alex Galchenyuk).


Niklas Kronwall – Detroit Red Wings ($4.75 million per season, signed through 2018-19, UFA after)


Kronwall is a franchise defenseman and he took it upon himself to minimize the impact of the Nicklas Lidstrom retirement. So far, so good for the Wings.



Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins ($8.7 million per season, signed through 2024-25, UFA after)


Crosby could have received the maximum contract on the open market (at least $5 or $6 million more than his $8.7 million cap hit). He took less to stay in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins gave him lifetime security, too. That was a risk on their part, as his contract was pretty much uninsurable after his recent head injuries.


Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins ($6.9 million per season, signed through 2017-18, UFA after)


The most dominant defenseman in hockey is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s a bargain at $6.9 million per (that sure feels weird to write).


Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators ($6.5 million per season, signed through 2018-19, UFA after)


Karlsson took a pretty big discount to remain in Ottawa, even though he was an RFA when the Senators extended his contract. He’s a unique talent in a league that places a premium on defensemen who can skate and rush the puck up the ice.


The top 10 list will be posted next week. Any guesses/predictions?


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Comments (4)add comment

angus said:

... Newf - I can't put Dupuis on while speculating what he will get. He is a great deal right now but a UFA in a few weeks.

Richard - of course he is. What an amazing contract.

Farley - valid point. Niemi is a guy who has struggled w/ consistency. I also don't think free agents will be impacted too much (at least at the upper level). The mid/lower level guys will feel the squeeze as more teams will likely turn to younger guys.
June 06, 2013
Votes: +0

newfcollins said:

... Pascal Dupuis should be an HM. He's got a big payday coming, but if he signs with the Pens for $3.5-$4 million, that's still pretty good. A top penalty killer, plays well with and without Crosby. Only made $1.5 million this past season.
June 06, 2013
Votes: +0

Richard Parker said:

Richard Parker
... Tavares has to be #1 on this list...
June 06, 2013
Votes: -1

Farley said:

... While I agree Niemi was great this year he won't be one of the best until he can do it over a full season. Also don't you think a lot of the free agents this year will have to take less than true market value with the cap coming down so drastically?
June 05, 2013
Votes: -2
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