Every summer, (most) NHL teams come into a little disposable income. Millions suddenly burning holes in their pockets.
More often than not, though, the urge to spend is eventually met by a completely different feeling: buyer’s remorse.
Here are five free-agent contracts that may prove to illustrate the benefits of restraint, a hard bargain, or a hard pass.
Evander Kane – 7 years, $49M with the San Jose Sharks
Of the 27 forwards in the NHL earning $7 million or more, Kane checks in as the only one who has never eclipsed the 60-point plateau. Now there is a good chance he can reach that mark with his new teammates in San Jose, but normally you must prove yourself before you make that much money.
Up until this point, the Sharks have only seen the good side of Kane. Since his arrival, the left winger produced 13 goals and 19 points in 22 games. What remains to be seen is how the 26-year old can gel with his new teammates over a full season, and if he can live up to his newly awarded contract.
Over his nine-year career, Kane has eclipsed 50 points twice and topped 30 goals just once.
Paul Stastny – 3 years, $19.5M with the Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights’ first season was better than anybody could have imagined. Their first big free-agent splash, on the other hand, not so much. Looking to shore up the middle of the ice, Vegas plucked Paul Stastny away from the Winnipeg Jets.
Some food for thought: Over the next three seasons, Stastny will carry a cap hit higher than Mark Scheifele and Nathan McKinnon. Sure, this is a product of Stastny’s unrestricted status, Vegas’s cap space and inflation on the cap, but it does not excuse George McPhee for paying as much as he did.
Stastny is a fringe 50-point producer at this stage of his career. The NHL supplied 49 centres capable of reaching that plateau last season.
Elias Lindholm – 6 years, $29.1M with the Calgary Flames
New Flames head coach and former Hurricanes bench boss Bill Peters has integrated a few members of his former team onto his new one. Since taking over the reigns as the coach in Calgary, three ‘Canes have joined him.
Lindholm, however, exemplifies a considerable leap of faith from Flames’ brass. Although still only 23, the former fifth-overall pick hasn’t lived up to the hype. In five seasons, the centre hasn’t exceeded 45 points in a single campaign.
Sure, the potential is there for Lindholm to become a solid top-six contributor, but he has yet to churn out the production that matches his new price tag.
Jack Johnson – 5 years, $16.25M with the Pittsburgh Penguins
Sure, defense has been a weak spot historically for the Penguins, but this is not how you make it better.
When the team dumped the salaries of Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick, it was expected that it would shell out some cash to address a certain issue. Unfortunately, the Penguins may have compounded it by locking Jack Johnson up for five years.
On a solid Columbus blue line last season, Johnson managed to be the only player who posted a minus rating and featured the worst shot share among John Tortorella’s regulars. Johnson, 31, has shown further signs of decline over the past few seasons, last year finishing tied for a career-worst 11 points.
Locking yourself into a five-year contract with a player on the back-nine is not a smart move.
Adam Henrique – 5 years, $29.1M with the Anaheim Ducks
When Henrique’s contract kicks in during the 2019 season, the Ducks will have almost $21 million tied up between Henrique, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. Only the Edmonton Oilers are currently slated to have more money tied up at centre.
The main issue with this contract will be Henrique’s usage. He does not have a clear path to the Ducks’ top-six despite being paid as someone who will contribute as such. Henrique was able to post 50 points last year with the Ducks, but if everything breaks well for Kesler and he returns for the upcoming season, it will be even more difficult for him to reach the ceiling he’s established over the course of his career.
Already beset with an aging roster, Henrique’s contract may just make things more difficult in Anaheim.
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