The NHL collective bargaining agreement has certainly made life interesting for NHL GMs and Presidents of Hockey Operations.
Not only do they have to juggle healthy players in and out of the line-up, but they have to make decisions on poor, injured souls who may or may not make it back, ever. And, sometimes the extent of the injury is only part of the story.
In the case of Gregory Campbell (remember him?), the Columbus Blue Jackets paid him $1.5 million this past season not to play hockey for them. The 2011 Stanley Cup winner and checking line specialist signed a two-year deal with the Jackets in 2015, and then played all 82 games for them the following season. But, on Dec. 17, 2016 — which just so happened to be his 33rd birthday — Campbell was released unconditionally and didn’t skate in one game.
Such is the nature of a salary-capped league now.
Campbell wasn’t the only contracted player getting paid not to suit up for a NHL team in 2016-17. Here are 10 fairly big names most people forgot were still getting big bucks to sit at home.
10. Johan Franzen – Detroit Red Wings
The Mule played an integral role in the Wings last Stanley Cup victory in 2008 and was a great two-way warrior for the club for all or part of 11 seasons. In the spring of 2009, Franzen was coming off a career-year (a high of 59 points) and would go on to a great playoff, when he signed a huge 11-year contract extension that was worth $43.5 million. It carried an average annual cap hit of $3,945,545 and isn’t due to expire until 2019-20. Only problem is, he hasn’t played since Oct. 10, 2015 due to post-concussion symptoms and will likely never play again. He is on long term injury reserve and will continue to draw a Red Wings paycheque until 2020. Franzen had 370 points in 602 career regular season games and 81 points in 107 playoff contests.
9. Nathan Horton – Toronto Maple Leafs
Horton his proof positive that the loopholes that exist in the CBA are gigantic. The big forward will still be a member of the Maple Leafs until 2019-20, but it was the trade the Leafs and Blue Jackets swung in February 2015 that will have long-lasting reverberations and may lead to a tipping point in the next CBA negotiation. Basically, the Blue Jackets wanted to get out from under the remainder of Horton’s seven-year, $37.1 million contract he signed in July 2013. He played about half a season with Columbus then suffered a degenerative and most likely career-ending back injury, which wasn’t diagnosed until October 2014. Around the 2015 trade deadline, the Jackets found a willing dance partner in the Toronto Maple Leafs (for who Horton has never played), who were looking to unload a bad contract in David Clarkson (more on him later). The deal was genius on both parts, as Columbus got a serviceable player on a similar deal and the Leafs got relief dealing the bad contract.
8. Dave Bolland – Arizona Coyotes
Anyone who has forgotten about Bolland can be forgiven, as he hasn’t played in a NHL game since Dec. 12, 2015. And that was with the Florida Panthers, for who he scored five points in 25 games on a $5.5 million per season contract. Bolland, who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, was traded to Toronto at the 2013 Entry draft (for three picks). He played just 23 games in Toronto before signing a five-year, $27.5 million pact with Florida in July, 2014. He played just parts of two very unproductive seasons with the Cats, who, like Toronto did in 2015, included him in a deal to Arizona with Lawson Crouse in August 2016 for two draft picks. It allowed Florida to get relief and for the Coyotes to take on his salary and get to the floor of the cap, as well as get a prospect like Crouse. Bolland is under contract until 2018-19 and with severe back and ankle injuries probably won’t skate in the big league again.
7. Andrew Ference – Edmonton Oilers
At long last, the Oilers are no longer paying Andrew Ference to sit at home. The rugged veteran defenceman, who hadn’t played with the Oilers since November, 2015, was still getting $3.25 million a year on LTIR up until the end of the current season. He suffered a career-threatening hip injury during the 2015-16 season and as late as this year’s trade deadline they were trying to move his remaining salary cap hit from the four-year, $13 million deal he signed in 2013 to aid in acquiring playoff help. Ference was another one of those lunchpail guys like Dave Bolland, Nathan Horton and Johan Franzen who played key roles in championship seasons. Ference, who entered the league in 1999 with Pittsburgh, was part of Boston’s run to a title in 2011. In 25 games, he scored four goals, added six assists and was +10 while logging just under 21 minutes of ice time.
6. Clayton Stoner – Anaheim Ducks
When he wasn’t gaining notoriety for hunting and killing a grizzly bear in B.C. in 2013 (he was convicted of illegal killing in 2016, was fined and prohibited from hunting for three years) Clayton Stoner was actually a sturdy stay-at-home defenceman with the Wild and later with Anaheim. But, Stoner, who signed a tidy four-year, $13 million deal to play with Anaheim in 2014 after five years with Minnesota, has been sitting idle since November on LTIR. He sustained an abdominal injury after just 14 games this season and despite rumors to the contrary, will be watching the NHL playoffs instead of playing in them. The injury hasn’t healed as expected and he is still on the hook next year for $3.25 million in salary. Stoner scored a goal and two assists in those 14 games and had an even rating.
5. David Clarkson – Columbus Blue Jackets
With how his career has gone, Clarkson will be forever known as a one-year wonder. In 2011-12, the third-line plugger had a career year with New Jersey, potting 30 goals and adding 16 assists in 80 games. It was his sixth year in the league and he started like gangbusters in the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign, recording 15 points in his first 12 games, but then slumping to nine points in the remaining 36 contests as the Devils missed the playoffs. Yet, that didn’t deter the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost a heartbreaking first round series to Boston, from signing the flash-in-the-pan homeboy Clarkson. His free agent acquisition, for seven years and $36.75 million, was supposed to be part of a winning formula to get Toronto back into the post-season. But he produced just 11 points in 60 games that first season and then 15 points in 58 games during the 2014-15 season before the rebuilding Leafs could get rid of his contract to Columbus in February 2015. To date, he’s played just 26 games with the Jackets (on LTIR) and none since March 11, 2016. He’s under contract for $5.25 million per season until 2019-20.
4. Pascal Dupuis – Pittsburgh Penguins
We are quite sure that old warrior Pascal Dupuis would rather be helping the Pittsburgh Penguins to another Stanley Cup than watching them. Dupuis, who just finished getting paid on the last year of a four-year, $15 million contract, hasn’t put on the skates in anger since Dec. 6, 2015. Like Chris Bosh in the NBA, Dupuis will no longer play hockey due to a medical condition related to blood clots. He tried to get into game shape during the 2015-16 campaign, but would suffer setbacks and was put on LTIR since. Dupuis debuted with Minnesota during the 2000-2001 season and would play 871 games in his career, mostly with Pittsburgh. He scored 190 goals and added 219 assists, along with a +63 rating. The native of Laval, Quebec was part of the Stanley Cup winning Pens team in 2009 and played in 97 career post-season games, recording 44 points.
3. Joffrey Lupul – Toronto Maple Leafs
Lupul is but one of three current Leafs on LTIR and the process by which he has been placed there is a derivative of Stephane Robidas name. It’s called being “Robidas’ed” and the connotations aren’t nice. Lupul hasn’t played a NHL game since February 6, 2016 and has been raking in $5.25 million not to play. Put it this way, even if he was deemed healthy, it’s been rumored the Leafs had no plans to put him in the line-up again. So, the money being doled out is kind of like hush money, then. An unspecified lower body injury has kept Lupul off the main roster and after 701 regular season games and 420 points, he is likely finished. He has one more year left on the five-year, $26.25 million contract he signed with Toronto in 2013. As an aside, players like Lupul on LTIR are exempt from being taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. With how the CBA is toyed with, especially in these cases, we find that bit of information very curious.
2. Marc Savard – New Jersey Devils
The last time Marc Savard took part in a NHL contest, the Boston Bruins were still in their 39-year Stanley Cup drought. Savard was a member of that 2010-11 Bruins team that would eventually win the mug in June 2011, but Savard would not be on the ice for it, having been shut down after suffering a second concussion in less than 10 months in a game on Jan. 22, 2011. That would be the playmaking center’s last game in a career that spanned 13 seasons and 807 games (706 points). Savard signed one of those dubious post-lockout contracts in December of 2009, that was on the face of it a seven-year, $28.15 million pact, but had a sliding scale in salary that paid him $575,000 in this, the last year of the deal. His contract, like those of David Clarkson and Dave Bolland, was traded not once, but twice, from Boston, to Florida and finally New Jersey.
1. Chris Pronger – Arizona Coyotes
At long last, Chris Pronger will probably formally announce his retirement some time in the near future. Still under contract with Arizona for the past season at a cap hit of $4,935,714, Pronger hasn’t laced ’em up in a game since Nov. 19, 2011 with Philadelphia. A series of concussions and some vision impairment due to being hit between the eyes with a stick shut down Pronger’s career. The Norris and Hart Trophy winner in 2000 had signed a seven-year, $34.55 million deal with Philadelphia in July 2009, which the Coyotes ended up taking on in a trade in June of 2015. Even though he hasn’t yet called it quits, the Stanley Cup champion (Ducks, 2007) and two-time Olympic gold recipient (2002, 2010) was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, right after his contract was usurped by Arizona.