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 last year 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 and in this season, we have a slew of forgotten NHLers still collecting a paycheque. Here are 15 fairly big names most people forgot were still getting big bucks to sit at home.
15. 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.
14. 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.
13. 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.
12. Rick DiPietro – New York Islanders
If the Islanders last that long, and there is no guarantee of their longevity on Long Island, they should earmark 2029 as Rick DiPietro Freedom Year. We’ve chronicled that Albatross of a contract the Isles gave their former no. 1 overall pick in 2006 and as of the end of the 2028-29 season, they’ll finally be done paying him. Islanders management bought DiPietro out of his contract after he played just three games during the 2012-13 season, and 175 overall after signing it. Basically, from that point forward, the buyout would cost them $1.5 million a year until DiPietro is almost 48 years old. The only thing they did get out of that stinker of a pact (15 years, $67.5 million) was salary cap relief. He is now a talk show host in New York City at ESPN 98.7.
11. Clayton Stoner – Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights had to take a crash course in Salary Cap Tomfoolery when they were on the verge of picking their squad at last year’s expansion draft (and the entry draft, for that matter). In order to wheel and deal, they had to take on some salary to get preferential deals from teams they targeted for better-than-average players. Thus was the case when they they had to take the man made infamous 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). In 2014, sturdy defender Stoner signed a tidy four-year, $13 million deal to play with Anaheim after five years with Minnesota. But after playing just 14 games in the 2016-17 season he has been sitting idle on LTIR. He sustained an abdominal injury then, which hasn’t healed as expected. When the Knights wanted to acquire young defenceman Shea Theodore in a trade, they had to select Stoner and his dead contract, which pays him $3.25 million not to play this year.
10. David Clarkson – Vegas Golden Knights
The silver lining to the whole David Clarkson to Vegas deal was the fact the expansion club not only got a first round (2017) and second round (2019) draft pick, but also the rights to select their leading goal scorer, William Karlsson. So, we believe the Knights can swallow Clarkson’s egregious $5.25 million cap hit for a couple more seasons, while Karlsson piles up the goals (he has an eye-popping 33 this year). 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. The Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost a heartbreaking first round series to Boston in 2012-13, couldn’t resist signing homeboy Clarkson to bring grit and scoring. He was signed for seven years and $36.75 million, and 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. He played just 26 games with the Jackets and hasn’t appeared in a NHL game since March 11, 2016.
9. Brad Richards – New York Rangers
As the suddenly mediocre Rangers clean house at the deadline this season, they have to look forlornly at the money they are still paying Brad Richards, who hasn’t played with them since 2014. Now, his buyout doesn’t count against the cap, but it doesn’t give them much flexibility going forward on future compliance buyouts. After the 2013-14 season, the Blueshirts decided to part ways with Richards and the buyout on the remaining six years of his nine-year, $60 million deal were spread out over 12 years, per CBA terms. Therefore, the Rangers are paying the retired Richards (he played one season with Chicago in 2014-15 and with Detroit in 2015-16) $1,055,556 for this season and the next eight. It cost them $3,055,556 in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and $5,055,556 (according to Cap Friendly) in 2016-17.
8. Joffrey Lupul – Toronto Maple Leafs
Lupul is but one of two current Leafs on LTIR and the process by which he has been placed there is a derivative of former Leaf 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. Thankfully for the Buds, he is on the last year of the five-year, $26.25 million contract he signed with Toronto in 2013. As an aside, players like Lupul on LTIR were 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.
7. Ilya Bryzgalov – Philadelphia Flyers
We miss flaky old NHL netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, we really do. The man had an opinion and even though his command of the English language was suspect at best, he shared it with us anyway — usually to looks of utter incredulity and later laughs. We’re going to bet, however, that the Philadelphia Flyers won’t miss having to pay him anymore come 2027. After a so-so season in 2012-13 and an early exit from the playoffs, the Flyers decided to use a compliance buyout to get out from underneath the final seven years of his nine-year, $41.88 million contract. Which meant they are on the hook for $1,642,857 every year to the enigmatic former goalie until 2027, when he’s 47. To add salt to the wound, he did play another 40 games with Edmonton, Minnesota and Anaheim, to varying degrees of success.
6. Matt Carle – Tampa Bay Lightning
At one time, former NHL defenceman Matt Carle was a Big Man on Campus — in college and to a degree in the NHL. The 2006 Hobey Baker winner at the University of Denver parlayed a second round selection by the San Jose Sharks into a decent NHL career that saw him play 730 games and record 283 points with four different clubs. He also contributed another 44 points in 127 NHL playoff games, including 13 during the Philadelphia Flyers 2010 Stanley Cup run. The Tampa Bay Lightning thought so much of Carle that they brought him back for a second go around in 2012, signing him for six years and $33 million. But, by the fourth year of the deal, the Bolts had seen enough and bought him out of the remaining two years. Even though he is retired now, they are still doling out $1.833 million to him until 2020.
5. Mike Richards – Los Angeles Kings
Richards went from riches to rags pretty quickly. A two-time Stanley Cup champion with L.A. and a finalist with Philadelphia in 2010, Richards was the prototypical scoring two-way forward coveted by many teams. Well, except for the Flyers, who couldn’t get rid of him and fellow purported party animal Jeff Carter fast enough. Richards, who signed a 12-year, $69 million contract while with Philadelphia, had it terminated by the Kings in June of 2015 after he was he was busted carrying oxycodone (without a prescription) by the Mounties at the Canadian border. However, with $22 million still owing, the NHLPA filed a grievance on his behalf and a settlement was reached. The Kings, according to Cap Friendly, have recapture penalty for that settlement, to the tune of $1.32 million a season (against the salary cap) until 2019-20.
4. Simon Despres – Anaheim Ducks
As of today, former NHL defenceman Simon Despres is getting paid $662,50o by the Ducks to play with Bratislava Slovan of the KHL. After being selected 3oth overall by Pittsburgh in 2009, big things were expected of Despres, but the former junior star couldn’t stay healthy enough in the NHL to fulfill all that promise. But, that didn’t stop the Ducks from signing him to a five-year, $18.5 million contract in October, 2015. He had played all of 160 games to that point and would play only 33 more in two seasons due to concussion related issues. Anaheim, which wanted to buy him out due to his medical history, were lucky enough to have to pay him only one third of the $15.9 million he was still owed. And, it’s spread out over eight seasons until 2024-25. Still just 26, Despres has bounced back somewhat in the KHL, recording 11 points in 42 games.
3. Fedor Tyutin – Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets were lucky enough to get out from underneath David Clarkson’s lousy contract at the expansion draft last year, even though it cost them the suddenly hot William Karlsson. However, they will be stuck with a compliance buyout on a guy who wasn’t injured, but instead became a victim of the numbers game in 2016. Now the Russian veteran Tyutin wasn’t breaking any scoring records for the Jackets, but he did produce like he was capable of, at least for the first two years of a six-year, $27 million extension he signed in 2011 (and took effect in 2012). By 2015-16, his numbers plummeted from an average of 24 points per season with Columbus in 2012-13 and 2013-14 to just three points in 61 games. Therefore, they cut ties with him on a compliance buyout in 2016 and owe him $1.458 million for the next two years.
2. Cody Hodgson – Buffalo Sabres
So much initial promise, so little confirmation of it. Cody Hodgson’s gilded entry into the NHL began with a 10th overall selection by Vancouver in 2008 after a stellar junior career with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. He apprenticed little in the AHL and was playing full time with the Canucks by 2011-12, scoring 33 points in 63 games. But, he was trade bait at the deadline and sent to Buffalo, where he would score 34 points in 48 games during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. That led to a six-year, $25.5 million contract in September of that year and in the first year, at least, he had decent production scoring 44 points in 72 games. Yet, the wheels seemingly fell off in 2014-15, when he mustered just 13 points in 78 games, after which the Sabres decided to cut ties early to save them money (they were able to buy him out a lower rate due to his young age). They owe him $791,667 until 2022-23, with a varying cap hit until that year.
1. Mark Stuart – Winnipeg Jets
For the majority of his 673-game NHL career, Minnesota born Stuart was a reliable, no-nonsense defender who played well in a second, third-pair role. The Boston Bruins selected him 21st overall in 2003 out of Colorado College and by 2007-08 he was an integral part of their blue line. He was traded to Atlanta midway through the 2010-11 season and became and important part of the Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets defensive corps. He signed a relatively inexpensive four-year, $10.5 million contract in March of 2014, but eventually fell out of favour in 2016-17, getting bought out after recording just four points in 42 games. The Jets are paying him nearly $1.5 million not to play this season and owe him just over $500,000 for the 2018-19 campaign.