Somewhere in the grapevine Monday we heard that Ottawa’s Cody Ceci, a restricted free agent, was seeking $6 million per season on a new contract.

Umm, we nearly had to call the ambulance because we were all dying from laughter.

Now, no personal offence to Cody Ceci, who is a NHL caliber defenceman, but $6 million? C’mon!

From a professional standpoint, the Senators would be ludicrous to accede to that kind of cash from, at best, a second pair defenceman. No doubt, Ceci’s ego — and that of his agent — came into play. He did play all 82 games for the first time in 2017-18 and logged 19 points while getting first pair minutes on a bad team (23:20).

However, he was a horrible -27 and his analytics numbers were all bottom shelf (43.8 Corsi/For; 98.9 PDO).

Thus his contract demands are worthy of guffaws. Just for comparison, if Ceci got what he wanted, he would be paid better than guys like Dougie Hamilton, Duncan Keith, Colton Parayko, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Torey Krug, just to name a few d-men who are far more valuable.

Ceci, if he got that contract, would easily be a candidate for a list of NHLers whose contracts are more than anchors to their team’s fortunes. In no particular order.

New Jersey Devils – Travis Zajac

For many years now, Zajac has been a loyal and dedicated soldier for the New Jersey Devils. Heading into his 13th season as a Devil, Zajac is a great face-off man and better-than-average penalty killer. However, he is 33 and a diminishing asset due to make $5.75 million each of the next three seasons. He is the Devils third-highest paid player on a penny-pinching team that will have to find money in the near future to sign youngsters like Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha and Will Butcher. Since posting a high of 67 points in 2009-10, the closest that Zajac has gotten since was a 48-point campaign in 2013-14. The great two-way forward has regressed to the point that he posted 26 points (in 63 games) with an uncharacteristic -8. He also saw a dip in average ice time (nearly two minutes from 16-17 to 17-18) and lost nearly four percent more of his face-offs between those seasons. He may be trade bait, soon.

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Ottawa Senators – Bobby Ryan

Unless, like we said above, Cody Ceci is awarded $6 million a season, the worst contract on the Senators roster belongs to Bobby Ryan. It’s so bad, the Sens wanted it thrown into any potential deal involving elite defenceman Erik Karlsson. Put it this way, according to the good folks at CapFriendly, Ryan’s cost per point last year was $219,697, which is not far from rock bottom on that scale. In early October, 2014, then GM Bryan Murray thought it prudent to lock up a then in his prime Ryan to a seven-year, $50.75 million contract after he recorded a 23-goal, 48-point season. Problem is, for a guy who is paid to score goals, he had four seasons of 30 or more in Anaheim, Ryan hasn’t touched 23 goals since. In fact, he’s compiled just 24 goals and 58 points in his last two seasons (124 games total). Ryan is tied for the 24th highest salary among forwards, which, with his lack of production, is a travesty.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist

We hate to say it, but King Hank’s contract is now one of the worst in hockey, never mind the New York Rangers. We like Lundqvist, we really do, but not for $8.5 million a season for the next three years. The only saving grace is the Blueshirts are rebuilding and have shed some other unworthy contracts in the last couple of seasons. Yet, the Rangers are paying Lundqvist like a Vezina winner, when those days are long behind the 36-year-old Swede. For six seasons since he last won the coveted trophy in 2012, Lundqvist’s stats have steadily declined. His goals against average has gone from 1.97 then to a full point higher in 2017-18 at 2.98. As well, his save percentage plummeted from .930 to just .915 (which was an improvement on the .910 he logged in 2016-17). There is nowhere to hide for Lundqvist in the Big Apple.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Toronto Maple Leafs – Nathan Horton

We know, Horton hasn’t played a game in over four years, but the Leafs had to absorb his bad contract to get rid of a worse contract in David Clarkson’s pact. It is a boon to the Leafs that we think they don’t have an active player unworthy of their money — yet — however, they still have to pay Horton $5.3 million to sit at home for the next two seasons. That’s not chump change and could be better used to spend on a premier defenceman, if and when one became available. Thus, by extension, Toronto’s worst contract is still the ludicrous seven-year, $36.75 million deal that then GM Dave Nonis inked Clarkson to. In a roundabout sort of way, he, not Horton, is still the albatross around the Leafs collective neck. Horton, who signed a nearly identical deal with Columbus in 2013, was actually worth that kind of dough then, where Clarkson was a one-hit wonder who was way, way overpaid.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Colorado Avalanche – Carl Soderberg

With the fifth lowest payroll in hockey (according to CapFriendly) there aren’t many candidates for worst contract, but, we had to select Soderberg’s, for obvious reasons. First, he’s making $5 million a season and the Avs are on the hook until 2020, when he becomes a free agent. He is, at best, a third line forward getting paid like a second-liner and is already 32 and will turn 33 in the first week of the 2018-19 season. After being dealt from the Boston Bruins, where he had two pretty good seasons, Soderberg was dealt to Colorado in June, 2015 and shortly thereafter inked a spanking new, five-year, $23.75 million contract with a no trade clause for the first two years and modified one for the remainder. Soderberg did earn the money in his first season with the Avs, tallying a career high 51 points. However, he has recorded just 51 points over the last two seasons (157 games). The deal looks worse every year.


Philadelphia Flyers – Andrew MacDonald

It says a lot about the state of the Flyers that their highest paid defenceman is a guy a lot of teams would have in their bottom pair. Not that Andrew MacDonald isn’t a serviceable NHLer, it’s just that he isn’t worth Morgan Rielly money, or even Zdeno Chara money (they all make $5 million a season). In fact, MacDonald is making more than better contemporaries such as Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, John Klingberg, Jacob Muzzin and Roman Josi, for Pete’s Sake. The good thing is, they will only have to pay the soon-to-be 32-year-old native of Judique, N.S. for two more years. What makes MacDonald’s deal a head-scratcher is the fact that after he signed a six-year, $30 million contract in April 2014, he was waived by Philly, cleared them and then was assigned to their Lehigh Valley AHL affiliate. Bizarre beyond words.

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Vegas Golden Knights – David Clarkson

Thanks to former Leafs GM David Nonis, the David Clarkson contract is a bad present that just keeps on getting re-gifted. After Clarkson signed the ill-fated seven-year, $36.75 million pact with Toronto in July, 2013, it has since been packaged to Columbus up for Nathan Horton in a bad contract for bad contract deal involving grievously injured players. However, the Golden Knights now own it, after a 2017 expansion draft deal with the Blue Jackets that at least netted them something of value, that is, surprise scoring hero William Karlsson. What makes Clarkson’s contract not worthy of passing the sniff test is the fact the Leafs gave it to him based on one good season, where he scored 30 goals for New Jersey in 2011-12. Otherwise, Clarkson hasn’t played a game since the 2015-16 season.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Carolina Hurricanes – Scott Darling

It really is a good thing that Carolina pays their de facto starting goalie in the lower third among all 31 NHL starters. That four-year, $16.6 million pact that the ‘Canes inked career back-up Scott Darling to last summer looks really bad after only one season of returns. And, they awarded the 29-year-old a modified no trade deal, nonetheless. Darling’s numbers as a first-year starter were, in a nutshell, horrid. His goals against average, in 43 games, was a dismal 3.18, the seventh lowest among qualified goaltenders. And we don’t even want to talk about his league worst .888 save percentage, which was way below the fairly excellent .924 he posted with Chicago in 2016-17. Carolina, who let Cam Ward go in the off-season, better hope the 6’6″giant regains his previous form. Otherwise, the guy they signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, Petr Mrazek, will be starting sooner than later.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Buffalo Sabres – Kyle Okposo

Is Kyle Okposo worth the same money that San Jose pays Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, or the same cash that New Jersey pays Taylor Hall and Nashville pays Filip Forsberg? Not bloody likely. There are a host of players making the same $6 million — or a lot less — per season Okposo does who are far more productive. At least now, the remaining five years of the seven-year, $42 million contract Okposo signed in 2016 have a modified no trade clause (when it was full no movement to start). Now, Okposo wasn’t bad in his first two seasons with the Sabres, but neither was he $6 million good. We think, that after playing with the likes of John Tavares with the Islanders and racking up 60-plus point seasons in two of the three years before heading to Buffalo, Okposo didn’t get to toil with linemates that could make him look better. He tallied just 45 points in 2016-17 and then only 44 in 2017-18, when he was also -34. Not acceptable, for that kind of dough.

(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

New York Islanders – Johnny Boychuk

So many bad-smelling contracts, so little time. As of this writing, the Isles might own the most terrible deals in the NHL. We can identify three upon first glance of their roster, including Andrew Ladd’s, Leo Komarov’s and Johnny Boychuk’s. But, for his age and ungainly size of his pact, Boychuk gets worst on the Islanders. That is, he is 34, owed $6 million a season for the next four seasons and who is obviously in decline in just about every statistical category. The former Boston Bruin and Stanley Cup champion started out well enough with the Islanders, but his production deteriorated fast from a career-high 35-point season in 2014-15. Always a plus defenceman, Boychuk registered just 18 points this past season and was an uncharacteristic -8, which is the first time he has ever been below even. Injuries took a toll on his game and his analytics numbers have tumbled far, all the way to 46.7 Corsi For and 99.9 PDO.


Winnipeg Jets – Bryan Little

The Jets are in a good position, with some cap space and literally no one not earning their money. They have cap space and some flexibility going forward, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some acrimony on nagging deal down the road. And that one belongs to longtime vet Little. The 30-year-old was a first round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006 and he has been a good to great player for them since, but will be paid a shade under $5.3 million until 2024. An excellent two-way forward, Little, like others on this list has seen an inevitable decline in his statistical numbers the past few years and with good young players coming through the Jets system, he could get pushed out, and soon. This past season, his numbers weren’t bad with 43 points and a +2, but it marked the fourth straight season of decline since he had a high of 64 points in 2013-14. His ice time, too, has been cut back three full minutes per game since that magical season, too.


Arizona Coyotes – Niklas Hjalmarsson

It would seem that three-time Stanley Cup champion Hjalmarsson is on the downward slope of a pretty fine career. The Coyotes, who are in a transition phase, thought it a good idea to sign the 31-year-old Swede to a two-year contract extension that will see him make $5 million per season in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He will be finishing the final year of a five-year, $20.5 million contract signed with Chicago in 2014. He is still a top four defenceman, however, his point totals have spiraled down steadily since a high of 26 with the Blackhawks in 2013-14. What makes his contract onerous is the fact that the team signed big-time defenceman and 27-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a massive eight-year deal, which limits money available in the near future for up-and-comers. It will be interesting to see how Hjalmarsson pans out, especially since he doesn’t have the added incentive of being in the last year of his old deal.

(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Vancouver Canucks – Loui Eriksson

As far as the optics on bad contracts go, picking Eriksson’s pact with Vancouver was a no-brainer. He has four years left on a contract that pays him $6 million a season, with the added headache of a no-trade clause until 2020. It’s galling because Eriksson is 33 and has missed 47 games the last two seasons, severely limiting his effectiveness and degrading his scoring. After tallying 30 goals for the second time in his career in 2015-16 with Boston, the Canucks took the plunge and signed the Gothenburg, Sweden born Eriksson to a rich, six-year, $36 million contract. He’s since scored 21 goals and 47 points in 115 games, which is a far cry from those 63 points he recorded in 82 games his last year in Boston. Vancouver will need money for RFA’s Brock Boeser and Markus Granlund, among others, next year and Eriksson’s deal might be a hindrance to those talks.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Anaheim Ducks – Patrick Eaves

Anaheim’s core of forward is old and there may have been several candidates for most onerous pact. However, Eaves deal may well be the one they regret, in hindsight. Unfortunately for Eaves, 34, and the Ducks, the veteran forward was diagnosed early last season with post-viral syndrome and he played in just two games, scoring a goal. This, after signing a three-year, $9.45 million contract before the 2017-18 season started. He has been medically cleared to resume his NHL career, however, it is anyone’s guess how effective he will be when the puck drops for real. He did score 32 goals in a season split between the Dallas Stars and Anaheim in 2016-17, so the Ducks have to be hoping he can still bend the twine at that rate. It’s wait and see, we guess.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Montreal Canadiens – Karl Alzner

The Habs have a few suspect contracts, including the whopper they gave to Carey Price, who looked rather ordinary in 49 games last season, ditto the fat contract being paid to injured star defenceman Shea Weber and under-performing center Jonathan Drouin. For our money, though, the five-year, $23.125 million pact inked by Karl Alzner will probably prove to be the most onerous. There are four years remaining on his deal and already at 29 — he’ll be 30 at season’s start — Alzner is a diminishing asset. He tied his lowest point total in a full season with 12 points and recorded a career worst -7 while playing just over 20 minutes per game. Alzner did register his most hits and shot blocks but his takeaway/giveaway ratio was a horrendous 22/90. Ouch.


Nashville Predators – Kyle Turris

The Preds 2017-18 season can be summed up in one word, ultra-disappointing. A year after going to the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Predators were bounced in seven game by Winnipeg in the second round. One player they were counting on to provide scoring depth at center, and who they acquired early in the season, center Kyle Turris, was a thorough disappointment. Believing he was key to their fortunes, the Preds quickly signed Turris to a six-year, $36 million contract. For the most part, he was true to form with 42 points in 65 games. However, come playoff time, he laid an egg, registering just three assists in 13 games, with a -3 and a paltry 45.5 percent success rate on the face-off dot. He will be 29 in a couple of weeks and still has five years to go on that deal. It’s not looking good, so far.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Dallas Stars – Jason Spezza

The Dallas Stars didn’t make the playoffs last year, and while there were many culprits, the lack of production from expensive, and aging, Jason Spezza was not near up to snuff. Worse yet, he has the second highest cap hit of $7.5 million for one more year, with a modified no trade/no movement clause tacked on. What the Stars received for $7.5 million last year was a measly 26 points — his worst total by a long shot — and a -12. With only eight goals, his cost per goal was nearly an eye-popping $1 million ($937,500). That was a far cry from the average 58 points per season he logged in his first three years in Dallas after signing a four-year, $30 million contract. The only place he excelled last season was on the draw, where he won 55.8 percent of his face-offs. A demotion from second line duties is necessary.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Columbus Blue Jackets – Brandon Dubinsky

For all the investment the Blue Jackets have made in what they think are post-season warriors, the return on that investment has been sketchy. For the second post-season in a row, the Jackets were bounced in the first round, which has to chafe management to no end. One player they can point to as having little impact was 32-year-old veteran Brandon Dubinsky. He tallied a very unimpressive 16 points in 62 games last year and followed it up with a donut in six playoff contests, too. It marked the worst campaign, by far, in his otherwise decent 12-year career. Adding to the dubious production is the fact he has three years left on a six-year, $35.1 million contract he signed in 2014, with those last three containing a modified no-trade/no movement clause. We think the Jackets may do everything in their power to get him moved, soon.

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Chicago Blackhawks – Jonathan Toews

It is with heavy hearts that we lump loyal warrior Toews in with all these terrible contracts. But, there is no escaping the fact that on an aging and formerly glorious team, his $10.5 million cap hit for the next five years will make him virtually un-tradeable. What makes his contract look even worse is the production the club gets from Patrick Kane, who makes the same amount of money. Yes, Toews is the team’s captain, owns three Stanley Cup rings and plays with fire in his belly, but the 30-year-old’s game is in marked decline. The 2017-18 season marked the fourth straight campaign that the former Selke winner’s points total declined (from 68 in 2013-14 to 52 last year) as well as an alarming dip in his plus/minus to -1 (from +26 in ’13-14). Chicago has missed the playoffs last year for the first time in a while and it’s not looking good for a return in 2018-19, especially if core players like Toews continue to be underwhelming.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Edmonton Oilers – Milan Lucic

A playoff-hardened veteran, who plays with jam, was a high priority for an up-and-coming team like the Oilers in the summer of 2016. With superstar Connor McDavid in the fold, Edmonton went out and signed rugged Milan Lucic to a seven-year, $42 million contract to patrol the wing, make other teams cringe in the corners and score timely goals. A Stanley Cup winner with Boston in 2011, Lucic was on the money in 2016-17, scoring 23 goals and 27 assists, while doling out 202 hits. He chipped in six points in 13 playoff games, too. But, things went far south for Lucic and the Oilers in 2017-18. Not only did they miss the post-season, by a long shot, but the 30-year-old Vancouver native’s point total dipped to an alarming 34 points, including a disappointing 10 goals and a -12. He did post his second highest hit total with 254, but that number is indicative of swaths of time playing without the puck. Edmonton needs more, not less, from an expensive guy like Lucic.


Calgary Flames – James Neal

We hope, for the Flames sake, that the acquisition of James Neal proves to be a boon to their post-season aspirations. The Flames, like their hated rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, tanked in 2017-18, missing the playoffs a year after going out in four straight to Anaheim. Neal, 30, was a prime free agent that Vegas wasn’t willing to re-sign, so Calgary jumped in with both feet for five years and $28.75 million. He joins a good young cast fronted by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund. Yet, his point and goal production aren’t near where they used to be with Nashville and Pittsburgh before that. He had 25 goals and 42 points with the Golden Knights in 2017-18. Not bad, but pale in comparison to his 31 goals and 58 points in 2016-17 with the Predators, or his career high 40 goals and 81 points with Pittsburgh in 2011-12.

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

San Jose Sharks – Evander Kane

Kane’s monster seven-year, $49 million deal signed this off-season can be looked at in two ways. On the optimist side, it’s a wise investment in a 26-year-old, nine-year veteran who can score and plays with jam. On the other, he is a noted hothead who played his way out of Winnipeg and who Buffalo didn’t think enough of to keep around while they undergo a very intriguing rebuild. We firmly believe the Sharks will get much of the same Jekyll and Hyde behavior out of their highest paid forward. On the hopeful side, Kane did have a bounce back year in 2017-18, scoring 29 goals and 25 assists, his second highest totals since he tallied 30 goals and 27 assists with the Jets in 2011-12. Kane also did very well in his first ever post-season experience, firing four goals and adding an assist in nine games. To say he will be under a microscope in San Jose would be an understatement.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Boston Bruins – David Backes

Boston’s weak link was exposed in the post-season. And that was secondary scoring. If not for the heroics of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, all who earned their big pay cheques last year, the B’s would not have gone to the second round. One player supposedly paid to provide that secondary scoring was David Backes. In the second year of a five-year, $30 million contract, Backes scored but 14 goals in 57 games and only two in 12 playoff contests. In fairness, injuries took their toll on the 34-year-old rugged forward — and at his age will play a part going forward — however, his goal totals have spiraled downward from 27 in 2013-4 with St. Louis (his second highest output). In order to save on wear and tear, his ice time has been cut, but if Boston is to be successful going forward, can they afford to pay Backes $6 million to play a bottom six role? We’re not really sure.


Detroit Red Wings – Justin Abdelkader

For comparison sake, let’s put Justin Abdelkader’s production and contract up against that of Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson. Both are in the midst of seven-year, $29.75 million contracts. That is where the similarities end. Abdelkader, 31 has scored 20 goals and 36 assists in the first two full seasons of his pact and has five years to go. Arvidsson, 25, had 29 goals and 32 assists in the first season of his pact, 2017-18. So, the optics of Abdelkader’s deal are very sketchy. Five of the Wings top six highest paid forwards are all on the wrong side of 30 and with declining production from most of them, the future isn’t all that bright. We’re not sure that Abdelkader ever warranted being paid $4.25 million a season and GM Ken Holland will have a very hard time justifying it for the next five campaigns.


Tampa Bay Lightning – Tyler Johnson

There are a slew of NHL players making an average of $5 million a season and we found three who provide more bang for the buck than the Lightning’s Johnson, such as Josh Bailey, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Not that he is a bad player, but he recorded 50 points last year while the other three tallied 71, 75 and 60 respectively. We firmly believe the 28-year-old Johnson, who had a high of 72 points in 2014-15, has hit his ceiling and won’t go there again. And, the Bolts are on the hook for six more seasons paying Johnson $5 million per. Even on his own team, he was beaten by a player of similar small stature, Yanni Gourde, who was paid $1 million and recorded 64 points along with seven in 17 playoff games, which was one less than Johnson’s eight. Doing the math, it ain’t pretty.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Los Angeles Kings – Dion Phaneuf

It’s not the size of Dion Phaneuf’s contract that makes it dubious, it’s the fact the Kings have to pay him $7 million for the next three years with the caveat of a modified no-trade/no movement clause attached. He makes $4 million less than paid to superstar Drew Doughty ($11 million per season), which is a good thing. However, Phaneuf’s overall value as a top-4 defenceman has kept falling since he signed a massive seven-year, $49 million contract with Toronto in the middle of the 2013-14 season. There are only 11 NHL rearguards who make more than 33-year-old Phaneuf, several of who have won Norris Trophies and are considered elite. Phaneuf doesn’t check any of the boxes they do and in 2017-18 he chipped in 26 points and was a dismal -15. Clearly, the Kings are stuck with him and we don’t see a light at the end of the contractual tunnel.

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Florida Panthers – Roberto Luongo

It’s a feather in the Panthers front office cap that we found it very hard to find one player on their roster who is being overpaid. Therefore, it is with trepidation that we pick Roberto Luongo’s deal. Even at his advanced age, 39, the longtime veteran is still putting up elite numbers. But, for how long? Logic says that nearing 40, Bobby Lu’s body is going to start breaking down, his reflexes also becoming less supple year over year. We say this because he still has four years left on a contract with an average cap hit of $5.33 million dollars. None of his 2017-18 statistics suggest that he is suffering decline, including his save percentage in 35 games (.929, his second best career mark), or goals against average of 2.47 (which was below his career mark of 2.58). But, it’s those games played — his fewest in a full season since his rookie year — that might be the indicator of a downturn. He was injured for a good stretch of ’17-18 and that might be a more common occurrence in the future.

(AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Minnesota Wild – Zach Parise

It seemed like a good idea at the time when the Minnesota Wild inked stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts in the summer of 2012. Both were in their prime at 27 years of age and coming off good seasons with their previous clubs, New Jersey and Nashville respectively. Suter, for the most part, has been a steady and productive member of the Wild’s blue line. Parise, however, has been in serious decline since posting 62 points during the 2014-15 season. For that reason, his remaining seven years at a cap hit of just under $7.6 million — with a no movement clause, no less — will be a gigantic millstone around the neck of new GM Paul Fenton. Now 34, Parise missed 40 games in 2017-18 due to injury and had 24 points. The Wild have floundered around the edges of Stanley Cup contention for years and that prognosis still sticks, if Parise’s contract and declining production are an indicator.


Washington Capitals – Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson, Stanley Cup winner with Washington, is an effective pest and a devastating hitter with just enough game to contribute on a semi-regular basis. But, we think the Capitals, basking in the afterglow of the team’s first championship, had a severe brain cramp when they awarded the grinder a fat six-year, $31 million contract just days ago. For $5.166 million, the Caps may never get more than the career high 14 goals and 35 points Wilson tallied in 2017-18. Yes, he provides value in being an agitator with few peers, as well as throwing his young body around with abandon (250 hits last year). As we said above about a similarly paid player in Tyler Johnson, there are plenty of players with a higher offensive ceiling, making as much or even less than Wilson. The Caps, like many other Stanley Cup winning teams, may suffer from title hangover in 2018-19 and going forward, they may end up regretting that Wilson deal.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Pittsburgh Penguins – Phil Kessel

There is trouble afoot in Steeltown and it comes in a reported growing rift between star scorer Phil Kessel and his teammates and coaching staff. While the reported tension between Kessel and the Pens hasn’t been confirmed, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. After a career best 92-point season, there was the disappointment of being dusted by Washington in the playoffs and a sub-par performance from Phil the Thrill. He scored just once in 12 games, had eight assists and was a -5, which is par for the course for a guy who lolly-gags back to his own zone a little too much. At $6.8 million a season, some would consider his contract a bargain fulfilled, considering his offensive output in the regular season. Yet, he has four years remaining at that number and will be well past his prime at age 31 when the 2018-19 season begins. Thus, the big question is, will he be part of the future, or will he agree to waive his modified no-trade/no movement clause to allow a big trade?

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

St. Louis Blues – Tyler Bozak

We like Bozak and how he conducted himself with class through some trying times with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Undrafted, he turned a free agent opportunity out of the NCAA into a decent career so far. However, we think the perennial also-ran Blues were grasping at straws by signing the 32-year-old to a fairly hefty three-year, $15 million contract. That’s a lot of dough for a third line center on the wrong side of his prime, in our estimation. Yes, he will contribute, probably in line with the average 48 points per season he put up in the last five campaigns. But, $5 million for fairly pedestrian numbers like that is overpaying for a success-starved team, no matter how it’s looked at. On the plus side, Bozak is a better-than-average face-off man with a career win percentage of 53.6. On the negative side he is a career -78 in the plus-minus category and isn’t overly aggressive on the forecheck. We hope it works out for him, but the Blues should have offered a shorter contract.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)