Some fans of the Edmonton Oilers like to complain about the extra one or two million paid to players like Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Zack Kassian, Alex Chiasson and Kris Russell, money these fans believe is over and above the true value of such players.
Whether these are fair complaints or not (and some of them are and some of aren’t), the fact is that Edmonton fans have little to complain about compared to fans in Buffalo, Florida, Chicago and St. Louis.
When we look at the scariest contracts in the NHL, no Oilers players is on the 2020 list, save for James Neal, who signed his five-year deal in Calgary, and had something of a bounce back season in 2019-20, scoring at near peak levels. Whether or not Neal can keep that up is another question, which is why he’s on the list, as he’s being paid like a winger expected to score like a first or second liner at his peak.
Neal ranks 15th on the list of scariest contracts in the National Hockey League heading into the 2020-21 season.
The other Oilers connections here are sixth ranked Milan Lucic, who was a Peter Chiarelli signing in Edmonton in that infamous day of July 1 2016, when a handful of scary contracts were handed out, with underachievers Lucic, Louie Eriksson, Andrew Ladd, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and David Backes all inking major deal that day. Nielsen was signed in Detroit by current Oilers GM Ken Holland, who we can hope learned his lesson, though there’s rumour that Holland just offered goalie Jacob Markstrom a seven year, $35 million deal.
As for the top of the list, here’s my take on the very scariest of deals:
- Jeff Skinner. Fresh off a 40-goal season in 2018-19, as well as a career high 14.9 shooting percentage, Skinner got a new deal in Buffalo for eight years at $9 million per. It was an astonishing amount for an up-and-down sniping winger. This year, in 59 games, Skinner shot 7.7 per cent and scored 14 goals. His points per game slipped from 0.77 to 0.39. He will be 28 this year, still in his shooting prime, so perhaps he can rebound. He’s certainly had bounce back years in the past. But that contract is looking like an absolute killer. It’s already proved the death knell for former Buffalo GM Jason Botterill.
- Sergei Bobrovsky. At age 28, Bobrovsky had a league best .931 save percentage. He followed that up with save percentages of .921 and .913. And the Florida Panthers followed all that up by giving Bobrovsky a seven year deal at $10 million per. In his first season in Florida, Bobrovsky played 50 games but had just a .900 save percentage, carrying on with the downward trend in his career. Can he again be the Bob of 2016-17? Hmm. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that GM Dale Tallon, like Botterill, lost his job this year.
- Brent Seabrook. Seabrook’s eight year, $6.8 million per deal kicked in 2016-17. Since that time, his time-on-ice has gone from 21:54, about where it was when he was one of the NHL’s top two-way d-men, to 18:09, roughly third-pairing minutes. Seabrook played just 32 games last year and scored just four points. He’s got four more years on his deal. Ouch.
- Justin Faulk. Faulk’s new seven year deal at $6.5 million per kicks in this year, but it’s already been a kick in the pants to the St. Louis franchise. It’s not a leap to suggest that when St. Louis signed Faulk in September 2019 to his big new deal, the move triggered a chain of events culminating in star d-man Alex Pietrangelo leaving the Blues for the Vegas Golden Knights. What do the Blues get in Faulk? In his first year in St. Louis, after inking that big deal, he scored 16 points in 69 games, playing 20:34 per game. Maybe his opportunity will increase with Pietrangelo gone. Maybe.
These aren’t the only iffy-to-bad contracts handed out since the 2012 lock-out. Here’s 30 more deals, which have now run their course, which didn’t go well. Ken Holland is in the middle of two of them, paying far too much for Justin Abdelkader and Stephen Weiss.