Going into the 2015-16 season, the league increased the salary cap by $2.4M from $69M 2014-15. The salary cap could increase by a maximum of $3.1M for the 2016-17 season, but with the free-falling dollar, the NHL will not likely rise by the max of $3.1M from the cap of $71.4 in s2015-16.
The need for more salary cap space has never been higher (except for the Winnipeg Jets who have $25M of space). Ten of the stronger NHL teams are restricted to less than three million dollars of cap space. The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning likely want to improve their roster for a deep playoff run, but are restricted by a lack of cap space.
Each team in the NHL has at least one bad contract, in assessing performance for money. Ryan Callahan of the Tampa Bay Lightning is effective, but overpaid at $5.8M. Brandon Dubinsky is paid to $5.85M be a second/third line center.
Here is a list of each Canadian team with an overpaid player.
After Brandon Sutter was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Vancouver Canucks signed Sutter to a three-year extension at $4.375M per. Sutter has underperformed for the Canucks, and has been struck by the injury bug. $4.375M is too high of a salary for a second/third line center.
Dennis Wideman, a second pairing defenceman will be paid 5.25M for three more years. Wideman, 33 currently has 19 points in 45 games. Wideman is a decent defenceman, but as he ages, his abilities will regress.
Mark Fayne is paid $3.65M to play third-pairing minutes with the Edmonton Oilers. Fayne had to begin the season with Edmonton’s affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors where he played four games. He has three more years remaining with the Oilers.
Tobias Enstrom is a second pairing defenceman, paid $5.75M. Enstrom has a 52.7 corsi for percentage, and a fenwick of 51.1, meaning that the opposing teams have the puck more than half the time he’s on the ice. Enstrom has three years remaining with the Jets.
Toronto Maple Leafs
When he was first acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, Joffrey Lupul played exceptionally well with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The season prompted ex-ex-GM Brian Burke to sign Lupul to a five-year, $5.25M contract, Lupul has underperformed. Lupul has always been plagued by the injury bug, and has not found the ability to have a full 82-game season.
Jared Cowen is one of the most disliked players by fans of the Ottawa Senators because of his poor positional play. Paid $3.1M, the former 9th overall pick in 2009 who is now 24 years old has two years remaining on his contract.
Alexei Emelin is a second/third pairing defenceman who has no goals, and only five assists this season. Emelin has a no trade clause, which makes it harder to move him.
Want to erase a contract of your most loathed player on your favourite team?
Re-institute ONE compliance buyout per team for the 2016-17 season. Compliance buyouts allows teams to buy out a player under contract, without having to face any penalty going forward. If Joffrey Lupul’s contract were to be bought out compliantly, the Leafs have $5.25M of cap space for four more years. If the Calgary Flames buy out Dennis Wideman, they would also have $5.25M of cap space. More teams would be able to trade players, or even claim players from waivers.
Compliance buyouts would hopefully serve as a wake up for each general manager. Spend money wisely. Give players the term and money that they truly deserve. No more Dave Bolland and David Clarkson contracts. Teams would not be as tightly restricted by the salary cap, and have the flexibility to acquire players via trade or free agency.
The above players might not be the best to be bought out. The list should give an idea of the poor contracts that have been signed in the past which will affect each team’s future.