Seguin, Suzuki, Nurse, Jones and the 10 worst contracts in hockey

Some serious blunders on this list.

Published 1 year ago
Seguin, Suzuki, Nurse, Jones and the 10 worst contracts in hockey
The Athletic

With literally tens of millions of dollars being handed out in free agency this offseason, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic has compiled his list of the top 10 worst contracts in the NHL. So, while it's exciting when your team makes a splash in free agency, just remember that these deals can come back to bite you in the end.

Some excerpts from Luszczyszyn's column:

9. Nick Suzuki

Contract: $7.9M x eight years

Surplus Value: -$22.3M

Positive Value Probability: 35.3 percent

Personally, I’m excited to see how wrong this one is. 

I’m reporting it how the model spits it out now, and as you’ve read — the best framing for each of these players is one born out of optimism. Nick Suzuki deserves the most optimism given his age and previous trajectory. His comps make that even rosier, pushing his positive value probability from 24 percent to 35 percent (inclusion on this list is based on the former number).

Signing a young player one year out from restricted free agency is usually a way to reduce risk. For Montreal, seeing Suzuki play like a borderline top-line center at such a young age was enough to lock him in long-term at just under $8 million. It was a touch rich at the time, but a deal he could grow into.

7. Erik Karlsson

Contract: $11.5M x five years

Surplus Value: -$30.0M

Positive Value Probability: 20.9 percent

While a lot of eyes were on Drew Doughty’s resurgence in 2021-22, Erik Karlsson had a similar bounce-back of his own, making his contract look much less onerous than years past.

With Karlsson, health is always the concern. In 2021 he clearly wasn’t healthy and it showed in his numbers, his worst ever season. Offensively he struggled and defensively he was worse than ever. His play made his contract look especially bad and almost impossible to live up to. But then the 2021-22 season came along and Karlsson — when healthy — looked vintage. The offence was there again and he was driving play to a positive degree. Defensively he struggled, but he more than made up for it. Not enough to be worth $11.5 million, but much closer than the prior year.

5. Darnell Nurse

Contract: $9.3M x eight years

Surplus Value: -$35.1M

Positive Value Probability: 22.7 percent

Basically, anything said in the Seth Jones blurb can be happily applied here for Darnell Nurse as well. He too has a roughly one-in-five chance of living up to his $9 million-plus deal where the biggest issue is contract length for a 27-year-old. Nurse also eats minutes and scores, but is probably not a true number one defender. The talent is there to be more, but the price tag is still too high.

Here’s the main difference with Nurse though: his last two seasons were strong enough to be a bit more optimistic about his future. 

Early on in Nurse’s career, he struggled defensively and that was a continuous source of concern about his future as a high-end defender. Even his breakthrough year in 2021 was mostly driven by offence. Nurse was worth 1.9 wins that season, but there was plenty of reason to be skeptical he could keep that up. Combine that with The McDavid Factor likely boosting his numbers (something GSVA controls for to an extent) and there was good reason to be skeptical of Nurse’s new deal.

2. Seth Jones

Contract: $9.5M x eight years

Surplus Value: -$39.6M

Positive Value Probability: 20.4 percent

The summer of 2021 was the year that defensemen got paid. Those defenders come in two tiers: the best in the league who are now underpaid on the best contracts in hockey list, and the ones who aren’t the best but are paid like they are. Those are the ones on this list.

It seems like the NHL at large basically said: “Do you play 25 minutes per game and score? If so, you are entitled to an eight-year deal worth $9 million per season!” And that’s how we end up with four deals from that summer on the worst contracts list, starting with the always polarizing Seth Jones.

1. Tyler Seguin

Contract: $9.9M x five years

Surplus Value: -$38.4M

Positive Value Probability: 5.2 percent

When Tyler Seguin signed an eight-year extension during the 2018 offseason he was one of the absolute best players in hockey — one worthy of nearly $10 million per season. Even at 27, all signs pointed to a skilled player who would be able to age gracefully and live up to a big-ticket deal. Three years in that’s not what happened.

The 2018-19 season was still a strong one for Seguin where he scored at a point-per-game pace, but the contract didn’t kick in until 2019-20. Unfortunately for the Stars, that would be the last time Seguin would be a point-per-game player. In each passing year, Seguin’s value has dropped significantly and he’s gone from a 3.5-win player at the start of the contract to one that isn’t even worth one win.