The Ultimate Fate Of The Long Term Contracts Signed Before The Last Collective Bargaining Agreement

Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

When the salary cap was instituted in the NHL, owners and players often signed players to extra-long contracts in which the last few years carried a significantly lower salary so that the average value of the deal would be lower. The player would be paid market rate for his prime years, but the last years of the deal would have a much lower salary.

This particular loophole was closed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed before the 2012-13 season, limiting contracts to eight years. But there were plenty of long contracts still in effect that had been signed prior to that new Agreement.

Sean McIndoe of Grantland.com, who is best known for his Down Goes Brown column, analyzed the extra long contracts, all 21 of them, back in 2013.  Nova Caps looks at the ultimate fate of the players who signed all of those extra-long deals.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils

Signed: Prior to the 2011-12 Season
Terms of Deal: 15 years for $100,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2024-25 season

Fate: Kovalchuk “retired” from the NHL in July of 2013 so that he could play with SKA in the KHL. Thus, his NHL contract was terminated. He ultimately returned to the NHL for the 2018-19 season with the Los Angeles Kings and played with the Kings, Montreal Canadiens, and Washington Capitals in 2019-20 which appeared to be his last NHL season. He played the 2020-21 season with Avangard in the KHL, who won the Gagarin Cup in 2021.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Signed: Prior to the 2012-13 Season
Terms of Deal: 14 years for $110,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2025-26 season

Fate: He remained with the Nashville Predators through the 2015-16 season until he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. He was an important part of the Canadiens’ defense through the 2020-21 season. After the 2020-21 season, Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin announced that Weber was dealing with numerous injuries and that he would not play during the 2021-22 season. It is likely that his career could be over. If that’s the case, he would be on Long Term Injured Reserve for the last five seasons of his contract.

ESPN: Montreal Canadiens Report Shea Weber Can’t Play in 2021-22

Ryan Suter And Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

Signed: Prior to the 2012-13 Season
Terms of Deal: Identical contracts of 13 years for $98,000,000 total
Planned Expiration Date: After 2024-25 season

Fate: Both Suter and Parise were important players for the Wild for many years. But during the 2020-21 seasons, their roles declined. Parise was a healthy scratch on several occasions. Suter played in every game, but logged less ice time during 2020-21 than he did in the past. Hence, the Wild management decided to buy them both out.

Suter signed a four year contract with the Dallas Stars. As of this writing, Parise remains a free agent but there have been rumors throughout the offseason that he would sign a contract with the New York Islanders.

Sports Illustrated: Wild Buy Out Parise and Suter Contracts

Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings

Signed: At end of the 2008-09 regular Season
Terms of Deal: 11 years for $43,500,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2019-20 season

Fate: Franzen sustained a concussion in January 2015, thanks to a blindside hit, and missed the remainder of the 2014-15 season. He played in just two games during the 2015-16 season due to concussion symptoms.  He never again played in the NHL and was placed on Long Term Injury Reserve for the remaining seasons of his contract.

Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

Signed: At end of the 2009-10 Regular Season
Terms of Deal: 13 years for $72,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2022-23 season

Fate: Keith remained an important part of the Blackhawks’ defense for most of his contract. After the 2020-21 season, he requested a trade to a Western Canadian team to be closer to his family in Manitoba. Thus, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. He still has two years remaining on his contract.

Photo: Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune: Chicago Blackhawks Trade Keith to Edmonton Oilers

Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

Signed: During the 2008-09 season, with extension starting for 2009-10 season
Terms of Deal: 12 years for $73,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2020-21 season

Fate: Zetterberg remained an important part of the Red Wings offense through the 2017-18 season, although he never again reached his career high in points or made an All Star team. At the beginning of the next season, 2018-19, Detroit General Manager, Ken Holland, announced that he would not be able to continue his NHL career due to a degenerative back condition. Hence, he was placed on Long Term Injured Reserve for the last three years of his contract and has never played again.

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

Signed: After the 2008-09 season
Terms of Deal: 12 years for $63,300,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2020-21 season

Fate: Hossa remained an important part of the Blackhawks lineup through the 2016-17 season. Prior to the 2017-18 season, it was announced that he had a skin disorder that made it impossible for him to play professional hockey. The Blackhawks placed him on Long Term Injured Reserve. After the 2017-18 season, they traded him (or rather his cap hit) to the Arizona Coyotes, which remained on their books until the contract expired.

Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning

Signed: After the 2008-09 season
Terms of Deal: 11 years for $85,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2019-20 season

Fate: The Lightning bought out his contract as an amnesty before the 2012-13 season after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed. He then signed a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was a productive player during his first two seasons with the Flyers (2012-13 and 2013-14) but the 2014-15 season started off poorly for him and he found himself a healthy scratch and his role declined. He was traded early in the 2015-16 season to the Los Angeles Kings, where there was a stipulation that he would retire after that season so that the Kings would not be saddled with his cap hit. He officially retired after the season.

Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Signed: During the 2007-08 season, with extension starting for 2008-09 season
Terms of Deal: 13 years for $124,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2020-21 season

Fate: Ovechkin remained a productive player for the Caps and scored over 40 goals in 2019-20. He scored over 20 goals in a season shorted by both Covid and injury but he was still a productive goal scorer and hopes to pass Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record in goals. He has signed a new contract for five more years.

AP Photo/John Locher

Rick Dipietro, New York Islanders

Signed: Before the 2005-05 season
Terms of Deal: 15 years for $67,500,000 total
Planned Expiration Date: After 2020-21 season

Fate: Dipietro suffered numerous injuries after signing his contract, including concussions and a knee injury. The Islanders bought out his contract as an amnesty buyout before the 2012-13 season after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed. He never again played in the NHL.

Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers

Signed: During the 2007-08 season, with extension starting for 2008-09 season
Terms of Deal: 12 years for $69,000,000 total
Planned Expiration Date: After 2020-21 season

Fate: Richard became the Flyers’ Captain before the start of the 2008-09 season and helped them make the Stanley Cup Finals in 2009-10. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings after the 2010-11 season as the Flyers decided they could not afford his contract and Jeff Carter’s contract after signing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Richards helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups (2012 and 2014) but his statistics sharply declined during the 2013-14 season and declined even more during the 2014-15 season, when the Kings waived him and sent him to their AHL affiliate. After being caught at the Canadian border with Oxycodone without a prescription during the 2015 offseason, the Kings tried to terminate his contract. The NHL Players Association filed a countersuit to contest the contract termination. Ultimately the Kings and Richards reached a settlement and Richards was a free agent who signed a contract with the Capitals during the 2015-16 season which was his last in the NHL.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum,

Jeff Carter, L.A. Kings

Signed: During the 2010-11 season, with extension starting for 2011-12 season
Terms of Deal: 11 years for $58,000,000 total
Planned Expiration Date: After 2021-22 season

Fate: The Flyers traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets after the 2010-11 season when they decided they could no longer afford his contract or Mike Richards’ contract.  Carter was traded at the 2011-12 trade deadline to the Los Angeles Kings where he helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups (2012 and 2014). He has declined since the 2016-17 season but has still been productive. The Kings traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2020-21 trade deadline.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Signed: After the 2011-12 season
Terms of Deal: 12 years for $104,400,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2024-25 season

Fate: Crosby is still the first line center for the Penguins and still producing at over a point per game rate.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Signed: Before the 2009-10 season, with extension starting for 2010-11 season
Terms of Deal: 12 years for $64,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2021-22 season

Fate: Luongo performed well during the early years of his contract but eventually the Canucks wanted to trade him. They found it hard to trade him due to the length of his contract and the onerous cap recapture penalty. Vancouver finally traded him to the Florida Panthers at the 2013-14 trade deadline. He played for the Panthers through the 2018-19 season and announced his retirement after that season.

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

Signed: After the 2009-10 season
Terms of Deal: 10 years for $67,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2019-20 season

Fate: Backstrom remained the Caps’ first line center, with occasional turns at second line center, through the entirety of the deal. He signed a five year contract extension during the 2019-20 season.

Photo: NHL.com

Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes

Signed: Before the 2012-13 season
Terms of Deal: 10 years for $60,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2022-23 season

Fate: While his offense has not lived up to his draft pedigree (second overall pick in 2006 NHL Entry Draft), he has generally been one of the Hurricanes’ top two centers. He is currently the Hurricanes’ captain.

Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHL via Getty Images

Jonathan Quick, L.A. Kings

Signed: Before the 2012-13 season
Terms of Deal: 10 years for $58,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2022-23 season

Fate: Quick backstopped the Kings to an additional Stanley Cup Championship in 2013-14 and helped the team get to the Western Conference Finals in 2012-13 and 2014-15. His statistics (Save Percentage and Goals Against Average) started to decline during the 2017-18 season. He still remains with the Kings although Calvin Peterson played more games in goal during the 2020-21 season.

Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres

Signed: At end of the 2010-11 season
Terms of Deal: 10 years for $67,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2020-21 season

Fate: The Sabres bought out Ehrhoff’s contract after the 2013-14 season. He signed a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins for 2014-15. In 2015-16, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Kings but did not live up to expectations with the Kings and was sent to their AHL affiliate and then traded to the Chicago Blackhawks where he played with them for 8 games. The 2015-16 was his last year in the NHL.

Brad Richards, New York Rangers

Signed: Before the 2011-12 season
Terms of Deal: Nine years for $60,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2019-20 season

Fate: He was part of the New York Rangers teams that won the Presidents’ Trophy during the 2011-12 season and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013-14. But the Rangers bought him out with an amnesty buyout after the 2013-14 season. He signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks for 2014-15 where the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. He signed another one year deal with the Detroit Red Wings for 2015-16 and retired after that season.

Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers

Signed: Before the 2011-12 season
Terms of Deal: Nine years for $60,000,000
Planned Expiration Date: After 2019-20 season

Fate: The Flyers bought him out after the 2012-13 season with a compliance buyout. Since leaving the Flyers, he played with the Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, and Anaheim Ducks for the next two seasons. The Ducks waived him during the 2014-15 season and he decided to return to Russia. That was the end of his NHL career.

Overall

Of the 21 players who had signed contracts for more than 8 years, here is the final tally.

Players Still Playing With Original Team When Contract Ended: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom

Players Still Playing With Original Team But Contract Still Active: Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Quick

Players on Active Contracts But Traded From Original Team: Duncan Keith, Jeff Carter

Players Bought Out With Compliance Buyouts Before or After 2012-13 Season After New Collective Bargaining Agreement signed: Ilya Bryzgalov, Rick DiPietro, Vincent LeCavalier, and Brad Richards

Players Bought Out Later: Mike Richards, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter

Players Whose Last Years Spent on LTIR: Henrik Zetterberg, Marion Hossa, Christian Ehrhoff, Johann Franzen, and possibly Shea Weber

Player Who Retired Before Deal Ended: Roberto Luongo, Ilya Kovalchuk

Further Reading
Grantland: Were Any Long Term NHL Contracts a Good Idea

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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