The salary cap is supposed to be the great equalizer in professional sports. The concept is that if each team has the same amount of money to spend on its’ players it should give each organization an equal opportunity to accumulate wins and Stanley Cup championships. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. There are cities that are more desirable and less to desirable to play in. There are teams who are better and worse at drafting and developing talent. There are great coaches, average coaches, and coaches who shouldn’t be in the NHL. But what it can really boil down to are the almighty contracts. Choosing who to sign to a big ticket long-term deal, who to let go in free agency, and who to trade for picks and prospects can make or break an NHL franchise in the long run.
With that in mind, I have created a list of the best and worst contracts for each Canadian based NHL franchise. In today’s article, I will be covering the Winnipeg Jets and the Montreal Canadiens. Check back in future days for the rest of the Canadian teams.
Best – Mark Scheifele
The Rundown: Years Remaining – 6 (including this year), AAV – $6,125,000
Thoughts: At age 25 Mark Scheifele is already one of the best offensive centermen in the NHL. He’s averaged just over a point per game the last two seasons and currently sits at 10 points in 10 games this season. He has excellent leadership abilities and is the type of player any team in the league would be lucky to build a team around. His contract will capture most of his best NHL seasons as he isn’t scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2023-24 season. By this time the Jets should have plenty of cap space available to extend him further with the contracts of veterans Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little also scheduled to come off the books. The only fear with Scheifle is a mild concern with injuries preventing him from playing a full 82 games.
Worst – Blake Wheeler
The Rundown: Years Remaining – 6 (including this year), AAV – $7,808,333
Thoughts: This isn’t a bad contract for a player at the level of Blake Wheeler who accumulated 91 points last season and is the heart and soul of the franchise. However, you really have to worry about how this contract is going to play out in the long run. At age 32 Wheeler is likely a player who has reached his peak. Considering this contract will take him into his late 30’s who knows which young players will have to be jettisoned in order to keep paying “Wheels” in years 4, 5 and 6 of his contract. Taking risks like this seem to be part of the price of competing for a Stanley Cup and if this team wins one it will more than make up for the salary cap crunch they will eventually find themselves in.
Best – Max Domi
The Rundown: Years Remaining – 2 (including this year), AAV – $3,150,000
Thoughts: The Montreal Canadiens are playing pretty good hockey right now and on the date of this publication they’ve only lost one hockey game all season. The early returns on the Alex Galchenyuk/Max Domi trade have been very positive for the team. Galchenyuk has only played one hockey game this season and hasn’t tallied a single point. Domi, on the other hand, has accumulated 8 points in 8 games playing heavy ice time as the Canadiens 2nd line centerman. If he continues this pace for the entire season or even comes close he will present a tremendous value for his 3,150,000 dollar contract. This isn’t exactly a team loaded with tremendous contracts but Domi’s has a chance to be the best on the team.
Worst – Shea Weber
The Rundown: Years Remaining – 7 (including this year), AAV – $7,857,143
Thoughts: When the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban they took a lot of criticism for giving up the team’s most beloved player for an older less gifted defensemen in Shea Weber. The Preds have heavily benefited from this trade racking up huge win totals and moderate to good playoff success. On the other end, Weber only managed to play 26 games last season and is still recovering from serious knee surgery. At age 33 we have no way of knowing how good he will be once he finally returns to the lineup. What makes matters even worse is that the team is still on the hook for nearly 8 million dollars a year until Weber reaches the age of 39. Yikes!
So there you have it. We will have one article per day until all of the Canadian teams have been covered. Please feel free to comment on my choices in the comments below!