When Milan Lucic and James Neal were dealt for each other – with the world’s most convoluted conditional third-round pick tossed in for good measure – it challenged two of hockey’s most enduring and long-held beliefs. The first was that you can’t trade within your own division. Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators kind of laid that to rest this summer. Second, it shattered the illusion of the “untradeable” contract. If there was any deal that was thought to be impossible to move before last week, it was the Lucic deal with four years remaining at a $6-million cap hit.
The fact that Edmonton GM Ken Holland and Calgary counterpart Brad Treliving were able to rid themselves of these albatross deals had an awful lot to do with the fact they were taking on burdens every bit as large in return. But they did show a good amount of creativity on this one, making deals that needed to be made, but seemed impossible. Of course, no contract is actually untradeable in today’s NHL, with the David Clarkson-Nathan Horton trade between the Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets four years ago providing ample evidence.
With Lucic’s contract now dealt, let’s look at the top 10 seemingly untradeable contracts in today’s NHL. Only contracts with at least four seasons remaining were considered:
10. Kyle Turris, Nashville: Immediately upon trading for Turris in November of 2017, the Predators signed him to a six-year, $36-million contract extension that has five years remaining. Turris has been shockingly unproductive in both the regular season and post-season in his two seasons with the Predators and will be knocked further down the depth chart with the acquisition of Matt Duchene (who could very well be part of this list himself a couple of years down the road). One saving grace is he doesn’t have a no-movement clause, so the Predators could give up something to have Seattle take him two years down the road.
9. Justin Abdelkader, Detroit: The Red Wings are on the hook for four more years with a $4.25-million cap hit. That’s an awful lot of money to pay a guy who gives you little more than quality leadership and serves as a mentor for the young players in the organization. Abdelkader posted a career-low with six goals and tied his worst season with just 19 points in 2018-19. Abdelkader was once an effective two-way winger, but at 32, those days are behind him.
8. Kyle Okposo, Buffalo: There were enormously high hopes for Okposo when he signed with the Sabres in 2016, but after three disastrous seasons and four more to go at $6 million, the chances of him resurrecting his career are becoming more remote. He spent four months in hospital with a serious illness in 2017, one that was likely brought on by a concussion. The fact that he suffered another concussion this past February in a fight should be setting off some alarm bells.
7. Nick Schmaltz, Arizona: This one could end up being a sneaky bad one for the team, which at the moment is exacerbated by the fact that the player for whom he was traded, Dylan Strome, has flourished with the Chicago Blackhawks. Schmaltz scored 14 points in 17 games for the Coyotes before suffering a season-ending injury. He's currently signed for seven years with a $5.9-million cap hit, but that’s a lot of term and money to a player who has proved himself in exactly one NHL season to this point.
6 and 5. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, Minnesota: The Wild expected very big things when they rocked the NHL by signing both players to identical 13-year, $98-million contracts in the summer of 2012. Both players have left it all on the ice for the Wild and there has never been any question about their character or willingness. These contracts weren’t expected to age well and they haven’t, particularly given that both players have had injury problems and have complete no-move clauses in their contracts.
4. Andrew Ladd, N.Y. Islanders: After scoring 23 goals (but adding just eight assists) in his first year of a seven-year, $38.5-million contract with the New York Islanders three seasons ago, Ladd has scored just 15 goals in two seasons since and was limited to just 26 games last season with leg and knee injuries. He’s got a ton of leadership qualities and is a proven winner, but hasn’t played a single post-season game for the Islanders.
3. Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia: Many heads were scratched when the Flyers signed Hayes to a seven-year, $49-million deal as an unrestricted free agent this past summer. Hayes is going to make the Flyers better in the short-term, of that there is no question. But this contract will almost certainly not age well.
2. Brent Seabrook, Chicago: The Blackhawks have their three Stanley Cups and Seabrook was an enormous part of all of them, so they’re probably fairly cool with that. But picture a 39-year-old Seabrook with a $6.9-million cap hit in five years. It’s even more difficult than picturing a 34-year-old Seabrook with a $6.9 million cap hit in 2019.
1. Shea Weber, Montreal: Fourteen years, $110 million. That’s the offer sheet to which the Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber in the summer of 2012 that the Nashville Predators matched. That contract, along with the Parise and Suter deals, were part of the impetus for the lockout that cost the NHL half the 2012-13 season. Weber has had something of a resurgence with the Montreal Canadiens, but he still has seven years left on his deal with a $7.9 million cap hit that will take him past his 40th birthday.
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