The 2017 offseason – in all its craziness – has just about come to a close. Just like every offseason, some teams opened up their checkbooks and shelled out big bucks to big-named players such as Kevin Shattenkirk to the New York Rangers, Karl Alzner to the Montreal Canadiens, and Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars. Others were more conservative and tried to find low-priced steals to fill out their lineup. Some deals will work out, while others will leave teams stuck with an overpaid, salary-cap-paralyzing player. With that in mind, let’s take a look at each Eastern Conference team’s most overpaid and underpaid players.
*Note: Players on entry-league contracts, players that have signed contract extensions, and players that are on long-term injury reserve are excluded
Overpaid: Matt Beleskey, Left Wing ($3.8 million AAV salary)
After inking a 5-year/$19 million contract with Boston in the 2015 offseason, Beleskey posted a career-high 37 points in 2015-16. However, he took a huge step back and was nearly invisible this past season, tallying just 8 points in 49 games. Next season, Beleskey is slated to make another $3.8 million, which ranks 37th among all left wingers.
Comparable AAV Salaries in 2017-18: PIT Carl Hagelin, SJS Mikkel Boedker, FLA Evgeny Dadonov, NYR Jimmy Vesey ($3.775 million each), VGK David Perron, LAK Tanner Pearson (both $3.75 million), STL Vladimir Sobotka ($3.5 million)
Underpaid: Patrice Bergeron, Center ($6.785 million AAV salary)
A regular finalist for the Selke Trophy who also consistently puts up 55-65 points a year, Bergeron is one of the league’s top two-way centers. However, he’s not paid like one. He’s not even the highest-paid forward on his own team – that title that belongs to David Krejci. In 2017-18, Bergeron will make $6.875 million, which ranks tied for 15th with Ryan Kesler among all NHL centers. Under his current contract, Bergeron will continue making just under $7 million through the 2021-22 season, which is an absolute steal for the Bruins.
Comparable AAV Salaries in 2017-18: BOS David Krejci ($7.25 million), VAN Henrik Sedin, STL Paul Statsny (both $7 million), Ryan Kesler ($6.875 million), Mikko Koivu ($6.75 million), WSH Nicklas Backstrom ($6.7 million), ARZ Derek Stepan ($6.5 million)
Overpaid: Matt Moulson, Left Wing ($5 million AAV salary)
Just a few seasons ago, Moulson was a consistent 50-point scorer. Sadly, the now 33-year old winger is a shell of his former self. After a solid 2013-14 season where Moulson posted 51 points despite being traded twice, he was signed to a 5-year/$25 million by the Sabres in July 2014. Since signing with Buffalo, Moulson has put up mostly pedestrian numbers (32 points in 2016-17) for a player that is the 24th highest paid left winger in the league.
Comparable AAV Salaries in 2017-18: BUF Evander Kane ($5.25 million), OTT Mike Hoffman ($5.187 million) VGK James Neal ($5 million), NJD Ryan Clowe ($4.85 million), OTT Clarke MacArthur ($4.65 million), NYR Chris Keider ($4.625 million)
Underpaid: Jake McCabe, Defenseman ($1.6 million AAV salary)
Last season, McCabe flashed top-4 defenseman potential while being paid just $1.6 million. In 2017-18, McCabe enters the second year of a three-year deal he signed in the 2016 offseason that will again pay him $1.6 million. If McCabe can continue his upward trend, the Sabres will have themselves a steal for the next two seasons.
Comparable AAV Salaries in 2017-18: NJD John Moore ($1.66 million), NYR Nick Holden ($1.65 million), NJD Dalton Prout ($1.575 million)
Overpaid: Jordan Staal, Center ($6 million AAV salary)
When the Hurricanes signed Staal to a 10-year/$60 million contract, they hoped he would become one of the best two-way centers in the game. Unfortunately, unlike his brother Eric, Jordan Staal has become more of a defensive forward; he hasn’t put up more than 50 points in a season in his career. While still a solid center who can play against other teams’ top line and on the penalty kill, Staal hasn’t yet lived up to the contract which will again pay him $6 million – 23rd-most among all centers – next season.
Comparable AAV Salaries: COL Nathan MacKinnon ($6.3 million), WPG Mark Scheifele ($6.125 million), SJS Logan Couture, CAR Jordan Staal, COL Matt Duchene, EDM Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, NSH Filip Forsberg, Joe Pavelski, BOS David Backes, MTL Tomas Plekanec (all $6 million), FLA Aleksander Barkov ($5.9 million), CBJ Brandon Dubinsky ($5.75 million), NJD Travis Zajac, DAL Tyler Seguin (both $5.75 million)
Underpaid: Justin Faulk, Defenseman ($4.833 million AAV salary)
At the tender age of 24, Faulk has already established himself as an elite offensive defenseman. This past season, Faulk tied Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber for second in goals by defensemen with 17. While his defense leaves something to desire, his playmaking and goal scoring ability make him worth more than the $4.833 million – which ranks 50th among all defensemen – he will be paid annually through 2019-20.
Comparable AAV Salaries: MIN Jared Spurgeon ($5.187 million), BUF Zach Bogosian ($5.142 million), WSH Dmitry Orlov ($5.1 million), PHI Andrew MacDonald, VAN Alex Edler, NJD Andy Greene, TOR Morgan Reilly, DET Danny DeKeyser (all $5 million), DAL Marc Methot ($4.9 million), ANA Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million), SJS Paul Martin ($4.85 million), DET Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Overpaid: Brandon Dubinsky, Center ($5.85 million AAV salary)
Acquired by Columbus in the Rick Nash trade of 2012, Brandon Dubinsky got off to a great start in Columbus, tallying 50 points in his first full season in Ohio (excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season). Columbus then rewarded him with a 6-year/$35.1 million contract in the 2014 offseason. Next season, Dubinsky, who hasn’t topped 20 goals since the 2010-11 season and hasn’t been nearly as valuable as the Blue Jackets had hoped when inking him to such a deal, will be the 32nd highest-paid center in the league, taking home $5.85 million.
Comparable AAV Salaries: SJS Logan Couture, CAR Jordan Staal, COL Matt Duchene, EDM Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, NSH Filip Forsberg, Joe Pavelski, BOS David Backes, MTL Tomas Plekanec (all $6 million), NJD Travis Zajac, DAL Tyler Seguin ($5.75 million), NYI John Tavares, ARZ Dave Bolland (both $5.5 million)
Underpaid: Seth Jones, Defenseman ($5.4 million AAV salary)
In his first full season in Columbus, Jones posted a career-best 42 points. Since joining Columbus in the Ryan Johansen trade, Jones has continued to improve, and he is now an elite all-around defender. Under the 6-year/32.4 million contract that he signed in the 2016 offseason, Jones will be just the 34th-highest paid defenseman in 2017 at $5.4 million.
Comparable AAV Salaries: WPG Tyler Myers, NYI Nick Leddy, ARZ Oliver Ekman-Larsson, STL Colton Parayko, COL Tyson Barrie, WSH Brooks Orpik, MTL Jeff Petry, PIT Justin Schultz, EDM Andrej Sekera (all $5.5 million), STL Jay Bouwmeester, Rasmus Ristolainen (both $5.4 million), ANA Hampus Lindholm, BOS Torey Krug (both $5.25 million)
Detroit Red Wings
Overpaid: Jonathan Ericcson, Defenseman ($4.25 million AAV salary)
This past season, the 33-year-old Ericcson spent a lot of his time between the penalty box and on the shelf with injuries. In 51 games last season, Ericcson scored just nine points while averaging 3.86 penalty minutes per game. Meanwhile, Ericcson is the 64th highest-paid defender at $4.25 million and is under contract through the 2019-20 season.
Comparable AAV Salaries: VAN Chris Tanev ($4.45 million), CBJ Jack Johnson ($4.357 million), NYR Brendan Smith ($4.35 million), WPG Dmitry Kulikov ($4.33 million), CBJ David Savard, DAL John Klingberg, SJS Marc-Edouard Vlasic (all $4.25 million), EDM Oscar Klefbom ($4.167 million), MIN Jonas Brodin, EDM Adam Larsson (both $4.166 million), NSH Alexei Emelin, ARZ Nicklas Hjalmarsson (both $4.1 million)
Underpaid: Henrik Zetterberg, Center ($6.083 million AAV salary)
Even though he’ll be turning 37 in October and is already the 9th-highest paid left winger in the NHL, Zetterberg still is the guy his teammates (and Red Wings fans) can always count on. This past season marked the first time Zetterberg has ever missed the playoffs – a remarkable feat for anyone, let alone a player in the twilight of his career. Even in a down year for Detroit, Zetterberg was still quite effective; no matter who his linemates were, his line produced. Next season, the long-tenured winger will make just over $6 million in the ninth season of a massive 12-year/$73 million deal that he signed back in 2009.
Comparable AAV Salaries: COL Nathan MacKinnon ($6.3 million), WPG Mark Scheifele ($6.125 million), BOS David Backes, SJS Logan Couture, SJS Joe Pavelski, MTL Tomas Plekanec, CAR Jordan Staal, COL Matt Duchene (all $6 million), FLA Aleksander Barkov ($5.9 million), CBJ Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million)
Overpaid: Keith Yandle, Defenseman ($6.35 million AAV salary)
Now 30 years old, Yandle is still an elite offensive defenseman who can put up 40-50 points and quarterback his team’s power play. However, while Yandle is elite offensively, he is not strong enough defensively to be paid like an elite defenseman. Next season, Yandle will enter the second year of a 7-year contract that will pay him $4.45 million ($6.35 AAV), which is the 17th-highest figure in the league for a defenseman.
Comparable AAV Salaries: NYR Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.65 million) BOS Zdeno Chara, STL Alex Pietrangelo, OTT Erik Karlsson (all $6.5 million), NYI Johnny Boychuk, COL Erik Johnson, DET Mike Green (all $6 million)
Underpaid: Vincent Trocheck, Center ($4.75 million AAV salary)
At just 24 years old, the Pittsburgh native already has back-to-back 20-goal, 50-point seasons under his belt, while also being selected to last year’s All-Star Team. The young center will have to make some adjustments for the upcoming season, as he saw his linemates Jussi Jokinen (buyout) and Reilly Smith (trade) from last season leave the team. However, with his skill, he should be fine. The Panthers believe Trocheck is a key part of their future and locked him down through the 2021-22 season while only paying him $4.75 million AAV – which ranks 45th among all centers.
Comparable AAV Salaries: PHI Valtteri Filppula, VGK Mikhail Grabovski, TBL Tyler Johnson, OTT Derick Brassard (all $5 million), MTL Alex Galchenyuk ($4.9 million), DAL Martin Hanzal, COL Carl Soderberg (both $4.75 million), PHI Jori Lehtera, WPG Bryan Little (both $4.7 million), MIN Tyler Ennis ($4.6 million)
Overpaid: Tomas Plekanec, Center ($6 million AAV salary)
Age may finally have caught up with Plekanec. At age 34, the long-tenured Canadien posted a career-low 28 points in 78 games last season. Maybe it was just a down year, but Plekanec needs to produce more next season – which is the final year of a two-year/$12 million deal – to be worth the $5 million that he will be paid. Hopefully for Montreal, leaving Plekanec exposed in the expansion draft will light a fire under him.
Comparable AAV Salaries: COL Nathan MacKinnon ($6.3 million), WPG Mark Scheifele ($6.125 million), COL Matt Duchene, EDM Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, NSH Filip Forsberg, SJS Joe Pavelski, BOS David Backes, CAR Jordan Staal, SJS Logan Couture (all $6 million), FLA Aleksander Barkov ($5.9 million), CBJ Brandon Dubinsky ($5.75 million), NJD Travis Zajac, DAL Tyler Seguin (both $5.75 million)
Underpaid: Max Pacioretty, Left Wing ($4.5 million AAV salary)
One of the league’s best two-way forwards, Max Pacioretty has been both criminally underrated and underpaid. The Canadiens’ captain has quietly topped 30 goals and has led the Canadiens in points in each of the past four seasons. Despite his consistent excellence, Pacioretty is only the 30th highest-paid left winger in the league under his current six-year/$27 million ($4.5 million AAV) deal. The fact Pacioretty isn’t even the highest-paid left winger on the Canadiens – a title that belongs to newly-acquired Jonathan Drouin – is even more ludicrous.
Comparable AAV Salaries: BUF Matt Moulson, VGK James Neal (both $5 million), OTT Clarke MacArthur ($4.65 million), NYR Chris Kreider ($4.625 million), DET Justin Abdelkader, TOR James van Reimsdyk ($4.25 million), NYI Nikolai Kulemin ($4.187 million)
New Jersey Devils
Overpaid: Travis Zajac, Center ($5.75 million AAV salary)
After a 14-point performance in the 2012 playoffs which helped the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final, Zajac was rewarded with a massive eight-year/$46 million deal. Unfortunately, the contract was undoubtedly too large for Zajac; he hasn’t topped 60 points or 20 goals in a season since 2010. The former 2004 first-round pick has four seasons left on his deal and will be the 33rd highest-paid center next season, taking home $6.5 million.
Comparable AAV Salaries: WPG Mark Scheifele ($6.125 million), CAR Jordan Staal, SJS Logan Couture, SJS Joe Pavelski, BOS David Backes, MTL Tomas Plekanec, COL Matt Duchene, EDM Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, NSH Filip Forsberg, Joe Pavelski (all $6 million), FLA Aleksander Barkov ($5.9 million), CBJ Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million), DAL Tyler Seguin ($5.75 million), NYI John Tavares, Dave Bolland (both $5.5 million)
Underpaid: John Moore, Defenseman ($1.666 million AAV salary)
With just a $1.666 million AAV salary, Moore has given the Devils a bang for their buck since joining the team on a three-year deal in 2015. The former Blue Jacket and Ranger defenseman has become a solid all-around defender, and contributed even more by posting career-highs in goals (12) and points (22) in 63 games this past season. Next season. Moore will enter the final year of the deal that will pay him $1.95 million, which ranks 118th among all defenseman.
Comparable AAV Salaries: FLA Alex Petrovic ($1.85 million), PHI Ivan Provorov, CBJ Zach Werenski, EDM Darnell Nurse (all $1.775 million, ELC), VGK Brayden McNabb ($1.7 million), NYR Nick Holden ($1.65 million), BUF Jake McCabe ($1.6 million) NJD Dalton Prout ($1.575 million)
New York Islanders
Overpaid: Andrew Ladd, Left Wing ($5.5 million AAV salary)
Attempting to immediately replace the void left by Kyle Okposo – who bolted to Buffalo – the Islanders inked Andrew Ladd to a seven-year/$38.5 million contract last offseason. The former fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft got off to a horrid start, which saw him tally just two goals in the first 24 games. While Ladd did eventually turn it around, finishing with an odd stat line of 23 goals and 8 assists, the Islanders will need much more out of him next season, which will see him make $7.5 million. Ladd’s AAV salary of $5.5 million ranks 18th among all left wingers.
Comparable AAV Salaries: STL Alexander Steen ($5.75 million), CAR Jeff Skinner ($5.725 million), COL Gabriel Landeskog ($5.571 million), CBJ Nick Foligno, MTL Jonathan Drouin (both $5.5 million), DET Tomas Tatar, TBL Ondrej Palat (both $5.3 million), BUF Evander Kane ($5.25 million)
Underpaid: John Tavares, Center ($5.5 million AAV salary)
One of the NHL’s best centers will be criminally underpaid for just a little longer, as Tavares just became eligible to sign a contract extension. While the talks are currently at a standstill and it remains to be seen if he will stay with the Islanders past the 2018 season, Tavares will still be in store for a massive contract, whether it is from the Islanders or some other team. Currently, the two-time 30-goal scorer is on the last year of a six-year/$33 million deal that will pay him just $6 million next season, which ranks 25th among all centers.
Comparable AAV Salaries: COL Matt Duchene, EDM Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, MTL Tomas Plekanec, NSH Filip Forsberg, SJS Joe Pavelski, BOS David Backes, CAR Jordan Staal, SJS Logan Couture (all $6 million), FLA Aleksander Barkov ($5.9 million), CBJ Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million), NJD Travis Zajac, DAL Tyler Seguin ($5.75 million), ARZ Dave Bolland ($5.5 million), LAK Jeff Carter ($5.272 million), DET Frans Nielsen ($5.25 million), STL Brayden Schenn ($5.125 million)
New York Rangers
Overpaid: Marc Staal, Defenseman ($5.7 million AAV salary)
The longest tenured player on the Rangers not named Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal has been a constant piece of the Rangers blueline for over a decade. However, it is evident that his game has declined over the years, especially since suffering a severe eye injury in 2013. Next season, Staal will enter the third year of a six-year deal worth $34.2 million; he will be paid $6 million next season. Staal’s $6 million salary ranks 22nd among all defenseman in 2018, despite his quickly diminishing play.
Comparable AAV Salaries: NYI Johnny Boychuk, COL Erik Johnson, DET Mike Green (all $6 million), CGY Dougie Hamilton, WPG Tobias Enstrom, WSH Matt Niskanen ($5.75 million), CHI Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), WSH Brooks Orpik, ARZ Oliver Ekman-Larsson, WPG Tyler Myers, MTL Jeff Petry, PIT Justin Schultz, EDM Andrej Sekera, COL Tyson Barrie, NYI Nick Leddy (all $5.5 million)
Underpaid: Ryan McDonagh, Defenseman ($4.7 million AAV salary)
One of the most underrated defenders in the league, the Rangers’ captain has anchored their blueline, logging big-time minutes each and every night since 2011, while also showing some serious offensive talent. McDonagh has been doing it all on a discount, as he has been playing on a six-year/$28.2 million contract (which pays him an AAV salary of $4.7 million) since the 2013-14 season. That figure falls 53rd among all defenseman and second on the Rangers, behind the aforementioned Marx Staal.
Comparable AAV Salaries: PHI Andrew MacDonald, VAN Alex Edler, NJD Andy Greene, TOR Morgan Reilly, DET Danny DeKeyser (all $5 million), DAL Marc Methot ($4.9 million), ANA Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million), SJS Paul Martin ($4.85 million), CAR Justin Faulk ($4.833 million), DET Nicklas Kronwall ($4.75 million), CGY T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million), MTL Karl Alzner ($4.625 million), VGK Jason Garrison ($4.6 million) PHI Shayne Gostisbehere, FLA Jason Demers, TOR Nikita Zaitsev, TBL Anton Stralman (all $4.5 million)
Overpaid: Dion Phaneuf, Defenseman ($7 million AAV salary)
Since he left Calgary, where he looked to be on the verge of becoming a star defenseman, following the 2009-10 season, Phaneuf has sputtered, failing to live up to his great potential. However, when he was on the verge of becoming a free agent in 2014, Toronto still signed the under-achieving Phaneuf to a monstrous deal that will pay him $7 million a year through the 2021-22 season. Phaneuf went on to play one more season with Toronto before the team unloaded him on the Ottawa Senators. In 2017-18, Phaneuf will enter the fourth year of his seven-year deal that will see him be the highest-paid defenseman on the Senators and the ninth-highest in the league during the 2017-18 season.
Comparable AAV Salaries: FLA Aaron Ekblad ($7.5 million), PIT Kris Letang ($7.25 million), LAK Drew Doughty ($7 million), CHI Brent Seabrook ($6.875), CGY Mike Giordano ($6.75 million)
Underpaid: Erik Karlsson, Defenseman ($6.5 million AAV salary)
Easily a top-three defender in the league, the point-scoring machine that is Erik Karlsson isn’t even the highest-paid defender on the Senators – that title that belongs to the aforementioned Dion Phaneuf. Karlsson, who has posted 65+ points and been a Norris Trophy finalist in each of the past three seasons, is everything a team wants in a defenseman and more. The Senators captain is currently under a seven-year contract that will pay him just $6.5 million through the 2018-19 season, making him the 14th highest-paid defender in the league.
Comparable AAV Salaries: CHI Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million), CGY Mike Giordano ($6.75 million), NYR Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.650 million), BOS Zdeno Chara, STL Alex Pietrangelo (both $6.5 million), FLA Keith Yandle ($6.35 million), DET Mike Green, COL Erik Johnson, NYI Johnny Boychuk (all $6 million)
Overpaid: Andrew MacDonald, Defenseman ($5 million AAV salary)
Acquired by the Flyers at the 2014 trade deadline, MacDonald was a nice addition to the Flyers’ blueline to finish out the 2014 season. After the regular season came to a close, the Flyers shelled out a six-year/$30 million dollar contract to keep MacDonald in Philadelphia through the 2019-20 season. It backfired. Since signing his new contract, MacDonald has been brutal at times – he even ending up spending the majority of the 2015-16 season in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The 30-year-old defender will head into the fourth year of a six-year deal in 2017, and it will be interesting to see what the Flyers do with the highly-paid MacDonald with a couple of their young defensive prospects likely to make the roster.
Comparable AAV Salaries: BOS Torey Krug, ANA Hampus Lindholm (both $5.25 million), MIN Jared Spurgeon ($5.187 million), BUF Zach Bogosian ($5.142 million), WSH Dmitry Orlov ($5.1 million), VAN Alex Edler, NJD Andy Greene, TOR Morgan Reilly, DET Danny DeKeyser (all $5 million), DAL Marc Methot ($4.9 million), ANA Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million), SJS Paul Martin ($4.85 million), DET Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million)
Underpaid: Wayne Simmonds, Right Wing ($3.975 million AAV salary)
Since joining the Flyers in 2011 in the Mike Richards trade to Los Angeles, Simmonds has established himself as one of the premier power forwards in the league. In recent years, the 28-year-old winger has become a force on the power play and consistently finishes around the 30-goal mark. Meanwhile, Simmonds is playing under a six-year/$23.85 million deal that he signed in 2012 offseason, which he has undoubtedly outperformed. Next season, Simmonds will receive a bit of a pay raise to $4.75 million, but will still be just the 21st highest-paid right winger in 2017-18.
Comparable AAV Salaries: NYR Mats Zuccarello, CGY Troy Brouwer, CAR Justin Williams (all $4.5 million), CGY Michael Frolik ($4.3 million), PIT Patric Hornqvist ($4.25 million), MTL Brendan Gallagher, ANA Jakob Silfverberg (both $3.75 million), PHI Matt Read ($3.625 million)
Overpaid: Carl Hagelin, Left Wing ($4 million AAV salary)
Undoubtedly a key player to the Penguins winning their first of back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016, Hagelin was not the same player this past season. Hampered by injuries, the speedy left winger scored just 22 points in 61 games in 2017. Next season, Hagelin will enter the third year of a four-year deal he signed in 2015 with the Anaheim Ducks, before he was traded at the 2016 deadline to Pittsburgh. The contract pays him an average of $4 million annually, which ranks 34th among all left wingers.
Underpaid: Matt Murray, Goaltender ($3.75 million AAV salary)
At just 23 years old, Matt Murray has backstopped his team to two straight Stanley Cups. He also became the only goaltender to ever win two Stanley Cups while still considered a rookie. While his first full regular season had its ups and downs, Murray still finished with 32 wins and was among the leaders in save percentage. Of course, the playoffs have been where Murray has been at his best. Over 32 playoff games, Murray has posted elite stats; he has a 1.95 GAA and a .928 save percentage to go along with four shutouts. Luckily for the Penguins, they were able to sign Murray to a three-year/$11.25 million bridge contract last fall, which will begin next season. Under the new contract, Murray will be just the 26th highest-paid goalie at $3.75 million AAV.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Overpaid: Ryan Callahan, Right Wing ($5.8 million AAV salary)
When the Lightning acquired the former Rangers’ captain at the 2014 trade deadline, Callahan was a solid two-way forward capable of 20-25 goals a season in the last year of his contract. After joining Tampa Bay, Callahan finished the season with 11 points in 20 games, causing the Lightning to reward him with a massive six-year/$34.8 million contract that pays him an average of $5.8 million annually. In the first year of his contract, Tampa Bay’s management watched Callahan reward them with a 24-goal campaign, causing them to think they made the right call in retaining the veteran center.Unfortunately, it’s been all downhill for Callahan since the 2014-15 season. Two seasons ago, Callahan tallied just 10 goals. This past season, Callahan missed all but 18 games with a nagging hip injury, which limited him to just four points the entire season. In 2018, Callahan will look to return from his second hip surgery while the Lightning will pay him a whopping $6.5 million – 12th-highest among right wingers.
Comparable AAV Salaries: BUF Kyle Okposo, NYI Jordan Eberle, VAN Loui Eriksson (all $6 million), LAK Dustin Brown ($5.875 million), WSH T.J. Oshie ($5.75 million), BUF Jason Pominville, WPG Blake Wheeler ($5.6 million)
Underpaid: Nikita Kucherov, Right Wing ($4.766 million AAV salary)
With Steven Stamkos missing all but 17 games last season, the 23-year-old Kucherov was far and away the Lightning’s best player. Finishing with 40 goals (19 more than the next closest forward), Kucherov almost single-handedly willed the Lightning into the playoffs, but they fell just short. Last season’s effort showed that Kucherov is already a top-tier player in the league at the young age of 23. Kucherov, who is in the middle of a three-year bridge deal that will pay him $4.5 million in 2017-18 – 24th highest among right wingers – will be in for a gargantuan raise in the summer of 2019.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Overpaid: Patrick Marleau, Left Wing ($6.25 million AAV salary)
In signing future Hall of Famer Patrick Marleau, the Maple Leafs are taking a risk in making the 37-year-old the seventh highest-paid left winger in the game in hopes of Father Time waiting a little while to catch up with him. While inking Mraleau to a three-year/$18.75 million contract could be a horrible mistake, it will be worth it if Marleau comes close to what Toronto thinks they can get out of him. In summary, it’s a bad contract with the possibility of a great reward.
Comparable AAV Salaries: CGY Johnny Gaudreau ($6.75 million), BOS Brad Marchand ($6.125 million), DET Henrik Zetterberg ($6.083 million), CBJ Artemi Panarin, EDM Milan Lucic, NJD Taylor Hall, Brandon Saad (all $6 million)
Underpaid: Nazem Kadri, Center ($4.5 million AAV salary)
After finishing with around 20 goals in each of the past four seasons, the 26-year-old center took his game up a notch this past season. Posting a career-high in goals (32), power play goals (12) and points (61), while also remaining a solid defender. His career-best season came after inking a six-year/$27 million ($4.1 million AAV) contract last summer, which he easily outperformed. Next season, the Ontario native will be just the 53rd highest-paid center in the league, taking home $5 million in 2017-18.
Comparable AAV Salaries: MIN Tyler Ennis ($4.6 million), NJD Marcus Johansson ($4.583 million), CHI Artem Anisimov ($4.55 million), VGK Vadim Shipachyov ($4.5 million), TBL Alex Killorn ($4.45 million), VAN Brandon Sutter ($4.375 million), PHI Sean Couturier ($4.333 million)
Overpaid: Brooks Orpik, Defenseman ($5.5 million AAV salary)
Signed in 2014 as the Capitals were putting together a roster to make a run at the Stanley Cup, defenseman Brooks Orpik received an extremely generous 5-year/$27.5 million contract. While Orpik has never contributed much offensively, his defense was always solid. That defense, however, is declining as Orpik ages. With his declining abilities, Orpik was relegated to the third defensive pairing and played reduced minutes last season. The cap-strapped Capitals are due to pay the declining Orpik $5.5 million for the next two seasons, which will make it difficult for the team to keep all their talent together.
Comparable AAV Salaries: CHI Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), ARZ Oliver Ekman-Larsson, WPG Tyler Myers, MTL Jeff Petry, PIT Justin Schultz, EDM Andrej Sekera, COL Tyson Barrie, NYI Nick Leddy (all $5.5 million), DAL Marc Methot ($4.9 million), ANA Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million), SJS Paul Martin ($4.85 million), DET Niklas Kronwall ($4.75 million)
Underpaid: Nicklas Backstrom, Center ($6.7 million AAV salary)
Arguably the most underrated player in the league, Nicklas Backstrom has missed just seven games over the past four seasons,and has quietly recorded four consecutive seasons with more than 70 points. He has also finished in the top 15 of the Selke Trophy in each of the past three seasons. Currently, Backstrom is going into the eighth season of a 10-year deal and is set to make just $6.7 million next season – 18th-most among all centers – which is underwhelming for a player who is almost guaranteed to put up at least 70 points a season and has avoided major injuries for four straight seasons.
Comparable Salaries in 2017-18: VAN Henrik Sedin, STL Paul Statsny (both $7 million), BOS Patrice Bergeron, ANA Ryan Kesler (both $6.875 million), MIN Mikko Koivu ($6.75 million), ARZ Derek Stepan ($6.5 million), CGY Sean Monahan ($6.375), COL Nathan MacKinnon ($6.3 million)