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NHL Free Agency Week One: Five Worst Contracts Signed

Stephen Weiss - Detroit Red Wings
Stephen Weiss - Detroit Red Wings

Feb. 3, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss (9) and Buffalo Sabres center Cody Hodgson (19) waits for the official to drop the puck for a faceoff during the third period at First Niagara Center. Panthers beat the Sabres 4 to 3. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Despite costing the National Hockey League nearly half a season with a lockout intended to end the era of reckless long term contracts, amnesiac owners lined up with their checkbooks open to mortgage the future of their franchises for a shot to sign major talent.

Even with the salary cap dropping by nearly six million dollars for next season, NHL teams spent over $350 million dollars in just the first six hours of free agency, and although some teams found bargains, others might be looking back on some very expensive mistakes in a few years.

Here are the deals most likely to be ridiculed down the road:

5. Nathan Horton – Columbus Blue Jackets – 7 years, $37,100,000

Nathan Horton was arguably the best player on the market Friday before Columbus snatched him, but the Blue Jackets offered far too much in terms of both dollars and years. Horton is a tremendously talented power forward who showed off his ability to dominate in the postseason, but he rarely plays at his best. The third overall pick finally seemed to reach his potential during Boston’s run to the finals, but the 28-year-old has made a habit of coasting through the regular season.

Horton has just one thirty goal season in his career and it came back in 2007. In Columbus he’ll be expected to carry the offense, unlike in Boston where he played second fiddle to David Krejci. Even if Horton lives up his $5.3 million cap hit and plays like a star, it’s dangerous to commit to an injury prone player for five years. Horton missed nearly half of the 2011-12 season with a severe concussion, and it was not his first. If he sits for any extended periods in the next seven years, it will be hard to justify this big contract.

4. David Clarkson – Toronto Maple Leafs – 7 years, $36,750,000

Everybody saw this one coming from a mile away. David Clarkson was destined to be overpaid, and the Toronto Maple Leafs were more than happy to make it happen. In a 48 game season, hot and cold streaks are magnified, and Clarkson sure picked a great time to get hot. The physical former-Devil scored 10 goals in the first 14 games of the season, and even though he managed just five in the remaining 38 games, the damage was done.

At least one team was certain to believe that Clarkson was a prolific scorer disguised as a grinding winger and not the other way around. The 29-year-old certainly has a skill set that can help a team, especially with his ability to carve out position in front of the net, but he is highly unlikely to surpass his meager career high of 46 points in Toronto. In seven years, the already slow Clarkson will be 36, and the Leafs will be wondering why they wasted their time and money.

3. Ryane Clowe – New Jersey Devils – 5 years, $24,250,000

Devastated to lose the overvalued David Clarkson, the Devils picked up a replacement in Ryane Clowe, and they broke the bank to do it. Clowe’s deal is a testament to NHL GM’s willingness to overlook awful statistics. Two years removed from a 62-point season with San Jose, the big bodied Clowe rumbled his way through an awful 2013 season split between the Sharks and the New York Rangers.

In 28 games with the Sharks this past season, Clowe failed to score a single goal, and although he tapped home three with the Rangers, he hardly projects to make up for Clarkson’s departure. Clowe’s brief stay in New York City suggests that he still has the ability to contribute as a bottom-six winger, but bottom-six wingers shouldn’t have cap hits comparable to James Neal, Bobby Ryan and Patrice Bergeron. New Jersey clearly expects Clowe to play on one of their top two lines, which looks risky. Costing the Devils $4.85 million against the cap in each of the next five years, Clowe seems unlikely to live up to the deal.

2. Valtteri Filppula – Tampa Bay Lightning – 5 years, $25,000,000

One might expect Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman to be an expert on Detroit Red Wings forwards, considering he spent 23 years leading the charge in Hockeytown, but unless he knows something we don’t this deal doesn’t make much sense. Tasked with replacing the offensive output of long-time Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier, Yzerman was likely pressured to force a big move.

Valtteri Filppula has talent to burn, but the 29-year-old Finn has yet to consistently produce. He is just one year removed from a 66-point season, but in seven career seasons he has surpassed 40 points just once. He is also coming off of a very disappointing 2013 campaign in which he posted just 17 points in 41 games. If Filppula’s 2011-12 success proves to be a flash in the pan, this deal will hinder the bolts for half a decade.

1. Stephen Weiss – Detroit Red Wings – 5 years, $24,500,000

Known for building through the draft, this move was uncharacteristic for the Red Wings. Unable to resign Filppula, the Wings went out and signed Stephen Weiss to play center on their second line. One has to wonder if the they saw Weiss play in 2013. They didn’t have much of a chance to scout him, considering injuries limited him to just 17 games. When he wasn’t injured, he was practically invisible, mustering a grand total of just four points in 17 games.

The 30-year-old Weiss is a four-time 20 goal scorer, but its hard to justify a contract of this magnitude in the immediate aftermath of a one-goal season. If a team offered Weiss this deal three years ago when he was coming off of his second straight 60-point campaign at age 27, then perhaps it might have looked worthwhile, but with cap space now at a premium, this contract is a joke. Luckily for Detroit GM Ken Holland, the Wings also acquired Daniel Alfredsson on Friday, keeping the spotlight off the farcical Weiss price tag.

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