Money is a crucial factor when evaluating a particular player's performance. Generally the question asked by fans is, is that particular player worth that much? This season, we have seen both sides of the spectrum, from players achieving above and beyond their contract value, to other players failing to meet the expectations incurred by the money they are making.
This year, so many players have managed to have terrific seasons, despite making a low salary. This includes players such as Ondrej Palat who's picked up 55 points and makes a mere $579,167 annually, Reilly Smith of Boston who has had a breakout season while only making $900,000 and Gus Nyquist who has carried the Wings into yet another postseason appearance while making $950,000 this season.
These are only a few players exceeding expectations this year, but on the contrary, there are also players not living up to their contract expectations. Some examples are players such as Toronto’s captain, Dion Phaneuf who just signed a new deal worth $7 million per season and fellow newly acquired teammate David Clarkson who is making $5.25 million a season and has scored only 5 goals and 11 points in 57 games thus far.
Contract expectations define who the player is and most of all, if he is indeed worth what he is getting paid. Today we will take a look at this season's top 10 highest-paid players and check out if they have lived up to their contract expectations. Enjoy!
10 Marian Hossa - Chicago Blackhawks: $7.9 million in 2013-14
What constantly gets overlooked when talking about Marian Hossa is how tremendously gifted and complete this guy really is. Not only does he focus on being great with the puck, he is also a defensive force without it. Since becoming a Blackhawk, his plus-minus numbers speak for themselves +24, +9, +18, +20 and this season a +25, two off his career best when playing a year in Detroit, in the 08-09 campaign. This guy is an absolute winner. In the last 6 seasons Hossa has managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals 4 times while capturing the Stanley Cup twice. This season Hossa sits in second in team plus-minus and 3rd in team goals with 28, just one behind injured teammate, Patrick Kane. Hossa looks to be a crucial part of the Hawks' cup run once again this season. In my view, Hossa is certainly worth the price he is getting paid this season.
9 T8. Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning: $8 million in 2013-14
A revolution has taken place this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and at the top of this revolution stands new team captain Steven Stamkos. With the departure of long time Lightning icons Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, this has now become Stamkos' team. The Lightning have exceeded everyone’s expectations during a season of transition, managing to clinch a playoff birth while sitting in 3rd in the Atlantic Division. Despite playing only 33 games due to injury, the former 1st pick overall has managed to score 25 goals in the short amount of time he's had. Remarkably, despite missing all this time, Stamkos is tied for the team lead in goals with Valtteri Filppula. Stamkos is a franchise player and will continue to lead this team for many years to come; he is certainly worth every single dollar and will undoubtedly continue to be one of the NHL’s elite snipers.
8 T8. Zdeno Chara - Boston Bruins: $8 million in 2013-14
Ask Bruins fans all over the world, Zdeno Chara may be one the best and most underrated team leaders in the NHL today. Typically, the way Chara goes, the Bruins go. This season everything is going extremely well. Boston has been the class of the East this season. The one flaw the Bruins possessed over the last couple of years was their power play; it lacked creativity and mobility. This season it has changed, simply by putting captain Chara in the front of the net, providing a “Holmstrom”-like screen, while playing the Dynamic Torey Krug at the point. This subtle change has bolstered the Boston power play which is 3rd in the league, and Chara sits in second amongst defensemen with 10 power play goals. The Bruins and their captain look refreshed and ready for another lengthy playoff run. Look for Chara to be a centrepiece of this team’s success going into the postseason. The captain has certainly proved worthy of his deal this season.
7 T6. Brad Richards - New York Rangers: $9 million in 2013-14
Coming off his first season with the Rangers, Brad tallied 25 goals and 66 points showing the New York crowd he was worthy of the money he was given. Two seasons later, Brad’s play has taken a hit, having recorded 11 goals last season, and 18 this season in 80 games along with a minus-8 rating. Richards' numbers are mediocre and certainly not worthy of a player being paid in the top 4 in the NHL this season. Richards hasn’t been nearly as good as he should be, and to make matters worse, he's been overtaken by Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard at center many times, relegating him down to a third line center. Richards can salvage his contract situation by leading the Rangers in the postseason with his previous playoff experiences and Conn Smythe Trophy win, en route to his first and only Stanley Cup victory with the Lightning in the 03-04 campaign.
6 T6. Alex Ovechkin - Washington Capitals: $9 million in 2013-14
It’s been a strange year for Alex Ovechkin. Despite leading the league with 50 goals, and leading the league with 23 power play goals, Ovie has received tons of criticism for other reasons this season. Particularly, his two-way game has suffered greatly this year. Ovie’s game without the puck has reached an all-time low for him, as he's recorded the league’s second worst plus-minus at minus-35, remarkable for someone who's reached 50 goals. The team’s coach Adam Oates called out Ovechkin saying “he quit on the play” referring to a particular instance where Ovechkin seemed to simply let the other team score. One can’t help but to wonder, if Ovechkin would clean up his defensive game a little bit, would it have been enough to boost the Caps into the playoffs? This is a question many Capitals fans will be asking themselves this summer as they watch their team miss the postseason.
5 Eric Staal - Carolina Hurricanes: $9.25 million in 2013-14
It’s been a difficult year for the 3rd highest-paid player in the league. Eric Staal has put up the lowest numbers in his career this year since his rookie campaign in the 03-04 season. The captain has scored only 19 times while putting up a mere 58 points, which is very low for Staal’s career standards. Eric looked to emphasize his two-way game this season, only to watch his plus-minus numbers take a hit at a minus-12 on the year. It looks like Eric lost a bit of the identity of his game and it certainly showed, based on his and the teams’ numbers for the year. Look for Staal to try and bounce back next season with a much better tear and get his team back into the playoffs.
4 T2. Ryan Suter - Minnesota Wild: $12 million in 2013-14
Ryan Suter’s numbers don’t really reflect how much this guy is really worth. Suter has picked up 42 points this season along with 7 goals, but he does so much more than put up points. Suter plays a ton of minutes on a nightly basis; he leads the league with most minutes played per game by far with 29:43 per game - that’s almost half the game. He truly defines what a remarkable, durable and reliable defensemen he is. Playing against the opposition's best players every night, Ryan has still managed to withhold an excellent plus-14 rating on the season. Most important of all, Suter’s play is carrying the Wild in the post season, something the organization envisioned when picking up the star defensemen. Sutter is certainly worthy of being part of the NHL's 10 richest players this season, based on his consistent play every night.
3 T2. Zach Parise - Minnesota Wild: $12 million in 2013-14
Despite missing some action this season, Zach Parise has put up some decent numbers on the board, scoring 28 goals along with 53 points in 63 games this season. For Zach, his biggest time to shine will be in the playoffs, as he's looking to play spoiler against the Ducks or Sharks. Parise’s leadership on and off the ice will prove to be huge with his young team going into the playoffs this season. Zach’s postseason play will define whether his contract is worthy of being at the top of the league or not. Parise still has much to prove come playoff time in order to live up to his massive deal.
2 T2. Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins: $12 million in 2013-14
There is no player on this list more worthy of his money this season than Sidney Crosby. Crosby has easily taken the scoring title this season with 102 points (closest to him is Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf with 85 points). This just goes to show Crosby’s offensive dominance this season. Having won a gold medal for Canada this year, Crosby changed his game and bought into Mike Babcock’s defensive systems. It will be interesting to see if Crosby can display this experience into the playoffs and go all the way with the Penguins. He will have to continue his electrifying pace in the post season, when it matters most.
1 Shea Weber - Nashville Predators: $14 million in 2013-14
Weber has always taken care of business rather quietly on a nightly basis, but this year he has done so much more. Despite Nashville’s tough season, the captain is quietly enjoying a career year, putting up 21 goals, which leads all defensemen in the league (and leads his team in goals as well). Weber is only 1 point away from tying his career high that he set for points in the 08-09 season. The Preds have been an offensively challenged team all year long, but this is certainly not due to Weber’s play. The captain leads the team in every offensive category, goals, assists and points - a rarity that a defensemen leads the team in all these categories. It’s been a tough year in Nashville, but one thing’s for certain, the captain has done his best to aid his team all year long.