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Top 5 Worst NHL Signings of 2021

Let's take a look at some of the worst contracts handed out during the 2021 NHL offseason.
Cody Ceci

When it comes to free agency, NHL GMs tend to lose the plot a bit. 

That was certainly the case in 2021, with teams handing exorbitant sums of money to otherwise mundane players that will surely come back to bite them in a few years' time. 

It's the sport's favorite annual tradition! And, frankly, it's mine as well. 

So, with the season nearly halfway done, let's take a look at some of the worst signings from this past offseason. 

5. Mike Hoffman – 3 years, $4.5 million AAV

The Canadiens signed Mike Hoffman to do what they've never been able to: Score goals. 

So far, the 32-year-old has scored four -- which, shockingly, is good enough to place him seventh on his own team. 

It's been a rough year in Montreal. 

Hoffman has seen his goal totals drop annually since his breakout 36-goal campaign with the Panthers in 2018. Injuries have limited him to 19 games this season, sure, which has assuredly aided his struggled to some degree. But Hoffman doesn't exactly contribute all that much in other areas of the game. Goals are his bread and butter. And for a one-dimensional goal-scorer to sit with a mere four at this point in the season is simply unacceptable. 

It's reached the point where, with Hoffman already approaching his mid-30's and under contract for another two years after this one, this deal could become a serious boat anchor if a return to form does not come soon. 

Marc Bergevin already left Jeff Gorton a few fires to put out. Hoffman might serve as one more. 

4. Nick Ritchie – 2 years, $2.5 million AAV

It just hasn't worked in Toronto for Nick Ritchie. Not for a lack of trying, though. 

The Maple Leafs have given Ritchie every single opportunity to succeed since he signed a two-year deal with them this summer. They've put him on the first line alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, given him second-unit power play time when he really hasn't earned it, and sung his praises to the media whenever questions about his lack of production began to fly. 

And still, nothing. Just one goal and eight points in 29 games -- most of which spent alongside two of the most talented players in the sport. 

Ritchie has done some little things that have gone under the radar. He's won his fair share of board battles, become a solid net-front presence, and risen his defensive game this year alongside most of Toronto's forward corps. But at $2.5 million, and on a team so close to the cap, a single goal nearly half-way through the season is a disaster. 

Thankfully, Kyle Dubas' ability to get Ondrej Kase, David Kampf, and Michael Bunting for under $4 million combined lessens the blow quite a bit. But comitting so much to Ritchie is a rare miss from the GM during a summer that was otherwise filled with hits. 

3. Cody Ceci – 4 years, $3.25 million AAV

Creating this list has led me to curse God himself for not making me shoot right. Think of all the money I, someone with precisely no discernable skill, could have made if I simply shot the puck the opposite way.

I mean, just look at Cody Ceci.

Ceci's most coveted skill is the direction in which he holds his stick. That's it. If Ceci shot left, he'd be scrapping it out for PTOs every September, hoping that he can latch on as a seventh D with a solid training camp. Instead, he's the recipient of a shiny four-year extension that he will almost certainly not make it to the end of, perpetuating Ken Holland's love for throwing bags of money at underwhelming defensemen (see: Ericsson, Jonathan and DeKeyser, Danny, among others). 

The Oilers win only 48.19 percent of the expected goals when Ceci is on the ice. Which, frankly, is not ideal considering how Ceci logs over 20 minutes per game. He's a bottom-pairing defender miscast in the top-four, with little offensive ability and even less foot speed. 

Holland really took a look at a Leafs' blueline that featured Ceci and Tyson Barrie and thought "oh heck yeah, I need to get me some of that!"

Well, he got his wish. And it won't be long before Holland's inexplicable dream turns into a nightmare. 

2. Seth Jones – 8 years, $9.5 million AAV

Seth Jones' eight-year extension is already a bonafide disaster and it hasn't even started yet. The Blackhawks allowed a GM who has since stepped down in disgrace to lock them into a NINE-YEAR commitment that may very well cripple the franchise's ability to retain the little talent they currently have for years to come. 

Jones is simply not a number one defenseman. He's going to put up offensive numbers, having already racked up 23 points in 30 games thus far. But the Blackhawks are a mess when he's on the ice, winning just 48.13 percent of the expected goals, driving possession at a below 50 percent clip, and getting outscored 18 to 23 at even-strength. 

What happens later in his contract when his numbers dry up?

Jones is a hindrance to his own team. And that team is paying him more than the likes of Cale Makar, Adam Fox, and Charlie McAvoy until 2030. 

That's not even a real year! 

1. Tucker Poolman – 4 years, $2.5 million AAV

The world may never know how an actual NHL GM thought giving Tucker Poolman a four-year deal was a good idea – even if that GM was Jim Benning. 

From every conceivable angle, the move makes no sense. Zero. It defies explanation. I'm not joking. I don't get how it happened. 

Nothing in Poolman's career has ever suggested that he's worthy of the term or dollars Benning gave to him. His career-high in points in 16, for Pete's sake. And that came thanks to Poolman shooting over double his career average of 3 percent, which rewarded him with a staggering four goals. FOUR! Not to mention, the year before Benning threw him this massive deal, Poolman finished with a single point, an assist, in 39 games. He's never suited up for more than 57 in a season, and never logged over 18-and-a-half minutes in ice time, either. 

See what I mean? There isn't even a random outlier breakout campaign to trick a GM into thinking Poolman is good. From top to bottom, he's a middle-to-bottom-pairing defender with zero offensive upside who has never been tasked with playing difficult minutes against top competition. 

And yet Jim Benning saw all of that, took a big swig of the frosty glass of milk I picture him drinking each day, and thought Poolman was worthy of a four-year commitment while his team's two franchise players remained unsigned. 

Honestly, firing Benning once wasn't enough.

Poolman has been atrocious this season, as quite literally everyone but the man who signed him predicted. The 28-year-old has three points in 27 games to go with an expected goals percentage of 44.92 and is below 50 percent in every single meaningful possession metric. 

It would be legitimately difficult to pay more money for a player who produces worse results.

Jim Benning strikes again.

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