It's designed to maintain competitive balance and parity across the league, but if you waste valuable salary cap space on free agents that don't pan out or contribute the way you expected, you're pretty much stuck without a paddle because nobody is going to bail you out and take that albatross contract off your hands.
Introducing the FanHouse nominees for the Wade Redden Award for Wasted Cap Space.
Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers: The Dustin Penner saga was great for one thing -- the ensuing battle of wits between former Ducks general manager Brian Burke and Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe. Other than that? The Oilers' decision to sign Penner, a restricted free agent, to a five-year, $21.5 million deal has been disastrous for hockey fans in Edmonton. In three full NHL seasons, the 26-year-old Penner has never topped the 50-point plateau, and has even had his conditioning and effort called into question. Earlier this season, former Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish sounded off by saying: "He's not competitive enough or fit enough to help us, so why put him back in? He's never been fit enough to help us ... We signed him to be a top-two line player and that's kind of where it ended. The difference was we thought the contract was a starting point, and he's viewed it as a finish line. It's been one thing after another. I can't watch it for -- certainly not another two and-a-half years."
Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers: The 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres were an awesome team to watch, leading the league with 298 goals (only two teams have scored more goals in a single season dating back to 2001-02). Free agency quickly broke the team apart, however, as Daniel Briere and Chris Drury bolted for big-money deals following the season, while the expiring contract of Brian Campbell led to him being traded. Briere led the Sabres in scoring during the 06-07 campaign with 95 points, which helped him land an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Is Briere a good player? Absolutely. Is he a $52 million player over eight years? Eh, probably not. As exciting as he was with the Sabres, it's the only time in his career he's topped the 75-point mark, while he's only finished two seasons as a point-per-game player.
Alexei Yashin, New York Islanders: I debated with myself as to whether or not I should nominate Alexei Yashin. On one hand, the New York Islanders are still paying him and he still counts against the cap for doing, well, nothing. On the other hand, had the Islanders not bought out the remainder of his contract he would have counted significantly more against the cap for doing, well ... nothing. A necessary move, yes, but they're still paying him to do nothing.
And the winner is ...