Salary erosion: Six big-money veterans struggling to produce early in 2019-20

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Coming off a memorable season in Columbus that included the Blue Jackets’ first playoff series victory, Sergei Bobrovsky entered the 2019 free agency period as one of the most sought-after goaltending UFAs in the post-lockout era.

The Florida Panthers quickly snapped Bobrovsky up on July 1, signing him to a seven-year, $70-million deal with an AAV of $10 million, making him the second-highest paid goaltender in the NHL after Carey Price ($10.5 million AAV). But his -6.37 goals-saved above average rating is the worst among all goalies in 5-on-5 play this season. To his credit, Bobrovsky has faced 38 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 so far according to Natural Stat Trick, but his .763 high-danger save percentage just doesn’t hold up against the top goalies this season. Granted, Bobrovsky is never a strong October goaltender, but he’s just simply not keeping up with the competition right now.

It’s always a big risk giving a long-term deal to a goalie, regardless of how good they are. Just ask the Los Angeles Kings how much they’d love to move Jonathan Quick right now. Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, but he’s prone to inconsistent play – his start this season is a fantastic example of that. And while it’s still early, the Panthers, a team that looked ready to progress into a playoff contender after years of so-so goaltending from Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, need more from their star No. 1 netminder.

Bobrovsky may be one of the more notable big-money players struggling out of the gate, but he’s far from the only one. Here are five more veterans on expensive contracts struggling to find their footing so far:

Alex Radulov, RW, 33 (Dallas – $6.25-million – 4 points)
Radulov’s season has been a disaster thus far, scoring all four of his points over a two-game span. He has even gone a handful of games without recording a shot on net, despite playing key top-six minutes. Radulov has been one of Dallas’ leading power-play forwards but hasn’t had anything to show for, with his goals-for-60 with the man advantage sitting at a staggering-low 1.9 – good for 10th on the team. Not to mention the eight-period time frame he went without a shot last week, and it hasn’t been a memorable start for the winger. Radulov had a career revival in Dallas over the past two seasons, recording consecutive 72-point campaigns – and he would have hit the 80-point mark had he remained healthy last season. Given the fact he had 15 points in his first 10 games last year, things haven’t worked out well for the Russian this season.

Joe Pavelski, C, 34 (Dallas – $7 million, 3 points)
Just about every key player is struggling on the Stars, but few are at the level of Pavelski. The big center has seen his offensive production dip over the past four years but he has still recorded at least 60 points in every full season since 2010-11. So for Pavelski to have just two goals and three points in 11 games is tough. On paper, Pavelski was the finisher the Stars needed, but he has yet to find any consistency in the lineup, bouncing between the top three lines and not finding chemistry with any of Dallas’ notable forwards. To make it worse, Corey Perry, coming off of his worst NHL season and a slew of injuries over the past few seasons, has the same amount of points as Pavelski in just four games. It’s time for him to show his worth sooner rather than later.

Jonathan Toews, C, 31 (Chicago – $10.5 million, 2 points)
Things were looking up for Toews, who had a career-high 81 points in 82 games with a Blackhawks team that missed out on the post-season. The Hawks were still going to have a tough time making the post-season in 2019-20, but at least if Toews could duplicate his performance from last season, he could say he did everything in his power to change things. But Toews has just two points in seven contests for the Hawks, despite centering Chicago’s top line with Andrew Shaw and Alex DeBrincat. Toews isn’t typically a great starter, starting off with just two points to kick off the first seven games of the 2016-17 season, but compared to his 10-point output in the same stretch last season, it’s disappointing, to say the least.

Kevin Hayes, C, 27 (Philadelphia, $7.14 million – 2 points)
The Flyers needed to make a big splash to cement their center depth this summer, but so far, it’s clear Hayes isn’t going to produce at the rate that made him so coveted by GM Chuck Fletcher after putting up just two points – both goals – through seven games. Hayes has cemented himself as the team’s third-line center, and, in terms of skill, there are a lot worse players to have in that spot. But it’s hard to see Hayes living up to his cost, especially until 2025-26 when he’s 33. It’s still early, but Hayes is on pace for a 23-point season as it stands – not exactly what you want from such an expensive pivot coming off of a career-high 55-point campaign.

Mike Green, D, 34 (Detroit, $5.37 million – 1 point)
This was supposed to be the season where Green turns things around by staying healthy and becoming a top point-producing defenseman once again. Green hasn’t missed a game yet this season, but he needed eight games to score his first goal – and point – of the year. Green was on pace for a 50-point campaign last season had he avoided the virus that took him out of play for most of the season, with hopes that he could hit the mark for the first time since he had 76 a decade ago. But Green’s ice time has dipped in Detroit this season, falling to the second pairing in favor of young Filip Hronek, with Green struggling to find his mojo with Patrik Nemeth. It’s a shame, because the Wings were better with him in 2018-19: Detroit went 20-19-4 with Green in the lineup, but just 12-21-6 with him on the sidelines. Green is a UFA this coming summer, so he’ll want to turn on the jets to maximize his profits on his next deal.

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