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Rand Simon's Blog: The taxman cometh

Newport used unique stats found at On The Forecheck to get Sean Avery his arbitration award in the summer.

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Newport used unique stats found at On The Forecheck to get Sean Avery his arbitration award in the summer.

Salary disclosure has had a profound impact on the way we view players and our discussions about them. You may not know without looking it up that Brad Richards has recorded 70 or more points in each of the past four seasons, but you probably did know his salary this season is $7,800,000 (before escrow, that is).

I get a lot of questions about player salaries from fans, so let's take a look at some issues relating to their paychecks.

Players under NHL contract get paid every two weeks but only during the season, so players in the minors - who typically make around $50,000 - have to budget carefully to make sure they don't run out of money for the summer months between checks.

The first paycheck typically arrives in mid-October and the last one in mid-April, making for 13 pay periods throughout the season. For all our clients whose paychecks come to our office, I am responsible for reviewing their accuracy.

The first step is to calculate the player's daily rate of pay. This season there are 187 days for NHL players and 194 for those in the AHL. So, a player with a salary of $1 million in the NHL earns $5,347.59 per day before escrow while an AHL player with a salary of $50,000 will receive $257.73 per day.

Players in the minors are not subject to escrow even if they are on a one-way contract. Therefore, a player such as Denis Gauthier is actually making more money by being in the AHL than he would if he were in the NHL and subject to an escrow withholding of 9.5 percent.

Many players on two-way contracts will play in both the NHL and AHL and it is imperative to obtain accurate information from the NHLPA and the client to ensure the player is paid properly. There are specific rules as to what constitutes either an "AHL day" or "NHL day" depending on the time of the player assignment, whether or not he practised that day or played in a game.

Occasionally there are disputes as to whether a player should be paid AHL or NHL salary for a particular day and in some cases the NHLPA gets involved to help resolve the issue.

Of course, players are subject to withholding tax like the rest of us but an NHL player's paystub does not include just one line for tax withheld. In fact, players are responsible for paying tax in every state (and some cities) in which they play and earn above a certain income threshold. It is not uncommon for a player to file a dozen or more tax returns a year.

One player whose file I was working on recently and is currently with the St. Louis Blues had to file all the following returns in 2006: United States and Canadian Federal, States of Arizona, North Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania and the City of St. Louis.

With all those returns that need to be prepared, it's easy to see why March and April is one of the most taxing times of year for many agents.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE I
If the NHL is the "major" league and the AHL the "minor" league, why is the latter's website so much better for statistics than the former's?

I don't understand why the AHL can have a website that updates its player statistics in real time while games are being played but the NHL can't. In fact, trying to use the NHL.com statistics website is about as frustrating as trying to drive home in rush hour traffic...when there's an accident...in a snowstorm.

I think the most visited web page at NHL.com is the one that reads, "Error 404. File Not Found." I just decided now for fun to run a sort to view all Los Angeles forwards and their statistics for this season and, I kid you not, got the following message: HTTP ERROR: 404/NOT_FOUND/RequestURl=/nhlstats/app.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE II
Speaking of statistics, one of my favorite hockey websites is On The Forecheck, which focuses on statistical analysis. The site is tracking penalties drawn for the 2007-08 season and we used that statistic in our presentation of Sean Avery's salary arbitration case last summer.

Through analyzing shift charts and box scores we were able to determine that Avery was a "plus" in the penalty department last season as he drew more power plays than his penalties caused shorthanded situations.

The statistic helped counteract the Rangers' argument that Avery was an undisciplined player who was hurting his team by taking too many penalties.

Rand Simon is an NHLPA certified agent. He has spent the past 14 years with Newport Sports Management Inc.

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