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THN.com Blog: Tampa's problem not the Big 3

Martin St-Louis and Vinny Lecavalier are congratulated by teammates. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Martin St-Louis and Vinny Lecavalier are congratulated by teammates. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay can’t compete in a salary cap world because they’ve got too much money tied up in three players.

Let’s debunk this myth forever.

The Bolts aren’t buckling because of how much money they’re paying Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St-Louis. Between them, they’ve claimed Hart, Art Ross, Conn Smythe and Rocket Richard Trophies.

Do you think they’re going to take Enron stock options as payment? No, those boys deserve their big bucks.

The reason Tampa Bay could be drafting the, uh, next Michael Jordan of hockey (remember that Art Williams gem from 1998?) come June has a lot more to do with how much it’s paying its bad players.

The cumulative cap hit for Richards, St-Louis and Lecavalier is $19.925 million. Detroit, the best team in the league, has $20.3 million committed to its three highest-paid players, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski.

So why are the Red Wings in a position to win the Stanley Cup this year, while Tampa’s only tie to a title is championship t-shirts from 2004 that are probably being used to wax Mustangs around Florida?

Start with the fact Marc Denis ($2.867 million) makes more money than Henrik Zetterberg ($2.65).  

Or contrast Tampa’s Michel Ouellet (seven goals, 20 points in 41 games) at $1.25 million, with Detroit’s Dan Cleary (20 goals, 40 points in 57 games) at a discount cost of  $662,500.

Chris Osgood could yet usurp his teammate, Dominik Hasek, for the top goals-against average in the league. He makes $850,000, exactly $150,000 less than Johan Holmqvist; he of the .891 save percentage.

Watch the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.

It applies to hockey, too.

“Young guys got no respect, no respect!”
I love the way guys defend their respective eras. Any time a player is seeing stars after a questionable hit these days, stars of the past are the first to tell you players today don’t respect each other like they used to.

To some degree, I buy that.

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Consider the fact a guy like Phil Esposito, the premier goal-scorer of his era, would cap a season of leading the NHL in goals by going home to work a summer job in his northern Ontario hometown of Sault Ste. Marie.

I’d imagine that insight into regular life would help players cherish their professional athlete existence all the more. Maybe that motivated them to limit reckless, career-threatening plays because they knew life outside of hockey wasn’t as fun as life on the inside.

Then again, I’ve never heard anybody theorize the Philadelphia Flyers won two straight Stanley Cups by “out respecting” their opponents.

The respect – in this case defined as extra room, not verbal praise – Gordie Howe earned was the direct result of every sharp elbow ‘Mr. Hockey’ threw.

Yeah, I bet players did respect each other a little more in eras past, just as I imagine people opened doors for each other more and generally cared more about how each other was getting on.

But the next time you hear an old-timer talking about these young bucks in the NHL who have no respect for the game or each other, take it with a grain of salt.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.

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