Ask Adam: Playoff payouts, Heatley’s future, suspensions and bonuses

Adam Proteau
Dany Heatley (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

I hope you know how the mailbag operates by now, because I’ve explained it more than enough over the years. Thanks to all who submitted a question.

Adam, in terms of player compensation, how do the NHL playoffs work? Clearly the venues and owners benefit from the extra games, but are players just playing out of the goodness of their hearts? Do they make the same in a four-game sweep as a seventh game double-overtime nail-biter? Thanks for answering my question.
Ken Jewett, Nashville, Tenn.

Ken,

The 16 playoff teams receive varying degrees of bulk payouts from the league that are dependent on where they finish. Last season – the first under the new collective bargaining agreement that doubled the amount of total playoff monies available – the eight teams that lost in the opening round were given a quarter-million dollars to split amongst their players. If a team divvied up its money between 25 players, that works out to $10,000 per roster member.

The payout rises with every playoff round victory. The 2012-13 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks received $3.75 million total (which would reward each member with $150,000) and the Cup finalist Boston Bruins received $2.25 million (or $90,00 per player)

As the league’s revenue projections climb, so too will the playoff payouts. So to answer your question: no, they don’t play simply for the love of the game, but they’re also not going to retire based on the cash they earn in the post-season.

Hey Adam, what’s your prediction on Dany Heatley’s fate after the season is over?
Patrick Morley, Saint Paul, Minn.

Hey Patrick,

This is an easy one: start with a massive pay cut from the $7.5-million salary cap hit he has for the Wild this season, as well as a new team that won’t make him a healthy scratch as Minnesota coach Mike Yeo did in late March. The arrival of Matt Moulson has bumped the 33-year-old even further down the team’s depth chart than he’d already plummeted and there’s no indication the Wild will make a priority out of bringing him back when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

It’s astonishing to think how far Heatley has fallen. This is a player who scored 39 goals for the Sharks only four years ago – and while shoulder surgery has impeded him in trying to return to that level, you’re not going to find many GMs willing to throw millions of dollars and a multi-year contract his way. My guess is he goes somewhere on a one-year contract on a drastically lower dollar amount and attempts to resurrect his reputation as quickly as possible. But given that he’s scored just 12 goals in 75 games this year, that will be no small feat.

Adam, why are there no guidelines for suspensions that are universal for all players whether you are a superstar or fourth-liner?
Terrence Hill, Havertown, Pa.

Terrence,

The NHL believes no two supplementary discipline incidents (or the circumstances that led to them) are the same – and as such, they don’t believe a one-size-fits-all approach to suspensions is appropriate. It’s not an entirely unreasonable philosophy, but it’s not one I’d employ in the day-to-day management of a sports league.

Why? Because I think it leaves the NHL open to preposterous conspiracy theories as well as more reasonable conspiracy theories (such as the one that posits the league is less harsh on star players who commit egregious acts than it is on footsoldier-type players). A blanket rule that made clear one type of action will result in a set punishment would put all NHLers on notice their standard of behavior will be judged the same regardless of the name on the back of their jersey. I think that sends a much better message than the current system, but NHL owners who control how the game is enforced and policed have shown no inclination to dump it and dole out suspensions as most other leagues do.

Hi Adam, I was wondering about the rules of the salary cap. Is there a penalty for teams who go over the cap? I know that on opening day they must be below the cap, and many teams send players to the minors just to call them up the next day. What happens when a team finishes the season over the cap? Thanks.
Drew Mehta, Toronto

Hi Drew,

As I note in this space every season, the NHL doesn’t permit teams to go over the cap at any point in the season, but it does allow franchises to structure contracts such that potential bonus monies put them over the cap by 7.5 percent of the cap ceiling. However, if a franchise winds up exceeding the upper limit at the end of the season because of performance-bonuses actually paid to their players, the team’s salary cap upper limit for the following season will be reduced by the excess amount of money.

In other words, the salary cap is a soft cap during the regular season, but an iron-clad hard cap once all players’ checks are cashed.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.