In 2010, the New Jersey Devils did their best to circumvent the spirit of salary cap rules by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a ridiculous 17-year, $102 million contract. The Blackhawks and Canucks had attempted something similar with Marian Hossa and Roberto Luongo and the Red Wings did it with two of their own players, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Each of them were signed for more than a decade to bring down the cap hit.
But the deal the Devils struck with Kovalchuk, the NHL arbitrarily decided, went too far. It made a joke of the last few years of a deal Kovalchuk never would have played out. So the league stepped in, supported by a ruling from an independent arbitrator that the Devils were indeed skirting the rules, and fined New Jersey $3 million, a third round pick and the forfeiture of a first round pick from one of the next four drafts. The Devils kept or traded the pick for the first three years, so this year they would have been without it.
That is, until today. The NHL decided to lighten the punishment by refunding half the $3 million fine and allowing the Devils to pick 30th overall this summer, no matter their finish. Though they aren’t allowed to trade that pick, it’s a much better situation for the Devils to be in than their original predicament. Read more
It has been widely speculated that Thomas Vanek will ultimately be a member of the Minnesota Wild, either before the trade deadline this season or when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
That might be a little premature, given how quickly and radically these situations can change, but it’s a good bet that Minnesota – where Vanek lives in the off-season – is on the short list of teams for which he can envision playing next season. And when he turned down an offer worth a reported $50 million over seven years from the New York Islanders, it all but guaranteed that he’ll be the crown jewel of the trade deadline madness.
And even though he carries a huge cap hit, the reality is that any team with cap issues would be able to get him as a rental this season for a little more than half a million dollars. It will take some creativity and a willingness to part for more than a team usually would for a rental, but there is definitely a way a team up against the cap would be able to fit him in for the rest of this season.
In comedy, timing is everything. In real estate, it’s location, location, location.
And for the NHL’s all-time career earnings leaderboard, it’s both.
When former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow spearheaded the initiative that brought about player salary disclosure in 1990, he set in motion a pay hike trend that made the world’s best hockey players amazingly wealthy.
At the same time, free agency rules and owners with increasingly deep pockets helped fuel the inflationary spending.
The factors combined is why Wade Redden, who announced his retirement the other day after 14 NHL seasons, was able to leave the game 20th in all-time career earnings at just under $70 million according to data compiled by Capgeek.com. An elite defenseman for the first two-thirds of his career before joining the New York Rangers as a free agent in 2008, Redden made on average just more than $68,000 for each of his 1,023 regular season games.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon at the league’s Board of Governors meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., a major topic of discussion was the prospect of expanding the number of franchises. As is his wont, Bettman spoke cautiously, but – just as he refused to rule out the possibility a fight could lead to an automatic ejection for NHLers in a conversation with me Sunday – he also didn’t dismiss the chances the number of NHL teams could increase in the relative near-future.
“Everybody needs to slow down,” Bettman told the assembled media throng. Yet he still admitted what the hockey world has known for months, if not years. “We’re getting lots of expressions of interest, and no decisions have been made to do anything other than listen…We haven’t embarked on a formal expansion process, but when people want to talk to us, we listen.”
If you listen closely, you can hear Bettman parsing his words like a fine gardener of verbal foliage. The key words there are “formal expansion process”. But just because league owners haven’t discussed it officially in the boardroom doesn’t mean they haven’t done so unofficially in the hotel bar or on the golf course.
Jaromir Jagr’s legacy is cemented. He’s won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold, the Hart Trophy and Art Ross. He’ll enter the Hockey Hall of Fame three years after he retires, a first-year eligible inductee hands-down.
At 41, he’s growing his already enormous legend, leading the Devils in scoring and continuing to work as hard and as passionately as any player in the game.
Yet, there remains a lingering “what if”. In Jagr’s case, it’s a double-whammy: his decision to play three seasons in the KHL and, more relevant to this analysis, the hat trick of lockouts he has endured. (He also was in the NHL for the 10-day 1991 strike, the only player to be “active” through all four work interruptions).