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Jovanovski, Wisniewski, Kaberle, Leino, Richards, etc. deals why the NHL remains on the road to financial ruin

I’m no economist, to say the least, so the following thoughts certainly are not intended to offer any kind of “business model” analysis.  But I just wonder, can the NHL really be—or stay, if they are—healthy when certain players are earning the kind of money they are.

The ridiculous cap “floor” means that teams like Florida are paying past-their-prime guys like Jovanovski way, way too much money for way, way too long—just to make the floor.

Is Christian Erhoff worth 4 million a year?  No.  Maybe for one year, in today’s crazy-spending NHL, sure.  But for 10 years?  There is no way to really describe that as anything but insane spending.  Most any other year he would have been considered a third-tier defenseman, yet he receives huge money on a super long-term agreement. 

He may not be in the league in five years, much less ten.

Maybe this all started in earnest with Rick DiPietro and that awful 15-year or whatever it was contract.  How has that gone for the Islanders, eh?

How can a league with so many franchises struggling possibly pay out these enormous salaries over and over again?  (We will soon hear, before the CBA expires, that the owners need a new deal.  No kidding.  They need a deal where they aren’t allowed to make these kinds of bone-headed business decisions.  They have never been able to control themselves- until they run out of money.)

The Leafs pay Tim Connolly more than 5 million a season for 2 years.  He hasn’t been an elite player for years.  Listen to what the people who have seen him play for the past few seasons have to say.  But the Leafs have the money, and they had (and in my mind, still do) a serious need, so there you have it.  Connolly gets one more big contract, when I thought he would be fortunate to get maybe a million on a one-year, “show us you can still play” kind of deal somewhere.

I can’t believe Tomas Kaberle (and I really like the guy, as those who visit this site know) will make the same money he earned as a Leaf—for four more years—in Carolina, after his dismal playoff performance.  I watched him throughout the playoffs and he looked so tentative most of the time you would have thought he was an 18 year-old playing in his first playoff game most nights.  Yet, here he is, and despite being exposed, (and being 33) a team that used to complain they had no money to spend can cough up more than 4 million a year.  (And in their press release, they actually called Kaberle a "power-play specialist".  Wow.  Anyone who saw him “run” the Leaf or Boston power play in recent years knows that isn’t true.)

We can all list the names of players who just received absurd contracts that caused us to pause and wonder.  (It’s not as though this is the first we’ve seen it.  It’s been happening for ages.  Look at Luongo’s contract.  Can we say un-trade-able?)  This league is fast becoming the NBA, where all you hear is constant complaints from team execs that they have to try and move “bad contracts”.

The NHL is now filled with all kinds of them.

Here’s the answer:  try not handing out dumb, long-term contracts to begin with.

In many cases, I don’t even think teams are competing for the services of these players.  (On the other end of the scale, Washington waited things out and made a good move, signing a good veteran goalie in Vokoun for “nothing”, comparably speaking, because no one else was offering him anything.)  I mean, who else was going to pay Tim Connolly almost 6 million a year besides Toronto?  Anyone who saw him play last year in Buffalo believed he was done.  But the Leafs needed to save face after not getting Richards (and I’m fine with them not paying crazy money for him).  Who else was going to pay Erhoff $40 million over 10 years? Or Ville Leino the kind of money he got?

That story has been played out a ton in recent days.  A week ago we were saying it wasn’t much of a free-agent class.  And it wasn't.  It just goes to show that every year, there are a few owners or GM’s who are willing to way over-pay for questionable players, because they can or feel they have to.  Not that they should, but they can.  And it's not always the same teams.  Some organizations seem to take turns driving up salaries.

So I don’t know if this league is fish or fowl.  It must be in great financial health, because virtually every team can apparently afford absurdly high salaries.  Yet we keep hearing that many U.S. teams need to be sold, but no one wants them.

I’d love to know the real story.  It just makes no sense to me.




  1. As long as I've been following the NHL as closely as I do nowadays, the one true thing you can count on 100% is enough of the owners lying about their financial woes while simultaneously shooting themselves in the head with their business practices over and over and over. The present CBA handed them an iron-clad framework to make a killing and they will still run off a financial cliff together. Guaranteed. I would love to have someone, when, in the future they start whining and whining about profit margins again, tell them to just shut the hell up.
    Also, it indicates that there simply isn't enough high-level talent in the world to stock 30 NHL teams properly, if they are handing out buckets of cash to marginal players.

  2. These players are getting big contracts, because all of the actual high-end talent has been locked up for 10+ year contracts, so the moderate/a bit above average guys are getting the same money, because they're the best of what's available. Terrible system, but it's within the rules, so who can be blamed?

  3. Ilove how Connolly's salary keeps going up in this post...

  4. Anonymous-
    It's almost like Michael really, really hates that contract... :)

  5. Thanks Anon and KidK...yes, Connolly's deal does seem to be floating upwards in my post! The actual numbers (4.75 per season...)for me are just awfully high for the player, regardless of term.