Puck Daddy

The $14 million cap hit NHL player is nearly here

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

View photo

.

Getty Images

Climb into your DeLorean and travel back to 1993 with us, won’t you?

(Hey, it’s the Deep Space Nine premiere! Everybody’s singing “Whoomp [There It Is]”! Why Lorena Bobbitt, what are you doing with that knife?)

The highest paid NHL player in 1993 was Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers at a whopping $3.35 million, or slightly less than what Nicklas Grossman will make this season for the Orange and Black.

Now travel with us through the decade. Wayne Gretzky made $6.54 million in 1995-96 with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues. Mario Lemieux blew out that contract with an $11.35 million salary the following season.

Oh, then things got nutty. Factor in their signing bonuses, and Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche ($16.45 million) and Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings ($14.5 million) had the top two highest single-season salaries in NHL history, in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The former was given an offer sheet by the New York Rangers; the latter was given a hugely front-loaded deal. (Ed Note: Thanks for the reminders - Fedorov was an offer sheet from Carolina as well.)

[Also: Lockout quality time paying off for Penguins' top line]

Sakic’s contract was the one that shifted the tide for elite NHL players, whose average salaries jumped roughly $4 million on average to around $7 million annually after the Avs matched the offer sheet. By 2004, the top five player salaries were all $10 million or more; think about what they’d mean in today’s dollars.

The lockout reset things for two seasons, but the free-agent frenzy of 2007 – Danny Briere, Scott Gomez, Thomas Vanek – gave the NHL $10 million men again. Other contracts followed, culminating with the Nashville Predators matching an offer sheet for Shea Weber that would have paid him $14 million this season.

With the new CBA, where is this all headed? Onward and upward, after the contracts for Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf with the Anaheim Ducks. The numbers could get mind-blowing.

Currently, the highest cap hit in the NHL is that of Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals at $9.54 million; a contract of inexplicable financial integrity at a time when everybody from the Red Wings to Flyers were handing out cap circumventing contracts.

Chris Johnston of Sportsnet believes that number will likely be eclipsed in the next wave of star contracts – and that the numbers could get astronomical:

As one high-profile agent put it in a conversation with sportsnet.ca: “Those guys are going to get paid a lot more money in a shorter window of time. And after the career contract is finished they can still sign another one.”

Opinions vary on how high NHL salaries might soar under the new CBA, but one agent (different than the previous one) estimated that the AAV — average annual value — of top contracts could hit $13 million or $14 million within five years.

That number was projected based on what the agent expects will be significant revenue growth for the industry, which would obviously push the salary cap much higher than the $64.3 million it will be set at next season

Wow.

Granted, the cap would have to go sky-high for anyone to approach that number. Which, according to James Mirtle’s projections, it very well could, hitting $90 million by 2020.

Combine that with contracts that can’t “back dive” to reduce cap hits, and whose truncated term compared to the ones under the previous CBA beg for high annual salaries, and we’re headed to $14 million annual cap hits – with players like Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and especially Steven Stamkos pushing the numbers even higher in their next contracts.

Maybe we’ll look back at Perry and Getzlaf as the “Joe Sakic contracts” of our time, raising the bar for all elite players under the new CBA.

NHL video from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
The NCAA tournament is almost here, fill out your bracket now!
NFL owners eliminate 'Tuck Rule', approve all proposed rules changes
Tiger Woods preempts media crush, goes public with Lindsey Vonn romance
LeBron James and company gun for 24 wins in a row

View comments (107)
  • Bell steers England to victory, hosts take 2-1 Ashes lead

    Bell steers England to victory, hosts take 2-1 Ashes lead

    Ian Bell guided England to an eight-wicket victory over Australia in the third test at Edgbaston on Friday to put the hosts 2-1 up in the series with two matches to play. Bell (65 not out) and Joe Root, with an unbeaten 38, anchored the chase after England were set to 121 to win on the third day at Edgbaston where a dominant performance banished memories of a heavy defeat at Lord's. England lost Alastair Cook (7) and Adam Lyth (12) to set a few nerves on edge but Bell, dropped on 20 by Australia captain Michael Clarke, made his second 50 of the match to spark raucous celebrations after Root hit the winning runs. More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 15 minutes ago
  • Lambert leaves Liverpool to join West Brom

    Lambert leaves Liverpool to join West Brom

    Liverpool offload Rickie Lambert after just one unproductive season at Anfield More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 4 minutes ago
  • Serie A - Confusion as Stevan Jovetic joins Inter

    Serie A - Confusion as Stevan Jovetic joins Inter

    Inter Milan have signed Stevan Jovetic from Manchester City, although there were conflicting reports as to whether it was a loan or permanent switch. More »

    Eurosport - 2 hours 46 minutes ago
  • Can we ever trust Fifa again? Football writer Jonathan Wilson and Copa90's Eli Mengem investigate

    Can we ever trust Fifa again? Football writer Jonathan Wilson and Copa90's Eli Mengem investigate

    Can we ever trust Fifa again? Who replaces Sepp Blatter? These key questions and more are answered on this week's episode of The Rail, as Spencer is joined by football writer Jonathan Wilson and Copa90's Eli Mengem. More »

    Copa90 - 2 hours 42 minutes ago
  • No snow no problem as China's financial might lands 2022 Games

    No snow no problem as China's financial might lands 2022 Games

    The snow will be fake, but the very real financial muscle China boasts proved decisive on Friday when Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Games officials meeting in Kuala Lumpur voted for the Chinese capital over the lure of a winter wonderland offering from Kazakhstan's Almaty, in a clear sign that the International Olympic Committee is craving solidity and security after a series of problems and headaches. While Rio scrambles to make up lost time in its building for the 2016 Olympics, and Tokyo is embroiled in a stadium drama the allure of a megacity with a cast-iron financial guarantee proved irresistible. More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago