As the free agency signings start rolling in, hockey fans around the world have every right to be upset. Ryane Clowe signs a 5-year deal worth 4,850,000 dollars yearly. Oft-injured Nathan Horton gets 5,3 million for seven years in Columbus. And Toronto Maple Leafs will owe David Clarkson approximately5,3 million yearly over the next seven years.
While we have yet to see a signing as horrendous as the ones Minnesota Wild pulled off last year with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, it’s only because of a lack of top-tier talent in this year’s free agency. Nobody is going to pony up 11 million/year for a Ribeiro or Horton, but I had really hoped the owners would’ve taken something to heart from the lockout that was such a torture on fans. Instead, we have to watch irresponsible GM’s and owners run out and go about their business in the same way as they’ve always done: with the eyes on today, not tomorrow.
And I know that the front offices of nearly all NHL teams are counting on the cap going up to about 80 million in two or three years, at which point these deals aren’t expected to look so bad.
However, I think these front offices are forgetting that NHL salaries do not remain at a stand-still when the cap goes up. The cap going up is not something that happens in a vacuum. After the introduction of the cap, in 05-06, the highest paid player was Jaromir Jagr with an AAV of 8,3 million. The 20th highest paid player was Doug Weight at an AAV of 5,7 million. In 2012-13, if we just look at the list of highest paid centers – Brad Richards comes in at the top with 12 million earned this year. 20th on the list is Shawn Horcoff, with 6 million. Which is 250 000 dollars more than Peter Forsberg got from the Flyers back in 05-06.
In 2005-2006, a Chris Pronger in his prime earned $6.250.000. This year that would’ve ranked him as the 14th best paid defenceman. Ahead of stalwarts like Zdeno Chara (6 million) and Jason Garrison (5,5 million). Behind players like Tyler Myers (12 million), Christian Ehrhoff (8 million) and James Wisniewski (7 million).
The front offices of the NHL teams are likely right. The cap will be going up again after this year. But there are a lot of contracts that have to be signed and handed out over the next five-seven years, and the Toronto Maple Leafs will still be paying in excess of 5 million dollars to a player (David Clarkson) who has a career-best of 46 points in one season. And if that’s not a sword of Damokles hanging over your head by then, I’m guessing the owners will have nothing to complain about as the current CBA runs out and they’ll gladly sign another one just like it.
More likely, this is the start of what will culminate in a war between players and owners in 2021-2022.
Enjoy it while it lasts, people. We’re headed back to those dark days faster than you think.