The NHL's highest-paid player is the Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin, but it's hard to argue that he isn't giving good value for the 13-year, $124-million (all currency U.S.) contract he signed with the team last year.
Not only does Ovechkin produce offence night in and night out, he also enthralls and entertains on pretty much every shift. Nowadays, any team that surrenders both term and dollars to players in contract negotiations wants a complete package in return.
Thus, no one begrudges Ovechkin his money; or Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin theirs. And you'd have to think that the Detroit Red Wings are satisfied with the return on their investments in Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom, given that they are in the Stanley Cup final for the second consecutive year.
Calgary is getting good value from the multi-dimensional Jarome Iginla at $7-million per season; and although it was Bryan Murray who drafted the pair in his days as the Anaheim Ducks general manager, Brian Burke did the organization a big favour prior to his departure for the Toronto Maple Leafs when he signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to multi-year contract extensions with the identical (and attractive) salary cap charge of $5.325-million.
Burke never liked the fact that he needed to pay them those sums coming out of their entry-level contracts. On the plus side, both have evolved into big-time money players. In today's NHL, when you pay the talent at the highest end of your payroll less than $6-million per season on average, that leaves a few extra dollars on the table to pay a supporting cast.
Once in a while, these long-term commitments between team and player develop into a happily-ever relationship that works for both parties.
On a great many other occasions, however, the marriages don't work out the way they imagined - and the price of divorce is high.
In the next fortnight - or from the time of Friday night's seventh game of the Stanley Cup final until the first day of the entry draft in Montreal two weeks from now - NHL trade talks will heat up.
Increasingly, virtually every one of these possible transactions is going to be filtered through money, money invested in the flush of the last two free-agent frenzies that has not paid good dividends.
Contracts that were signed amid great hopes and expectations and - for reasons of injury, underperformance, or just the simple lack of a good fit - have backfired will now be shopped around the league, to see if there's a willing trading partner. Teams will need to get creative - and if the return that Ottawa eventually gets on the trade that Dany Heatley demanded this past month doesn't seem high enough, well, the answer will be found in the five years and $35-million that remain on his contract.
But Heatley's isn't the worst - or the hardest-to-trade - contract in today's NHL. In the spirit of the-more-things-change, the-more-they-stay-the-same, the three most unwieldy contracts all belong to those free-spending New York Rangers, a team that couldn't figure out how to operate in the pre-salary cap NHL and a team that hasn't figured it out in the post-salary cap NHL either.
In an era when the salary cap will flatten this year and shrink next year, one man's view of the 10 worst contracts in the NHL right now.
1. Wade Redden, Rangers: His six-year, $39-million contract would not have been unreasonable compensation for an in-his-prime Redden who - for a five-year period between 2001 and 2006 - was a cumulative plus-123, while playing 25 minutes or so per night. But Redden's play fell off dramatically in his final two years with the Senators and everyone imagined he'd be looking at a hefty pay cut, until Rangers' GM Glen Sather came along. Don't these guys scout any more?
2. Scott Gomez, Rangers: Gomez's annual salary-cap charge of $7.357-million is ninth-highest in the NHL - he will earn $8-million in each of the next two seasons, before the numbers drop off to $7.5-million, $5.5-million and $4.5-million in the final three years of the contract. The Rangers signed Gomez, who led the league in assists in '04, to act as a set-up man for Jaromir Jagr, but the two never found any chemistry - and there isn't a pure sniper on either the current roster or in the system that would help maximize what Gomez brings to the table.
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