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A Quick NHL Salary Comparison

In the ideal sporting universe, salaries are based on performance, with the best players taking in the highest salaries. We have all seen and heard the countless stories about players across the professional sporting world not earning their salaries, as well as those that overachieve. Injuries will play a huge role in wrecking careers as well. As a rule though, players need to prove themselves or show enormous potential to really lock down the big bucks. In this article, I’ll be examining several NHL clubs and their top 5 salaried players while comparing them to the New York Islanders.

The Detroit Red Wings:
Pavel Datsyuk – $6,700,000
Henrik Zetterberg – $7,750,000
Nicklas Lidstrom – $6,200,000
Brian Rafalski – $6,000,000
Johan Franzen – $5,000,000
Summary: Nothing like starting at the top of the barrel. Detroit is paying 31.675 million to their top 5 while the Isles are paying a mere 19.605 million. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, and Franzen are the top 4 in scoring on the team, respectively. Brian Rafalski would be right there if he hadn’t missed ten games. It hasn’t really slowed him down though, as he’s been averaging exactly a point per game in 15 games played.
Detroit is paying a lot more for their top 5, but they are also healthy and getting the production needed to justify the salaries. They have veterans that produce and if I were an NHL GM, I’d be happy to pay players that do their jobs.

New Jersey Devils:
Ilya Kovalchuk – $6,000,000
Patrik Elias – $5,000,000
Martin Brodeur – $5,200,000
Brian Rolston – $5,000,000
Jason Arnott – $4,500,000

Summary: If it is any consolation to Isle’s fans, the Devils can’t score either. New Jersey is paying top dollar for their run over the cliff of mediocrity, frittering away 22,076,000 million dollars more than the Islanders in salary on underachieving players in 2010-2011. As a bonus to Islander fans, the Devils now have their own 100+ million dollar Russian enigma. It’s sad to think that with all that talent, the Devils could be lining up for a lottery pick this coming summer.

The New York Rangers:
Chris Drury – $8,000,000
Henrik Lundqvist – $7,750,000
Marian Gaborik – $7,500,000
Wade Redden – $6,500,000
Michal Rozsival – $4,000,000

Summary: The Rangers are hovering around 8th place in the Eastern Conference and are pushing the salary cap maximum of 59.4 million. They’ve tied up 33.75 million in their top 5 salaries (more than Detroit even) for the 2010 – 2011 season. They’d be well over the salary cap maximum save for the demotion of defensive bust Wade Redden and his 6.5 million dollar salary to the AHL. In doing this, the Rangers circumvented evaded the salary cap and, although they still have to pay Redden, gained the cap relief necessary to sign some more players. They’ve bitten the 6.5 million dollar bullet so to speak to free up money for free agents like Alexander Frolov and Ruslan Fedotenko. Chris Drury and his 8 million have only played 1 game this season for the Rangers. Marian Gaborik is averaging nearly a point per game. For his 7.5 mill.
They are definitely overpaying for what they are getting in their top 5, but they have shown a willingness to throw money around trying to improve the team.

The New York Islanders top 5 salaries this year are:
1. Alexei Yashin – $4,755,000
It’s very telling that the top salary on this team, the one that is meant for the top caliber players in the league, is reserved for a player that was bought out in June of 2007. His salary won’t contribute anything to the team, save for allowing them to reach the salary cap minimum this year. He never lived up to his contract on LI and that ultimately led to his demise.
2. Rick DiPietro – $4,500,000
The Islanders took a risk in 2006 by signing him to a 15-year, $67.5 million contract and with the string of injury problems he’s run into, his contract is one of the worst in sports. DiPietro has come back this season and so far, knock on wood, appears to be healthy. His health aside, he’s been shaking off the rust at the NHL level and it shows. To be fair, he’s also had some moments where he’s played well but for a player at this salary level, he needs to be doing more. Rick works hard and I would never count him out 100%, but the odds are stacked against him.
3. Mark Streit – $4,100,00
3 separate injuries to his shoulder on a fluke play during an Islanders intra-squad preseason game and he hasn’t played a minute for the team to date. We’ll have to when he returns this year and if he’ll be as effective as he was for the past two years. There doesn’t seem to be a need to rush him back, save for perhaps slumping ticket sales.
4. James Wisniewski – $3,250,000
A summer trade of a 3rd round pick to Anaheim yielded Wisniewski. It looked like a steal for the Islanders at the time and he seemed like a perfect fit to man the point on the power play with Streit. He’s currently leading the team with 15 points, but also leads the league with the dubious distinction of having the worst +/_ in the league (-18). He might be trade bait if the team decides they don’t want to offer him a new deal. I’d like to see him stay. Like most players, surrounding him with more talent will likely make them shine brighter. Hopefully the team will get a good look at him playing with Streit this season before making a decision on his future.
5. Dwayne Roloson – $3,000,000
It’s my opinion that Roloson has done more than any other Islander the past two years when it comes to earning his salary. He’s not going to lead the league in wins anytime soon, but he keeps the Islanders in a lot of games and steals a game once in a while. He is ranked currently ranked 15th in the league in Goals Against Average (GAA) with 2.5 and is 23rd in Save percentage (Sv%), saving pucks at a .913 clip.
Summary: As you can see, the team has over 7 million tied up in goaltending with another $ 8,955,000 in injuries and buyouts. The only player in the top 5 scoring any points is D-man James Wisniewski. The Islanders aren’t getting much scoring this year, and without any players overachieving, the team has scored a league second to worst 53 goals so far this year.
Note: Tavares makes $900,000 but could earn up to $3.75 million if he reaches certain performance bonuses.

It seems logical that if the Islanders spent more in payroll they would have a better talent pool and subsequently have a better win/loss record. They’ve spent more in the past on players and didn’t seem to receive much in return, but they did have a better record than they do now and had written their name all over the 8th seed in the playoffs. All things considered, I’d hate to see the team waste more money on mercenary/free agent players that just want a salary but I’d hate even more to see the team continue on the course it is on.

I’ve used several websites as sources, Sports City and Hockey Buzz and NHL Salary Cap

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