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Summer of the Pay Cut

By July 4, 2010

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dan ellis

July is traditionally the fattest month for NHL free agents.

The shower of cash from teams driven to madness by off-season optimism and desperation is a wonder to behold.

But a new trend is emerging. This summer, many players are settling for less.

As of Sunday, 44 unrestricted free agents had signed new contracts (give or take a fringe player or two).

Using salary numbers compiled from various media sources, here's how the market is looks:

  • 20 Forwards Signed
    - Based on average annual salary, nine get a raise over last season, eight take a pay cut, and one guy signs for the same money (two salaries not available).
    - Only Matthew Lombardi and Manny Malhotra increase their annual pay by $1 million or more.
    - Taking the most dramatic haircut is Olli Jokinen, who made $5.5 million last season. His new salary in Calgary is $3 million.
  • 16 Defensemen Signed
    - Eight players increase salary over 2009-10, while five take a chop, and one guy holds the line (one not available).
    - Anton Volchenkov, Jordan Leopold, and Kurtis Foster all get raises of $1 million-plus.
    - Dan Hamhuis climbs from $2.5 million per year to $4.5 million in Vancouver. But the big winner is Zbynek Michalek, who gets a 166 percent pay increase to jump from Phoenix ($1.5 million) to Pittsburgh ($4 million).
    - The big loser so far is Pavel Kubina, with a new deal averaging $1.15 million less than he made a year ago.
  • 8 Goaltenders Signed
    - Three get a raise, four get a rollback, and one salary is unchanged.
    - A solid year pays off for Antero Niittymaki, who averages $2 million per year in San Jose after playing for $600,000 in Tampa Bay.
    - Several guys with decent track records settle for less: Dan Ellis takes a $500,000 pay cut moving from Nashville to Tampa Bay, while Chris Mason gets the biggest chop: after making $3 million last season with the Blues, it will take him two years to collect $3.7 million in Atlanta.

Early days yet. But of the 40 free agent contracts we know about (as of Sunday), only half include a pay increase, and rare is the blockbuster deal we've come to expect at this time of year.

2010 NHL Free Agents and Signings

NHL Free Agents Explained

Photo: Moving from Nashville to Tampa Bay, Dan Ellis will see a a 25 percent drop in his paycheck (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images).


July 4, 2010 at 10:35 pm
(1) g says:

Why only July?.. Include all UFA’s, including Plekanec, Marleau… etc. Because UFA’s in June tend to not fit in the pay cut theory perhaps, then ok.

It’s no mystery, with teams under more cap pressure than ever.. unless you’re a superstar.. there’s simply no money left for you.
Some get lucky, GMs will still make the occasional stupid/desperate signings.. good for you if it happens to be you.

There’s also the fact that since aside from Kovalchuk (who apparently WILL get his money), this UFA class is mainly a collection of guys on downside of their careers, or coming off inflated deals… it was always going to be lower deals for them no matter what.

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