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