Self-writing joke: NHL sees legal costs and Bettman's salary climb to new heights

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garybettman3.jpgWe all know that the NHL is one of the more curious professional sports leagues to keep track of when it comes to how they spend their money, where it goes and who is getting what. After all, they’re penciled in as the #4 sport when compared with the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. The Sports Business Journal’s Tripp Mickle today discussed the NHL’s 2008-2009 tax filing showing where the NHL saw their expenses going during that season.

The NHL’s legal costs climbed 48.6 percent during the 2008-09 season, according to its most recent tax filing.

The filing shows the NHL’s legal fees climbed to $3.94 million that season. The NHL declined to comment on the filing, and it remains unclear what contributed to the cost increase.

The tax filings cover the fiscal year July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, a period that saw the NHL conclude a lawsuit with Madison Square Garden over the New York Rangers’ digital rights and begin a bankruptcy trial over the Phoenix Coyotes.

If the league saw their fees increase in a year where the only thing they were really up to was fighting with the New York Rangers over their website, it should be fun to see what happens when the report comes out about what they spent taking BlackBerry guru Jim Balsillie and deposed Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes to court over trying to sell and move the Coyotes out of Arizona.

The other fun note from the league’s taxes is what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is now being paid to run the league. Get your jokes ready kids.

Commissioner Gary Bettman saw his total compensation increase 1.7 percent to $7.23 million in 2008-09. His base compensation totaled $5,529,491 million, other compensation $956,515, deferred compensation $700,000 and benefits $44,777.

The package continues the escalation of Bettman’s compensation, which has nearly doubled from his pre-lockout compensation of $3.77 million. During that same period, the league saw its revenue increase from $2.2 billion to more than $2.6 billion.

The fun part here is that now every average NHL player has a minimum number to want to ask for. After all, if the commissioner can be average at his job and make $7.23 million, a fourth-line grinder should too, right? I’m not going to be the guy to come out and yell about anyone’s salary but I think if my name was Gob Bluth from Arrested Development my only reaction would be, “COME ON!”

As for a list NHL players that will  make more next season than Commissioner Bettman, buckle up. Note, these numbers are what they’ll actually make next year, not what their cap hit is. As always, thanks to CapGeek.com for keeping track of all this information.

Zdeno Chara – $7.5 million

Eric Staal – $7.5 million

Duncan Keith – $8 million

Marian Hossa – $7.9 million

Rick Nash – $7.5 million

Brad Richards – $7.8 million

Henrik Zetterberg – $7.75 million

Scott Gomez – $8 million

Chris Drury – $8 million

Henrik Lundqvist – $7.75 million

Marian Gaborik – $7.5 million

Jason Spezza – $8 million

Chris Pronger – $7.6 million

Evgeni Malkin – $9 million

Sidney Crosby – $9 million

Dany Heatley – $8 million

Vincent Lecavalier – $10 million

Alexander Ovechkin – $9 million

That’s it. 18 players make more than the league commissioner. It may very well become 19 players if/when Ilya Kovalchuk signs on with someone, so this is subject to slight change. All this tells us, though, is that it’s good to be the king.

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.