2010 NHL Free Agency: Is 2010 the 'Summer of the Pay Cut'?

Thumbnail image for ollijokinen3.jpgAfter years of NHL teams seemingly gorging themselves at the buffet table that is unrestricted free agency, it seems like the league is starting to exercise a little “portion control.” Jamie Fitzpatrick did a nice breakdown of the growing trend of players taking pay cuts for About.com.

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).

Fitzpatrick notes that the biggest pay increases (so far) went to Manny Malhotra and Matthew Lombardi while Olli Jokinen will see the largest drop in pay. There are still plenty of free agent forwards – including guys who put up substantial goal totals such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Frolov – so the overall summer might end up a touch more positive for forwards.

16 Defensemen Signed
– Eight players increase salary over 2009-10, while five take a chop, and one guy holds the line (one not available).

zmichalekhappy.jpgI’m surprised that a big chunk of defensemen took a pay cut, too, because I was thinking this might be the summer of defensemen cashing in. (More on that very subject later today.)

It turns out that Zbynek Michalek (166 percent increase) and Dan Hamhuis ($2.5 million per year to $4.5) will probably be the most excited to see their brand new pay checks in October. Fitzpatrick points out that Pavel Kubina will make $1.15 million less per year, but I think that’s more aboout the market correcting an inflated salary than him being “the biggest loser.”

8 Goaltenders Signed
– Three get a raise, four get a rollback, and one salary is unchanged.

While this summer has still (in my opinion) been a great one for defensemen, it’s been a horrid one for goalies. Just ask Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, two potential big money makers who are sitting on the sidelines. (I give Turco and Nabokov slightly more benefit of the doubt that Ilya Kovalchuk because they’re probably not taking a “$100 million or bust” stance. Still, the two high profile goalies must not pay attention to the limited amount of job opportunities for goalies in the NHL right now.)

Is this the “Summer of the Pay Cut”? I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but it’s been a season of lateral moves for players and their sad panda agents. We’ll see if the many unrestricted free agents waiting on the sidelines will up-end the less moneyed trend or confirm the fact that NHL owners might actually be watching their money a little bit this year.

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