blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: October 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

2013-2014 NHL Highest Salary & Cap Hit By Position

Since the NHL salary cap was introduced in 2005, clubs have kept a close eye on two key player payroll markers - cap hit and salary. Cap hit corresponds to the dollar amount applied towards team salary cap whereas salary connotes a player's actual take home pay.

The chart below presents 2013-2014 NHL player cap hit and salary figures for the top ten players in each position as published by Cap Geek.

2013-2014 NHL Player Cap Hit By Position

E. Staal8.25Chara6.916Ward6.3

2013-2014 NHL Player Salary By Position

E. Staal9.25Keith7.65Ward6.6
Hossa 7.9Boyle6.666Fleury5.75

The 2005 CBA permitted a player's cap hit and salary figure to diverge dramatically in the same season and over the course of a multi-year contract. Thus, despite Weber ($14m) being paid the most this season, it's actually Ovechkin ($9.538m), who costs the most consuming more of his team's $64.3m cap limit than any other player.  The 2013 CBA limits this cap-circumvention loophole providing that no multi-year contract can fluctuate more than 35% year-to-year on salary amounts and 50% from the lowest salary year to the highest salary year.  

Another interesting facet of modern player contracts are signing bonus payments.  In terms of signing bonuses (as opposed to performance bonuses), five players will earn over $5m of their total compensation in the form of a signing bonus this year (Weber $13m, Parise $10m, Suter $10m, Lecavalier $3, Clarkson $3.5m). The genius of structuring player compensation as a bonus is that the earnings are not subject to escrow withholdings and are payable during lockouts.  

In terms of length of contract, 21 players currently have contracts lasting more than 8 years.  The 2013 CBA curbs this practice limiting the length of new contracts to 7 years unless a player is resigning with his current team in which case 8 years is the maximum term.  

When a player retires their cap hit does not typically count against the team's cap limit.  Two notable exceptions to this rule include: (1) all remaining years of any contract signed by players 35 years of age or older (35+ contract) continue to count against a team's cap after retirement; and (2) if a player retires and the salary on any remaining years is less than the cap hit of those remaining years, the difference is recouped and charged to the team's cap for those remaining years.

As for injuries, teams must still pay a player's salary while injured but the cap hit does not count against the club. The present day example is Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers who, despite not skating since suffering a concussion in November 2011, remains under contract for four more years collecting over $12m though his annual cap hit of $4.94m will not impact the club.  Interestingly, if Pronger were to retire (as opposed to remaining on the LTIR) his team would incur the full $4.94m annual cap hit through 2017 owing to his 35+ contract

A listing of the highest paid players in the NHL since 1990, along with the teams responsible for cutting their checks, can be found here.

* See also 2014-2015 NHL Highest Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also 2013-2014 NHL Highest Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also 2012-2013 NHL Highest Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also 2011-2012 NHL Highest Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also 2010-2011 NHL Highest Salary & Cap Hit By Position.
* See also NHL Highest Paid Players By Year.
* See also Rethinking NHL Player Salary Structure.
* See also NHL Minimum Wage & Maximum Wage By Year.