The list of players chosen to play in this year’s 60th NHL All-Star Game raised a handful of eyebrows, to say the least – mainly because there were more than just a few glaring omissions on that list, and some pretty gigantic ones at that.
It wouldn’t be unfair for the less-than-elite group of players to be blamed on the NHL’s fan vote: the six players elected to play in the game through the online vote include five members of the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as Buffalo Sabres youngster Zemgus Girgensons, whose homeland of Latvia voted for him in droves. Regardless of whether or not you think the fan vote had anything to do with it, it’s undeniable that there are some major snubs here of players who could’ve easily made a case to play plenty of minutes in Columbus on January 25th. Therefore, we’ll be counting down the 15 highest-paid NHLers who won’t be at the All-Star Game this year.
Keep in mind that this list is ranked based on how high the players’ salaries and/or cap hits are for the 2014-15 NHL season, meaning that players like Erik Karlsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Zdeno Chara and Anze Kopitar are left off the list because their salaries fell short of the top 15 despite their unquestionably elite playing abilities. However, the ones who did make the list are making massive amounts of money this year, amounts that should surely justify consideration for the game. Perhaps one day, the NHL will make their All-Star Game selections based on whose performances during the season actually merit their inclusion in the game as opposed to which players have the most computer-savvy fans. In the meantime, here are the 15 highest-paid NHL players who ended up being overlooked for this year’s All-Star Game.
15. Alexander Semin – Carolina Hurricanes – $7 million cap hit in 2014/15
The Carolina Hurricanes have been awful so far this season, and their poor on-ice performances have been reflected in Alexander Semin’s point totals: as of his first 24 games of the season, the Russian only has eight points including just one goal scored against his former club, the Washington Capitals, in December. He’s been a shadow of his former self with the Hurricanes – not to mention he’s had significant injury problems this year – but Semin remains under contract since 2013 at a salary of $7 million this year. Usually an incredibly creative and dynamic player, Semin has yet to play in an NHL All-Star Game.
14. Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs – $7 million cap hit in 2014/15
Whatever your opinion is of Dion Phaneuf, you can’t say that he’s not still a strong offensive defenseman who has enough leadership qualities to at least wear a letter on his jersey. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs captain has been arguably Toronto’s second-best defenseman – at least points-wise – behind Cody Franson. Despite his cap hit of $7 million this season, Phaneuf won’t be representing the Leafs at this year’s All-Star Game – that honour goes instead to Phil Kessel – but it might not be as big of a deal for him considering he’s been to the game three times throughout his career.
13. Paul Stastny – St. Louis Blues – $7 million cap hit in 2014/15
An example of the son of a former NHL All-Star becoming a star hockey player in his own right, Paul Stastny hasn’t exactly been playing like one in his first season with the St. Louis Blues despite a shoulder injury earlier in the season as well as his cap hit of $7 million this year, making him the highest-paid forward on a talented Blues team in most areas of the game. As far as centres on that team go, he’s been overshadowed by Jori Lehtera and David Backes. Strangely, Stastny’s experiences with the All-Star Game have come through injuries: first in 2007-08 when he was unable to play because of one, and again in 2010-11 when he was called up as an injury replacement for Sidney Crosby.
11. Daniel and Henrik Sedin – Vancouver Canucks – $7 million cap hits in 2014/15
Tied at 11th on this list if only because of their sibling relation, the Sedin twins are having a much better season this year with a solid Vancouver Canucks team than they were one season ago. Both players are the top two point-getters on the Canucks so far this season, and both are still under contract with the team at $7 million this year. Unfortunately for hockey’s most famous twins, they won’t be representing Van City at the All-Star Game this year; instead, that honour will go to Radim Vrbata, who signed with the Canucks as a free agent this past summer.
10. Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins – $7 million cap hit in 2014/15
For a goalie with a reputation for being one of the best in the league, surely he’d be a lock to play in the NHL All-Star Game, right? Well, according to the NHL, that’s wrong. However, it’s not very surprising, since Tuukka Rask’s numbers for the Boston Bruins this year have been his worst since the 2010-11 season; as of 34 games played, Rask’s save percentage is .914 and his goals against average is 2.47. Despite his $7 million cap hit this year and his 2014 Vezina Trophy win, Rask still has yet to play in an NHL All-Star Game.
9. Jason Spezza – Dallas Stars – $7 million cap hit in 2014/15
Jason Spezza has made the NHL All-Star Game on two occasions in his career, both of which came while he was still a member of the Ottawa Senators. However, the current Dallas Star misses out on the event this year in spite of his $7 million cap hit for this season. Spezza is currently on pace for 58 points this season – not necessarily all-star calibre numbers. Not only that, but the Stars don’t look poised to be making it to the playoffs this season either, unless they put together a bunch of wins in a challenge for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
8. Brian Campbell – Florida Panthers – $7.14 million cap hit in 2014/15
Known for being an excellent offensive defenseman, Brian Campbell’s numbers for his position are still pretty high considering he’s now 35 years of age. The fact that his salary this season comes to about $7.14 million is even more impressive, even though he might not always get the recognition he deserves. However, the Florida Panthers d-man won’t be heading to the All-Star Game this year; instead, the team’s representative will be his goalie, Roberto Luongo. Campbell’s been to the game four times in his career, with the first three times coming in three consecutive seasons between 2006 and 2009.
7. Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins – $7.14 million cap hit in 2014/15
Though his abilities on the defensive end can definitely be lacking at times, his offensive skills for someone playing in his position certainly aren’t. Currently on pace for close to 60 points this season, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has been snubbed from this year’s All-Star Game despite his high production and his salary of $7.25 million this year. That said, it’s probably not surprising when you play on a team that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who will both be making the trip. Letang’s not unfamiliar with the All-Star Game though, having been selected for it twice between 2010 and 2012.
6. Zach Parise – Minnesota Wild – $7.54 million cap hit in 2014/15
Playing in his third straight season for the team from his home city, as well as the city where his father – who unfortunately died recently – worked in the famous Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey program that also produced Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise has kept his numbers at almost a point per game so far this season. However, it’s surprising to know that Parise has only been to one NHL All-Star Game in his career, in 2008-09 when the game was held in Montreal. Parise’s cap hit this season comes to about $7.54 million, though his actual salary comes out to $12 million.
5. Pavel Datsyuk – Detroit Red Wings – $7.67 million cap hit in 2014/15
To be putting up almost a point per game at age 36 takes no small amount of skill, and Pavel Datsyuk’s playing abilities haven’t wavered too much despite his age. That said, we won’t be seeing him playing at this year’s All-Star Game; a game in which he has been named to play four times (though he was injured in 2008-09). Still arguably one of the best two-way forwards in the game today with his abilities to make plays and score amazing goals, Datsyuk’s cap hit this year sits at around $7.67 million while his salary for the season is $10 million on a contract that expires in 2017.
4. Eric Staal – Carolina Hurricanes – $8.25 million cap hit in 2014/15
Just like with Alexander Semin earlier in this piece, Eric Staal’s point production with a terrible Carolina Hurricanes team leaves a bit to be desired compared to previous seasons. As a result, this four-time NHL all-star and former Stanley Cup winner won’t be making an appearance in this year’s game. His $8.25 million cap hit and $9.25 salary for the season are still quite huge considering the fact that he’s only on pace for 52 points this year, even though he’s still arguably the best forward the Canes have. Instead, defenseman Justin Faulk – a minus-15 this year – will be flying their flag in Columbus.
3. Henrik Lundqvist – New York Rangers – $8.5 million cap hit in 2014/15
His appearance in the Stanley Cup finals last season as well as the fact that he’s still consistently ranked among the very best netminders the league has would usually be convincing enough for a place in the NHL All-Star Game, but Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist will have to sit this one out. King Henrik has played in the game on three occasions throughout his career, and has a Vezina Trophy and place on the first All-Star team at the end of the season under his belt. With his $8.5 million cap hit and $11 million salary for the year, it’s a wonder why Lundqvist isn’t turning his three trips to the game into four.
2. Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks – $8.63 million cap hit in 2014/15
If it weren’t for his injury woes this season, Corey Perry would be once again right behind Ryan Getzlaf as the second-highest scoring player on the Anaheim Ducks’ roster. But alas, it is Getzlaf who makes it to this year’s All-Star Game – deservedly so, mind you – and not Perry. However, Perry’s the one taking home just a little bit more cash than Getzlaf: he’s got a cap hit of $8.63 million this year, compared to Getzlaf’s $8.25 million. Still arguably one of the best scoring wingers in the NHL today, Perry has made it to three NHL All-Star Games and was on both of Canada’s last two consecutive gold medal-winning teams in the Olympics.
1. P.K. Subban – Montreal Canadiens – $9 million cap hit in 2014/15
This has been said before many times on the Internet following the announcement of the players for this year’s All-Star Game, but it bears repeating: as far as marketing potential goes for this year’s game, the NHL doesn’t know what it’s missing out on. Canadiens defenseman and former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban is not only one of the most talented players in his position in the league on both ends of the ice, he’s also got one of the most vibrant and animated personalities in the league both on the ice and off it. Not only is he one of the NHL’s resident class clowns, his play on the ice for the Habs over the years makes his $9 million salary this year (and for seven more years) warranted. What more could the NHL want?