We now know how much every top defenseman will be paid in the 2014-15 season. PK Subban was the last star defenseman to get his big contract this offseason. Now not only is he among the best defensemen in the NHL, he’s now paid like one. He joins the ranks of Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and others as blueliners that teams build around. When you find a defenseman of that caliber, hang on to them; they’re a rare breed. Smart teams will never let guys like that become available for free agency and if they do part with them, they demand a king’s ransom for them.
Salaries will only climb higher and higher as the league salary cap inflates with revenue. This season’s salary cap sits at $69 million. That will give you an idea just how much of the salary cap payroll these studs account for.
10) Dan Girardi — New York Rangers: $7 million in 2014/15
If anyone was having doubts as to whether Dan Girardi is worth his pay, he showed it last season, particularly in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He logged enormous minutes for the Rangers en route to their appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
He fit in perfectly with coach Alain Vigneault and he has himself a heck of a partner in Ryan McDonagh. Girardi’s new contract will see him earn a salary at $7 million this season, but the beauty of it for New York is his average cap hit is just $5.5 million, as his deal was structured. That’s a huge bargain for them at this point. Girardi’s salary will decrease as the contract is played out.
9) Zdeno Chara — Boston Bruins: $7 million in 2014/15
At 37 years old, Zdeno Chara is still among the upper echelon of defensemen in the NHL. He still has four years left on his current deal, and his cap hit sits at $6.9 million.
He’s on his last big NHL contract and he has started to slow down a few steps, as wear and tear have taken their toll. We put him behind the rest of the pack due to the fact he doesn’t have as much left to earn on his deal as the others.
For what he brings to the Bruins, not just on the ice, but with his command and leadership over the locker room, his price tag is more than worth it for Boston. People may have the Bruins’ disappointing seven-game series loss to the Canadiens still fresh in their minds and have images of Chara being worn down by the Habs’ speed as the series progressed, but they mustn’t forget the big picture. Chara had 40 points for the Bruins this season, led them to the President’s Trophy, and with him on the back end, Boston remains cup contenders going into this season.
Hopefully for Boston’s sake, Chara’s form late in their second-round series wasn’t an indication of how he will handle the upcoming 82-game marathon.
8) Drew Doughty — Los Angeles Kings: $7 million in 2014/15
Drew Doughty is arguably the league’s best defenseman right now, but he lands at just no.8 because the L.A .Kings wisely locked him in at a young age. The Kings signed Doughty to an eight-year deal, with an average cap hit of $7 million when he was just 21 years old. It was a calculated risk that has paid off. Had they waited, Doughty’s value would’ve skyrocketed.
All he’s done is lead the Kings to two Stanley Cups in three seasons since signing his contract, and he’s still locked in for another five years, giving the Kings a chance to build a dynasty. He’s yet to win a Norris Trophy, but it doesn’t really matter. Doughty makes his share of mistakes over the course of the season; it comes with his style of play. However, he raises his game as the stakes get higher and always delivers when it matters most. That rang true even in the Olympics this year, where he helped his country to a gold medal.
Doughty had just 37 points last season, less than what you’d expect from him, but that was a reflection of the Kings’ struggles in the regular season to score. They sure didn’t have that problem in the playoffs. Doughty jumped to 18 points in 26 playoff games, proving he, along with his team, know how to elevate.
7) PK Subban — Montreal Canadiens: $7 million in 2014/15
After being perhaps the most underpaid defenseman in the NHL the past two years, Subban will soon be the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, as his salary will jump to $11 million in two years time, while others will decrease.
Subban’s eight-year, $72 million deal is the largest contract in Habs history and will be a measuring stick for future contracts under the current league CBA. His cap hit will be the highest among defensemen at $9 million.
Like Doughty, Subban is a gamer and saves his best for when it matters most. His 14 points in 17 playoff games led his team and he logged the most minutes. He proved that he, along with Carey Price, is the team’s most important player and he will now be a Hab for a long time. He may even be the next team captain.
Not only is Subban a great player, but he’s just about the best team ambassador the Canadiens could hope for. He loves the bright lights and the grand stage Montreal provides, which is exactly what the organization needs. It can’t be full of players intimidated by the spotlight. Subban relishes in it, which is why the Habs had to do what was necessary to keep him in Montreal for a long time.
6) Brian Campbell — Florida Panthers: $7.14 million in 2014/15
What? Brian Campbell is paid more than Doughty and Subban? Yes, for now, he is. That’s a product of the careless contracts that were handed out in the old CBA, this one by the Chicago Blackhawks, who wisely traded Campbell to Florida.
It’s not that Campbell isn’t a good defenseman, but he’s worth nowhere near $7.14 million at this stage of his career. He’s not a difference maker, as was evident in Florida’s dreadful 2013-14 season.
Campbell has two years left on his deal, and it will be a huge weight off of the Panthers’ backs when his salary is off the books. He may very well still be a Panther, but at a far reduced rate.
5) Kris Letang — Pittsburgh Penguins: $7.25 million in 2014/15
It wasn’t a good year for Kris Letang, as he suffered a stroke, due to what doctors said is a hole in the wall of his heart. Letang missed over half the season as a result. He returned in time for the playoffs, but his Penguins blew a 3-1 series lead against the Rangers in the second round.
He signed an eight-year extension with the Pens back in 2013, which will go into effect this coming season. His salary and cap hit will sit at $7.25 million for the next eight years and Letang staying healthy remaining a dominant force will be crucial if Pittsburgh is to win another cup with their current crop of players.
4) Duncan Keith — Chicago Blackhawks: $7.6 million in 2014/15
Duncan Keith’s 13-year deal is totalled at $72 million, which he signed back in 2010 when the Blackhawks won their first of two cups in four seasons. His salary dips slightly this season to $7.6 million, but his cap hit is just at $5.5 million, which isn’t bad for a Norris Trophy winner and proven playoff performer.
Chicago will get along just fine, having Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane up front and Keith on the back end. Stan Bowman has done a phenomenal job in Chicago, always being able to identify who his most important players are and which ones should remain on the team for a long time. Keith is one of them.
3) Dion Phaneuf — Toronto Maple Leafs: $8 million in 2014/15
Oh, how Maple Leafs fans are cursing this one. Dion Phaneuf will make a whopping $8 million and this is partly the reason why the Leafs weren’t able to add much to the roster this offseason. To be fair, it’s also due to other bad contracts they’ve handed out.
Phaneuf begins a new seven-year contract this season, which will have an annual cap hit of $7 million until the year 2021. When you weigh what he brings to the Leafs against what he will make, it’s too much and Toronto is stuck with the contract. It brings added pressure on Phaneuf to perform this season and for the Leafs to get back to the playoffs.
2) Ryan Suter — Minnesota Wild: $11 million in 2014/15
The Minnesota Wild is a team going in the right direction and Ryan Suter has been instrumental in the franchise making a turnaround. They’ve made it to the playoffs two straight seasons and took a huge step forward in making it to the second round, where they gave the Blackhawks all they could handle.
Suter has not missed a game since signing with Minnesota back in 2012 for what was a whopping 13-year deal worth $98 million. His salary for this coming season will drop to $11 million, one million less than last year. His cap hit sits at $7.5 million.
He still has many great years ahead of him and is such a workhorse for Minnesota. He deserves to be the highest-paid player on the team. Minnesota would not have been anywhere near as successful as they’ve been had they not broken the bank for Suter. The Norris Trophy has eluded Suter but eventually voters will have to recognize just how important he is to his team.
1) Shea Weber — Nashville Predators: $14 million in 2014/15
You can thank the Philadelphia Flyers for this one. The Flyers’ offer sheet to Weber was a 14-year deal worth $110 million. The Predators, having already lost Suter in the 2012 offseason, matched it, making Weber not only the highest-paid defenseman, but the highest-paid player in the NHL last season.
He will again make $14 million this season, while carrying a cap hit of $7.8 million. His cap hit will be surpassed by Subban this season, but not his salary.
He has been the torch bearer for a struggling franchise in Nashville, as they have long had trouble hanging on to their star players. It’s still not clear whether they’ll be able to keep Weber for his entire contract term, but rest assured, if they were to ever part with him, it would take a lot to let their leader go.
Despite the Predators’ struggles on the ice, Weber still managed to score 53 points for Nashville last season, and constantly carried the workload. It’s a shame to see his talents wasted and not given many chances to shine in the postseason. He did help his country win a gold medal this past February.
The salaries on this list show you just how much teams value having an elite defenseman. The only problem is, there are several that shouldn’t be on this list.