Playing for an original six team is like wearing a badge of honor as we all hear from our elders how the original six era was the best time for hockey. Playing for one of these teams can help build a players notoriety and catapult their career’s due to the added media coverage. However, it also comes with more scrutiny, as the player is constantly under the magnifying glass and any slip-up is amplified, particularly in Montreal and Toronto as they are considered the mecca’s of hockey. This added scrutiny does not only come from the media and fans, but also their fellow players. There’s a reason why Phil Kessel was voted “Easiest Player to Intimidate” in a 2012 player’s poll. In the same poll, Dion Phaneuf was also voted the most overrated player in the league. While, P.K. Subban also gets ripped by his fellow players while other NHL player pull the same antics and seem to fly under the radar.
It can obviously be quite the burden for a player and it certainly comes with its ups and downs, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Take Shane Doan for example, he has had a fantastic career but kind of gets lost in the shuffle when people are discussing great players of the past decade. Had he had more coverage for his games, more people would have got to see what a great player he was. Perhaps if he had played for an original six franchise, people would probably hold him in higher regard. Lets have a look at the top 1o earning players currently playing for original six teams.
T9. Patrick Kane, $6,300,000
Patrick Kane’s numbers slowly started to decline a few seasons ago after the Blackhawks’ first cup win in 2010. There were rumors circulating about his personal life and that his work ethic was not up to par. Kane responded by having a killer 2012-2013 season and adding another cup to his resume, which is not a bad way to shut up your detractors. He is currently earning $6,300,000 but will be in line for a raise when his contract is up in 2015. After his last two very productive seasons, and two Stanley Cups to his name at only 25 years old, he will definitely have negotiating power. Stan Bowman is going to have to open his wallet, but not only for Kane, but for the next entry on this list.
T9. Jonathan Toews, $6,300,000
Kane’s partner in crime, Jonathan Toews, aka Captain Serious, makes the exact same salary as his fellow superstar. These two are a dynamic duo so it’s only fitting that they earn the exact same money and that their contracts expire at the same time. The Hawks are going to be hard-pressed to pay both of these elite stars and may ultimately have to make some cut-backs on other aspects of their roster. The time seems to be now for them to make another cup run while they still have all the right pieces in place. Toews is not only counted on for point-production but also for leadership, as he is one of the more respected captains in the league.
T7. Dion Phaneuf, $6,500,000
Watching a Dion Phaneuf interview is like watching paint dry. It’s painful to watch him stumble and bumble through his thoughts. He also has a tendency to get really tough when the linesmen are within a 5 foot radius. As I’m sure you could tell, I’m not the biggest Phaneuf fan. Though credit has to be given where it’s due, he’s a steady, dependable defenseman for the Leafs and has done a commendable job as their captain. It’s not easy wearing “the C” in a hockey hotbed like Toronto, and for the most part he’s managed to stay out of trouble. He does bring a lot to the table, though the price might be a little high.
T7. Carey Price, $6,500,000
Carey Price is tied with Dion Phaneuf at $6,500,000. He leads the league with 48 games played and sports a fantastic .925 save percentage. Price has had a lot of work to do this season and his schedule isn’t about to get any lighter, as he’s heading to Sochi with the Canadian national team. As if shouldering the load for the most storied franchise isn’t enough pressure, the entire country’s hopes may rest on him for the next two weeks. His new goalie coach, Stephane Waite, deserves a lot of credit as Price has been way more consistent this season. Many believe that Price and Tuukka Rask are the best goaltenders in the NHL right now and they may just face off against each other on February 16th when Canada meets Finland.
6. Brad Richards, $6,666,667
Brad Richards has received a lot of criticism for his play in New York. As we’ve seen many times in the past, when a player hits the open market, it becomes a bidding war for their services and teams will often overpay. The same can be said for his teammate Rick Nash, and most recently David Clarkson in Toronto. Richards has not been a total bust though, although his numbers aren’t what they used to be, he has still been a consistent contributor for the Rangers with 42 points in 59 games.
5. Pavel Datsyuk, $6,700,000
Pavel Datsyuk is one of the few players in the NHL that is spoken about in a high regard at every turn. He is simply a magician on the ice and fans (and the opposition sometimes) marvel in awe at his craftiness. He also handles himself like a gentleman, on and off the ice, which was recognized by being the most recent Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner. He probably could earn more money elsewhere but GM Ken Holland has a knack for keeping the core of his team together and getting his players to take a bit of a home-town discount.
4. Henrik Lundqvist, $6,875,000
His nickname is “The King” for a reason, as Henrik Lundqvist has been one of the most consistent goaltenders in the last five seasons, even picking up a Vezina Trophy (2011-2012) in the process. His calm demeanor is infectious in the dressing-room as he is loved by his teammates. To put the icing on the cake, he’s known to be quite stylish as GQ included him in their “The Top 20 Stylish Athletes of 2013.” Unfortunately, his sharp suits have not really helped his game as “The King” is having somewhat of an off season. While his numbers aren’t that bad, he has struggled with consistency and has received quite the challenge from backup goalie Cam Talbot. The rookies play has been so solid that Alain Vigneault has had no choice but to give him more playing time.
3. Zdeno Chara, $6,916,667
The hulking 6’9 defenseman clocks in at number 3 who at 36 years old, and still playing almost 30 minutes per game, is an absolute horse on the back-end. He has not shown any signs of slowing down as he has lead his Bruins to two Stanley Cup finals in three seasons and may be poised to make another run with the players they have in place. If you’re not a fan of the Bruins, odds are you would love to someone “serve him his lunch”, as Chara can be a vicious player to play against. But other than a few measly take-downs, nobody has really done much in the way of damage on Chara.
2. Tuukka Rask, $7,000,000
Many people think $7 million is a bit steep for Tuukka Rask, but it’s hard to argue with his immaculate numbers. It’s very rare to see Rask have an “off” game. He is one of the most consistent goaltenders in the league and is having another killer season with 25 wins and a .928 save percentage. The only hole in his game was the fact that he would display the odd temper tantrum but he has since toned that down considerably. The Bruins will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time, and more immediately speaking, Finland can surprise a few teams in Sochi with Rask between the pipes.
1. Rick Nash, $7,800,000
It’s hard to justify having Rick Nash at number one on this list. His point per game production has never been in the elite category of the league. The counter-argument is that he isn’t a passer and more of a pure goal scorer. To that point, it can be said that Nash has never scored 50 and only notched 40 once in his career. Clearly, people still love Nash, as he is the highest paid player on an original six team and Steve Yzerman has gone on record saying that his spot on Team Canada was never in jeopardy even though he only has 27 points on the season.