After a compelling post season that saw several gut wrenching games and the Los Angeles Kings finally bringing home the bacon, the National Hockey League followed it up with…a lockout! We’re still not sure who is to blame here, whether to pin it on the billionaire owners or on the multi-millionaire players playing the game that they love. Either way, money talks, and these ten players are the ones who get to talk the loudest this 2012-13 season:
10 Shea Weber, Nashville Predators - $14 million
At 27 years old, Shea Weber is considered the league’s best defenseman, and he got rewarded for it with the Philadelphia Flyers offering him a fat, juicy contract that small-market Nashville would not be able to match. Or would they?
Probably stung by the loss of Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild, the Predators clung on tenaciously to Weber, matching the contract offered by the Flyers to ensure that Weber stays in Tennessee. It underlines the team’s commitment to building a contender for the Stanley Cup, and they are hoping that Weber will captain the team to hockey’s holy grail.
9 Brad Richards, New York Rangers - $12 million
A lot of people will question this deal, what with Richard’s less than stellar production last season. You have to remember, though, that he is playing for the Rangers, a big-market team if ever there was one, where every move and mistake is scrutinized and analyzed to death by the Big Apple’s unforgiving media and opinionated fans. That Richards has proven leadership and ability to deliver in clutch situations will probably make his bloated salary worth it. He is the team’s first-line center, and the Rangers figure that he will stay in that position and deliver for years to come.
8 Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres - $12 million
Yes, the Sabres are paying a 22-year old defenseman owning modest numbers with an astronomical sum, making him the third highest paid player in the league this season. He played only 55 games last season because of injuries, earning 23 points along the way. So you figure, he probably is worth around $5 million, maybe $6 million tops. And you’re right, because that’s the amount Myers will actually be earning average in the long run. The Sabres merely front-ended his contract extension with a $10 million signing bonus.
7 Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild - $12 million
Parise proved himself last season with his strong and heady play on the rink while playing for the New Jersey Devils. Other teams took notice, and he was the subject of several contract offers, before eventually landing in Minnesota. The Devils would have wanted him to stay, but they are just thankful he rejected a move to bitter rivals New York Rangers.
6 Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild - $12 million
Minnesota went on a wild spree during the off-season, bringing them not only Parise but also Ryan Suter. Minnesota had always lacked a fine defenseman, and they hope that Suter can fill in the slack. The franchise has turned their buying binge to an equally wild selling spree in the form of season tickets, attracting die-hard hockey fans longing for a deep run into the playoffs. Suter may just very well make it happen.
5 Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils - $11 million
This guy is signed until 2025, and with the trade of Parise to the Wild, he will probably become the team’s primary offensive option. He had good numbers last season, but he still has to improve in order to justify his pretty hefty contract. Who knows, Kovalchuk just might love the spotlight and shine now that everything is focused on him.
4 Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning - $10 million
Statistics alone do not tell the story, though of course, teams would appreciate it if players back up their game with huge numbers on the ice. Lecavalier is a favorite among fans in Tampa Bay, however, so even if he fails to put up huge points offensively, he makes up for it with his leadership skill as captain of the Lightning. This translates positively for the team’s sale of tickets and merchandise. For a small-market team, this will go a long way.
3 Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins - $9 million
Malkin probably deserves to be on top of the list, and he might soon be there. He has an expiring contract next year, so teams will certainly offer top dollar for the league’s reigning Hart Trophy holder as its Most Valuable Player. Respect for his play extends to his peers, as they awarded him the Lester Pearson trophy for being the league’s most outstanding player as voted for by the players themselves. He also led the NHL last season in scoring, amassing an average of 1.2 points per game. He is just 26 years old, so his game is still on the way up. Expect the likes of the Rangers and Flyers to lure him, but the Penguins will probably do everything to keep their main man in their fold.
2 Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals - $9 million
Just a few years ago, the NHL and the media were hyping up the battle between Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins as a match-up of the two best players in the world. But a mere three years after getting the Art Ross trophy as the league’s scoring champion, Ovechkin’s output dropped, and he got his career-low in 2011. Even worse, the number plummeted further the following season. Still, the numbers are good enough to keep him in the top ten in scoring for both years, and he is in the top ten of our list as well.
1 Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes - $8.5 million
Staal is the face of the Carolina franchise, and the Hurricanes made sure he would remain its cornerstone by locking him up with a contract until 2017. After all, he had led the team in points during their 2006 Stanley Cup win. Staal is expected to bounce back this season after scoring only 70 points last year.