With the cap set for $69 million this season, it is inevitable that the salary numbers will continue to increase, and break previous records owned by teams in the past, for the largest payrolls in history. The inevitability stands within the new contracts that we are beginning to see emerge, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are prime examples of this change, the two superstars will make a combined $168 million over the next 8 years, a cap hit of $10.5 million per season, each. This will pave the way for some huge contract numbers in the future, and essentially eliminate one of the purposes that the cap was put into place for - eliminating ridiculous contract numbers. The future will undoubtedly see payrolls pass previous marks set.
This is what we are going to take a look at today - some great teams who did not face any cap constraints and were able to build monstrous teams, with a huge pay roll to go a long with it. The team payrolls between number 10 and number 1, range between $68,710,000 all the way up to $77,856,109. Let us now begin with the top 10 highest payrolls in NHL history, starting with the 2002-2003 St.Louis Blues.
10 St. Louis Blues, 2002-2003: Payroll: $68,710,000
The Blues invested quite a bit in their 2002-2003 team, which currently goes down in history as the Blues’ most expensive team of all time. The Blues finished an impressive second overall with 99 points, after qualifying for the playoffs for an impressive 24th year in a row. Although, the Blues were quickly eliminated in the first round by the underdog Vancouver Canucks in seven games. The four major players who made the most salary on the team for the season were:
1) Keith Tkachuk, $11 million 2) Chris Pronger, 9.5 million 3) Dough Weight, 8.5 million 4) Al MacInnis, 7.5 million
9 New York Rangers, 2012-2013: $68,711,221
Just two seasons ago, the Rangers learned that, if you’re going to take on some big contracts, you’re going to pay some serious dollars for it. The Rangers have been known in the past to take on, as well give out, big contracts, and that season was a justification of these actions. The Rangers had huge money tied up on a couple of players for long term. Shortly after finally buying out Wade Redden’s 6 year, $39 million dollar deal, the Rangers picked up some big contracts, one in which they later bought, and another they made a trade to give away. Their 3 biggest contracts consisted of:
1) Brad Richards, 9 years, $60 million (bought out) 2) Marian Gaborik, 5 years, $37 million (traded) 3)Rick Nash, 8 years, $62.4 million
After this big investment fell short to the Bruins in the conference semi’s, ex Ranger coach, John Tortorella was relieved of his duties as the team's head coach.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins, 2013-2014: $69,561,808
Just under the cap last season, the Penguins invested heavily on making another Stanley cup run, but unfortunately for the team, this investment ended in the second round after blowing a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers. The Penguins felt this was their year to make it back into the finals and compete for the cup, but this was not the case. The Pens went through a big overhaul after failing to deliver last season and fired Stanley cup winning coach, Dan Bylsma, as well as firing long time GM, Ray Shero. The Pens replaced Bylsma with veteran coach Mike Johnston, and picked up Jim Rutherford as the team's new GM. Additionally, the Pen’s quickly shed some salary, trading away James Neal, while picking up Patric Hornqvist and Christian Ehrhoff, at extremely reasonable price tags.
7 Dallas Stars, 2002-2003: $69,570,169
The 2002-2003 season saw the Dallas Stars invest heavily on their team to make a run at the cup. The Stars succeeded in the Regular season, topping the Red Wings by one point and finishing first in the Western Conference. Despite massive upsets in the first round, the Stars survived but were later eliminated in the second round on behalf of the underdog Mighty Ducks. The Stars invested some big money on:
1) Bill Guerin, $8.86 million 2) Pierre Turgeon, $6 million 3) Mike Modano, $8.5 million 4) Sergei Zubov, $5 million
6 Minnesota Wild, 2012-2013: $70,120,744
The 2012-2013 season saw the Minnesota Wild invest heavily into their franchise, by signing both blockbuster free agents Zach Parise and defensemen Ryan Suter. The two players were the hottest free agents on the market, and offers for the two were said to be made by at least 20 different teams. Finally, the two free agents agreed on a deal, sending them both to Minnesota (the two got identical deals worth $98 million for 13 years). The additions did end up helping the franchise make the playoffs, for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. This massive inflation, mixed with an abundance of youth on its way, has put the team in the position to make some serious noise in years to come.
5 Vancouver Canucks, 2012- 2013: $70,456,167
The Canucks kept their core intact, in hopes for another cup run. After winning yet another division title, the Canucks were later swept in the first round by the San Jose Sharks. This created a massive overhaul and a downwards spiral for the team, which started with the dismissal of former coach Alain Vigneault. After having nearly $10 million tied up in goaltenders, the Canucks shocked the hockey world and traded away their former number prospect goalie, Corey Schneider. Luongo was also traded to Florida later that year, ending the massive goalie controversy in Vancouver. The team's 2012-2013 record-breaking payroll was an indication of this team’s last attempt to succeed with its core. It is now time for new beginnings in Vancouver, the team went from the 2nd highest payroll in 2012-2013, to this season’s 14th highest payroll in only a matter of 2 seasons.
4 Philadelphia Flyers, 2012-2013: $ 72,549,431
The 2012-2013 shortened season was a bit of a disaster for the Flyers. Despite having the league's largest payroll, the team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season. Big time contracts were not living up to expectations in Philly, notably Daniel Briere, making the most on the team at a cool $6.5 million a season, only putting 6 goals in 34 games, while Simon Gagne failed to stay healthy and scored 5 goals in 27 games. After signing a $51 million dollar deal, Ilya Bryzgalov was also a major bust for the Flyers and was later bough out of his deal. Massive dollars were tied up on players who simply did not perform that season for the Flyers.
3 New York Rangers, 2002-2003: $76,477,085
Despite having the 3rd largest payroll in NHL history, the Rangers were once again, left out in the dark and did not make the playoffs for the 6th year in a row, finishing in 9th. The Rangers had some big bucks on players who massively underachieved in the regular season. These players consisted of:
2 New York Rangers, 2003-2004: $76,488,716
Despite yet another addition on the team in superstar winger Jaromir Jagr, the team with the highest payroll in the entire league once again, failed to make the playoffs. GM Glen Sather had finally seen enough and reconstructed the entire team. Names like Kovalev, Rucinsky, Barnaby, Nedved and long time defensemen, Brain Leetch were all traded. Eric Lindros was also let go to free agency in the off season, and long time leader Mark Messier announced his retirement. The rebuild worked; after the lockout, the season resumed in 2005-2006, where the Rangers got back into the post season.
1 Detroit Red Wings, 2003-2004: $77,856,109
A season after winning the cup, the Wings were stunned in the first round, after being swept by the 8th seed underdog, Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Wings invested heavily on their team and hoped to have a rebound season. The Wings ended the regular season in fine form, winning the Presidents’ Trophy for most points on the season. Although, once again, fell short, this time in the second round to the Calgary Flames. This was the second to last season for the Wings, that the old guard was together. After the 2005-2006 season, the Wings long time Hall of Fame captain, Steve Yzerman called it quits, and long time beloved Red Wing Brendan Shanahan, moved on to New York as a member of the Rangers. This paved the way for the beginning of the new era in Detroit, which saw the emergence of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg take the league by storm and maintain the Red Wings status, as one of the best teams in the league for many years later.