Thursday, February 24, 2011

Buried Alive in the Minors

NHL GM's have found a nice little loop-hole in the new collective bargaining agreement. If you mess up on a contract and need some cap relief, just take an Advil for your headache and send that player to the minors - and he is off your cap hit.

Sheldon Souray was in the news this week when he was placed on re-entry waivers by the Oilers. This meant that any team in the league could claim him and would only have to pay half his salary, while the Oilers would pick up the other half. Sounds like a steal for any team looking for a former top defenceman, but nobody took a chance on him.

Souray signed with the Oilers in the summer of 2007 for a massive five-year, $27-million contract. He was expected to be their power-play quarterback and a leader in the dressing room. Since then he has only really had one solid year and missed plenty of time with injuries. Last April, after missing another 45 games with a concussion and later a hand injury, Souray requested a trade. The problem is, he did it through the media - a cardinal sin that now has him banished to the minor leagues. At least he
comes home to a Baywatch lifeguard.

Wade Redden is another high priced defenceman playing in the AHL. Redden, is now 33 years old playing for the Connecticut Whale - the New York Rangers farm team. In the summer of 2008, the Ottawa Senators, a team he had played with for 11 years decided not to resign him. He took the best contract available and signed a huge, six-year, $39 million contract with the New York Rangers. How do you not sign that?

Redden has been a true professional since his demotion and has put up some pretty solid numbers in the AHL. But there is still a very good chance he will be playing in the minors for the remaining 3 years of that contract. Redden has said he still wants to play at the highest level and may walk away from the contract to get back to where his dream is.

For Toronto Maples Leafs fans you will remember the
Jeff Finger signing a few years ago. Most of us had never heard of him and after only one full season in the NHL the Leafs took a big gamble on him and signed him as a free agent to a 4 year deal that pays him $3.5M a year. He is currently in the 3rd year of that deal and playing for the Toronto Marlies. Leaf fans needed a hand, but they only got the Finger.

Ales Kotalik is another player that is making millions and riding the AHL buses around. He signed a 3 year, $9 million contract during the free agent period in the summer of 2009. It's not surprising he was given that contact by the over spending New York Rangers, but it is even more surprising that they were able to trade him to the Calgary Flames. Kotalik played 20 games this year with the Flames and scored 3 goals before being sent down to the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL. Kotalik has done nothing call-up worthy in the minors, and was recently placed on re-entry waivers like Souray.

Cristobal Huet has it best. After signing a 4 year deal with the Blackhawks that would see him receive $5.625 million a season, he was battling other goalies for playing time. After beating out Khabibulin as starter, he could not fend off Antti Niemi in 2009-2010 and lost the starting position for the playoffs. From there, Niemi won the Hawks a Cup, and Huet was a high priced backup. With Marty Turco signed and talks with Niemi, the Blackhawks numbed their salary cap headache by neutralizing Huet's 5.625 a season by loaning him to HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National League. At least he's happy being close to home.

Here are your Minor League Millionaires

Wade Redden $6.5M

Cristobal Huet $5.625M

Sheldon Souray $5.4M

Jeff Finger $3.5M

Ales Kotalik $3M
Will these players fade away into obscurity like Alex Mogilny? After signing a 2 year deal worth $7 million, Mogilny was sent down to the Albany River Rats to make salary cap room for Patrik Elias. He played 19 games for the River Rats, and is now gone. Anyone know where he is? This may be the last photo of him taken.

With Nikolai Zherdev and Niklas Hagman possibly heading towards this minors - who do you think will be the next player on a big contract sent to the minors?


  1. Good post. Fabian Brunnstrom & Matt Lashoff also fall into this category because of their one-way contract.

    Many people believe Toronto can do this flippantly because of it's vast financial resources. However, these players still occupy a spot on the 50 Active Player roster. In fact, Jeff Finger being one of the 49 players on the 50 Active Player roster prevented Toronto from claiming Michael Grabner when he was available on waivers.

    The moral of the story is always be careful with contracts.

  2. It's sad that these players can be hidden away in the AHL or overseas for GM's bad signings... I hope to see Souray and Redden back in the NHL one day

  3. I didn't think the Leafs had a chance at Grabner. Wow
    Even more reasons to hate the Finger signing

  4. If the Senators pass on either Svatos or Zherdev, I'll be seriously confused. The team had six AHLers in the game against Florida last night. The panthers are one thing, a game against the Bruins will be a different world!

    Forwards on cheap contracts are desperately needed as fillers in Ottawa and Philadelphia and Nashville just threw them two life supports.

  5. I think the Sens grabbed Svatos.

  6. I wonder if Hagman will go on re-entry waivers and the Leafs can grab him at half price:)

  7. There is noway Redden gets out of that contract. He can just take it easy and keep collecting $6.5M a year

  8. leafs should have gone after souray, him and phaneuf ripping clappers off the glass!

  9. don't forget Mike Commodore!

  10. read something today that redden and commodore put up big money for game winning goals... and redden even puts up Ipads haha

  11. Leafschatter:

    Brunnstrom & Lashoff DO NOT fall into this category because they weren't put in the AHL for salary cap reasons. They're both making under a million. And yes, we did miss out on Grabner, but who's to say that he would be putting up the same numbers with the Leafs?


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