It might come as a surprise to hockey fans to know that seven goaltenders including Colorado's backup will bank more than Martin Brodeur this season.
Kimmo Timonen, not Nicklas Lidstrom, will be the highest-paid defenceman. Bryan McCabe will get more than Jarome Iginla, Joe Sakic or Joe Thornton.
And get this: Thomas Vanek's pay will be more than 10 times Sidney Crosby's base salary.
There is no simple explanation for all the disparities because there are more than 700 NHL players and the compensation they'll receive from their teams in 2007-2008, all in U.S. dollars, has in many cases been arrived at differently.
For instance, when Edmonton tendered a $50-million, seven-year offer sheet to Vanek when he became a restricted free agent, Buffalo had to either match it to retain his services or lose him to the Oilers for draft picks. The Sabres opted to match the offer, which worked out to slightly more than $7 million a year. They front-loaded the contract to pay him $10 million this season to take dollars off their books in years to come.
Also getting $10 million this season are Philadelphia's Daniel Briere, who is beginning a $52-million, eight-year contract, and the New York Rangers' Scott Gomez, who signed a $51.5-million, seven-year contract. As unrestricted free agents last July 1, they were two of the most sought-after skaters. To lure them, teams sometimes offer signing bonuses that in some instances doubled first-year pay.
Front-loading can put a team in position to move a player later on. Briere's contract, for instance, calls for only $2 million in 2014-2015.
For salary cap purposes, a player's average annual base pay for the life of his contract is used. Thus, the player with the highest average salary this season is the Rangers' Jaromir Jagr at $8.36 million.
But for actual 2007-08 compensation, following Vanek, Briere, Gomez and Jagr are Philadelphia defenceman Timonen at $8 million, Tampa Bay's Brad Richards at $7.8 million and Detroit's five-time Norris Trophy winner Lidstrom at $7.6 million. Right behind them at $7.5 million are Boston's Zdeno Chara, New Jersey's Patrick Elias and Colorado's Ryan Smyth. Toronto's McCabe is next at $7.15 million.
Chris Drury of the Rangers will earn $7.1 million. Calgary captain Iginla, Phoenix' Ed Jovanovski and Atlanta's Marian Hossa get $7 million. Colorado captain Sakic will receive $6.75 million, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk $6.7 million and San Jose's Thornton $6.67 million.
Crosby is the biggest bargain because he's in the third and final year of the entry-level provisions of the NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining agreement. The league scoring champion and MVP is getting the maximum he can right now in base salary, $850,000, although he's made around $4 million a season after reaching bonuses. And he'll be among the highest-paid players next season after agreeing to a $43.5-million, five-year extension.
A total of 84 players will be paid at least $4 million in base salary this season.
Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin will be the highest-paid goalie at $6.75 million. Next in line are Vancouver's Roberto Luongo at $6.5 million, Colorado backup Jose Theodore at $6 million, Dallas' Marty Turco at $5.7 million, Anaheim's J.S. Giguere at $5.5 million, Washington's Olaf Kolzig at $5.45 million and Florida's Tomas Vokoun at $5.3 million.
Theodore, benefiting from the long-term deal he signed with Montreal before being traded, will be making more than eight times the $700,000 salary of first-string Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj.
Brodeur, the three-time Vezina Trophy winner, will be paid $5.2 million.
Salaries sometimes decline with a player's age and waning statistics.
Trevor Linden, Vancouver's 37-year-old forward, scored 12 goals last season and seven the year before. He's playing for $600,000 this season. Jeremy Roenick, a former 50-goal shooter who netted 11 with Phoenix last winter, is prolonging his career with San Jose for $500,000.
The $850,000 Detroit will pay 45-year-old defenceman Chris Chelios is a lot less than what he used to pull down.
Two of the best bargains among NHL forwards are Anaheim's Corey Perry, earning $494,000, and Ryan Getzlaf, getting $623,200, although each is in line to add some zeros next time they sign on the dotted line.
The Red Wings are getting a good deal in Dan Cleary, a 20-goal scorer last season, at $675,000.
Colorado sophomore Paul Stastny, coming off a 78-point rookie season, will be paid $685,000. Being drafted 44th instead of in the first round two years ago has a lot to do with that.
One of the best Leafs on the ice for their season opener on Wednesday night was big defenceman Andy Wozniewski, who will be among Toronto's lowest-paid players at $500,000. John Pohl is getting a bigger role with the Leafs this season while at the $475,000 minimum.
Mark Streit scored for Montreal in its opener. His pay is $600,000.
The Red Wings are getting veteran Dallas Drake for $550,000, and impressive young Nashville defenceman Shea Weber will get $475,000. Weber was drafted 49th four years ago and, like Stastny, couldn't get top dollar at first.
The NHL's top-10 pay by position this season (all figures U.S. dollars):
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo, $10 million
Daniel Briere, Philadelphia, $10 million
Scott Gomez, N.Y. Rangers, $10 million
Jaromir Jagr, N.Y. Rangers, $8.36 million
Brad Richards, Tampa Bay, $7.8 million
Patrik Elias, New Jersey, $7.5 million
Ryan Smyth, Colorado, $7.5 million
Chris Drury, N.Y. Rangers, $7.1 million
Jarome Iginla, Calgary, $7.0 million
Marian Hossa, Atlanta, $7.0 million
Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia, $8.0 million
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, $7.6 million
Zdeno Chara, Boston, $7.5 million
Bryan McCabe, Toronto, $7.15 million
Ed Jovanovski, Phoenix, $7.0 million
Wade Redden, Ottawa, $6.5 million
Chris Pronger, Anaheim, $6.25 million
Sheldon Souray, Edmonton, $6.25 million
Rob Blake, Los Angeles, $6.0 million
Brian Rafalski, Detroit, $6.0 million
Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago, $6.75 million
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver, $6.5 million
Jose Theodore, Colorado, $6.0 million
Marty Turco, Dallas, $5.7 million
J.S. Giguere, Anaheim, $5.5 million
Olaf Kolzig, Washington, $5.45 million
Thomas Vokoun, Florida, $5.3 million
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey, $5.2 million
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose, $5.0 million
Rick DiPietro, N.Y. Islanders, $4.5 million
Manny Fernandez, Boston, $4.5 million