Saturday, July 31, 2004

Blues sign Chris Pronger for $10 million

In a move that sets a bad precedent in the Wings' quest to re-sign defenseman Mathieu Schneider, the St Louis Blues have signed Norris Trophy winner Chris Pronger to a one-year, $10 million deal. Pronger will have a base salary of $9.5 million with a $500,000 signing bonus. He was a finalist for the Norris last season, finishing third in voting, and having won it in 2000. The $10 million deal is, without a doubt, the biggest signing of the offseason. With many teams sitting on their hands and conducting fiscal responsibility, in fear of the lockout and a possible salary cap, it is surprising to see such a blockbuster deal. Mathieu Schneider, 35, made $3.75 million last season, and is looking for a significant pay raise after finishing seventh in Norris voting. He notched 14 goals and 32 assists in 78 games, but was snubbed by the Western Conference All Star Team. Many have linked Schneider's great season to linemate and three-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, who has made linemates look good in the past (Larry Murphy, to name one). Lidstrom finished sixth in Norris voting this past season. The Wings are not willing to offer Schneider more than $4 million a season, which could be reason for the all-time leading Jewish scorer in NHL history to walk. The Pronger signing also sets a bad precedent for the New Jersey Devils, who have a self-imposed salary ceiling of around $7 million (Martin Brodeur making $6,891,103.13 and Scott Stevens making $6,916,747.25). But it looks like that ceiling is crumbling. New Jersey General Manager Lou Lamoriello has said that he will pay whatever it takes to keep the 2004 Norris Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer in the Devils' sweater. Niedermayer earned $4 million last season, and previous speculation had that salary at least doubling. Now it's almost certain that Niedermayer will seek a $10 million contract that mirrors those of Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom. Another player of similar stature is the Avs' Rob Blake, who will make $8,349,375 next season.


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