Saturday, June 18, 2005

Salary Buyouts: The Sad Reality Red Wings Fans Face

Buyouts Among the issues a new CBA will bring up is what happens to current player contracts? Will salaries be rolled back? What happens to teams' player rights? Free agency will be widespread. And if teams are already committed to payrolls above the maximum salary cap, what can they do? One of the options is player buyouts, where teams can pay a fee that releases their legal obligations to pre-lockout contracts. This is something all Wings fans will have to live with. Currently, the Wings have 15 players signed for the 2005-2006 season, making for a whopping $49.475 million payroll with key Wings still unsigned (Datsyuk, Yzerman, Zetterberg). At the numbers getting thrown around, $36 million looks to be the ceiling cap level, in addition to luxury tax penalties. And even if league-wide salary rollbacks happen, the Wings will be above any cap mark. So in the below analysis I name current market prices, and they could very well be scaled down salaries post-CBA. Either way, a $10 million dollar salary is going to be a dinosaur, whether it's scaled down to rollback level or not. So what players will the Wings buyout? I say Derian Hatcher ($6.5 million) and Ray Whitney ($3.5 million) are the likely candidates. That would leave Lidstrom ($10 million), Lang ($5 million), and Shanahan ($3 million) as the top paid Wings. And depending how rule changes go, the Game might become more offense-oriented and it might make sense to dump Lidstrom's $10 million salary. Or the Wings could just use the logic that the money they aren't spending on goaltenders ($1.5 million for Manny) is figured in with Lidstrom's high pay. I know it's heresy for me to suggest dumping Nick Lidstrom, but unless he re-negotiates a deal I just don't see how the Wings could afford him with a cap, salaries rolled back or not. A franchise player exception to the salary cap might be the only way Nick stays around. Either that or weighted salary rollbacks on the highest paid players, something the NHLPA would never agree to. So once the Wings dump two or three contracts, what's next? First, offer Yzerman a front office position, or, if he insists on returning to the ice, a reduced player salary of $1 million, with performance bonuses up to an extra $1 million. We will not be able to afford the $4 million Yzerman was slated to make in the 2004-2005 un-un-cancelled season. Sure, the Captain demands a sort of sentimental salary that you can't pay him based on his performance but his legacy, but I don't think we'll have room for that business practice anymore. Yzerman hasn't played organized hockey since Game 5 versus the Flames, other than a charity game in Ann Arbor, and let's face it, he's 40 years old and is still suffering the effects of a serious eye injury. I'd love to see him back with the Wings but not at a super-star salary. Then, the top priorities are bringing back Datsyuk and Zetterberg. They are the future of the team. Use money freed up to give them what they want, with performance bonuses built in so their base salaries are not over $3 million each. Then go down the list and sign bargain players like Dandenault, Mowers, Williams, Woolley, and for heaven sakes don't forget AHL MVP Niklas Kronwall! Dumping Lidstrom might not hurt so much if we can get this kid on the active roster. UPDATE (Matt) 23. June): Carole Lee Sussman has some observations on buy-outs that are well worth reading here. Blues selling After all the first/second round losses to the Wings in the playoffs, and having a competitive payroll the entire time, it looks like the St Louis Blues are hurting. Bill and Nancy Laurie are selling the entire franchise (team and the Savvis Center) based on losses of $225 million since 1994. If you read down towards the end of the article, you even see Lyle Richardson (aka "Spector") make mention of always-opinionated hockey blogger Tom Benjamin. When I was at the point of gouging my eyes out before writing another CBA rant, Tom was pumping out 2-3 rants daily. I'd like to see the bullet he's been biting this past year of the lockout, because I don't see how you maintain your drive to write about NHL hockey with all they've put the fans through. I admire Tom's dedication to hockey blogging. Quote of the Day I ripped this off Sharkspage, but I think it's a great quote for Wings fans. When Brian Burke (then GM of Vancouver, now rumored to be future GM of Anaheim) was asked whether he would try and sign free agent Sergei Fedorov in 2003, he replied "We already have a Fedorov [Fedor]. That's one Fedorov too many." Ahhh, now I wonder how Sergei feels about Burkey? If it really bothers him, Sergei can take a hike. His 5 year, $40 million contract signed in 2003 ($10 million for 2003-04, $6 million in 2004-05, and $8 million for 2005-06 through 2007-08) includes a player option to become a free agent after years two and three of the deal. FYI Sergei, we don't want you in Detroit.


At 6/20/2005 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

I definitely agree on buying out Ray Whitney. While he wasn't completely useless, he almost was and I hope the Wings don't give him a chance to get it together. I think they'll keep Hatcher because they obviously had long term plans when they signed him. They had to know salary restrictions were coming and yet they still gave him the money. Maybe they can restructure his contract or something. I think his leadership abilities coupled with 100% health will make him a real asset to the team, especially if Nick Lidstrom has to leave.

I personally wouldn't mind seeing Sergei back all that much. I don't hold him fully responsible for the break up and I will always think of him as a Red Wing. It doesn't matter, however, he is not coming back, whether we want him or not.

I don't know if The Captain will be back anyway, so what he should earn may be a moot point.

At 7/16/2005 06:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speak for yourself, Brian... Sergei did a lot of great things in Detroit... Statistically there was no one better over the past 10 years even on a team of many future Hall of Famers.

Sergei returning to the Wings would only be a plus.


At 7/16/2005 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Yeah, but it's not going to happen. It was highly unlikely even before Babcock came here to coach and now there is no way I can see it happening. From what I've heard coming out of Anaheim, things did not go smoothly with Sergei and the coaches.


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