September 27, 2012

Cash still flowing in for NHLers thanks to bonuses, escrow

By Jesse Connolly

If you were under the impression that the lockout meant owners and the league didn’t owe players a single cent, you had it all wrong. 

USA Today’s Kevin Allen put together a fantastic piece on Tuesday, explaining that 15 of the NHL’s 50 highest-paid players will still be raking in cash – whether or not they find employment elsewhere during the work stoppage – thanks to bonuses and injuries.

Even if the NHL season is lost, Patrice Bergeron stands to earn $1.5 million via his signing bonus and escrow. (Getty Images)

Nashville’s Shea Weber takes the cake, as he’ll receive $13 million in bonus money this season, while sacrificing a mere $1 million in salary. The Norris Trophy finalist signed an offer sheet with the Flyers during the offseason which the Predators decided to match, putting Nashville on the hook for that hefty sum in the first year of the pact.

Rangers winger Marian Gaborik, who’s currently recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent this summer, will continue to be paid his $7.5 million – proportionally over the course of 13 paychecks this season – until deemed healthy by the Blueshirts.

The same goes for the Bruins’ Marc Savard, who hasn’t played in a game since midway through the 2010-11 campaign due to post-concussion syndrome. Savard inked a seven-year, $28 million deal in late 2009. The 2012-13 season is the third year of the contract and sees the 35-year-old center earn a salary of $6.5 million.

But the continued income isn’t limited to those scheduled to receive bonuses or void of a clean bill of health. As Allen points out, each and every NHL player will receive most, if not all, of the escrow money that was extracted from their salaries during the 2011-12 campaign.

Everyone throughout the league had 8.5 percent withheld from their income last year in the event that they surpassed the 57 percent of revenue players were allowed to account for. Allen said it's expected that all of that money is likely to be returned, which could come when players miss their first scheduled paycheck at some point in October.

Here's how it all shakes out for a few Bruins:

Patrice Bergeron had a salary of $5.9 million in 2011-12. That means he’ll be receiving a little more than $500,000 in escrow. He also has a signing bonus of $1.0 million for 2012-13, bringing his total to $1.5 million.

Zdeno Chara had the highest single-season salary of his NHL career in 2011-12: $8.5 million. He’ll receive approximately $722,500 in escrow.

On the other end of the scale is Shawn Thornton, who made $800,000 in 2011-12. The veteran winger will get back roughly $68,000 in escrow. Thornton is slated to make $1.1 million this season, meaning he’ll be missing out on over $84,000 on each of his 13 paychecks.

As Allen points out, each NHL player will be losing out on a hair under $77,000 per paycheck for every million dollars in salary they command. But thanks to bonuses, injury woes and escrow, some amount of cash – whether large or small – will continue to flow in for the temporarily unemployed stars.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.