February 25, 2011
We miss Mike Commodore(notes). The NHL's a more interesting place with him in it. But when he was pulling down $3.75 million and getting scratched by Columbus Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel, it was time to cut bait and bury his salary with the AHL's Springfield Falcons last month.
He joined former Edmonton Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray(notes) ($5.5 million), former New York Rangers defenseman Wade Redden(notes) ($6.5 million) and others in the AHL; exiled to the minors due to their high salaries, because it saves teams cap space and because no one else wanted to take them.
Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal has a great piece today on these millionaires in the minors, answering some questions about how the financial disparity between the established stars and their minor league teammates plays out:
As you might expect, the disparities in income on these teams now creates some unusual situations. In minor league hockey, there's a tradition known as "The Board," where players place small sums of money for the scorer of the game's game-winning goal to collect. Most nights, the board can be $100 or so. No longer. Redden has placed iPads on the board and Commodore has put up as much as $1,000.
When Commodore got to Springfield, he thought the team could use a particular type of weightlifting machine so he bought $2,000 worth of equipment on his own dime. He says he's grown so accustomed to paying for things that it's getting a bit "awkward" with his teammates. "The other guys want to start contributing," he said.
We see an NHL star being sent to the phantom zone of hockey, never to be seen again this season; his new teammates see an ATM machine.
After this season, players like Commodore and Redden will have decisions to make. In the case of the former New York Rangers defenseman, it might mean walking away from $16.5 million over three years for the chance to play in the NHL again. From the Daily News:
"That's one of the options," Redden said. "There's that, there's coming back here, there's going to Europe. I don't know. It's a lot of money, but at the same time, I don't want to - it's only a short time that you have a career, so you want to be at the highest level as long as you can. Obviously, the money isn't the No. 1 thing."
The "toxic contract" loophole is one that we debated at the start of the season, and we're still torn on it. Teams should be on the hook for the mistakes they make in handing out huge contracts that handcuff them later. But teams should have ways, beyond a buyout, to remedy bad contracts that were, say, handed out by a previous managerial regime.
The NHL told the Wall Street Journal that the practice isn't a problem yet. Do you believe it is?