This week, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks became the first two players to cross the $10 million annual salary threshold in the NHL, under the salary cap. They won’t be the last.
Thing is, many of their comrades worthy of an eight-figure AAV are locked up long term: Sidney Crosby (2025), Alex Ovechkin (2021), Evgeni Malkin (2022), Zach Parise (2025), Phil Kessel (2022), Jeff Carter (2022), Corey Perry (2021) and Claude Giroux (2022) among them.
But a few players are going to have a chance to break the bank in the near future. Here’s a look at the next wave of potential $10-million men.
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens (Restricted, 2014)
It won’t be on this next contract, as Subban’s likely getting another short-term deal that’ll pay him around Alex Pietrangelo money ($6.5 million). After that? There isn’t another defenseman in the league with his explosive offense, more than competent defense and bankable charisma. (What’s that? We’re in the entertainment industry? Go figure.) He might need to add another Norris to his trophy case to get his eventual price over the $10 million AAV level; then again, if he ever hit the open market …
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes (Unrestricted, 2016)
He’s already making $8.25 million against the cap, and will make $9.5 million in real dollars in 2015-16, his last season before UFA status. And while his status as an elite center might have taken a hit due to some inconsistency and the Hurricanes’ lack of success as a whole, couldn’t you see someone handing a 31-year-old Staal a 4-year, $40 million deal?
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (Unrestricted, 2016)
The King Kong of impending contracts. He’s at $7.5 million against the cap now, and is either the best or second best goal-scorer in hockey, depending on your feelings about Alex Ovechkin. He’ll eclipse Toews and Kane. He’ll eclipse $11 million annually. The question is … with whom?
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Unrestricted, 2016)
By 2016, there’s a chance that West Coast Guilt will have earned Kopitar his first major award to go along with multiple Cups and his status as an unquestioned No. 1 center. He makes $6.8 million against the cap now and will make $7.7 million in salary in his last season before this contract expires – when he’ll only be 28. The only thing keeping him from breaking the bank as an eight-figure player would be the hometown discount he could take to keep the band together. Although, Kane and Toews didn’t …
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins (Unrestricted, 2016)
Don’t laugh: Every team in the league is looking for their Lucic, so it stands to reason that someone might be insane and overpay for the real thing. He’s a hulking 30-goal scoring winger that’ll only be 28 when he goes UFA. Not probable, but not impossible if the cap continues to rise. But we’re certainly worried about the health of whoever shakes his hand to complete the deal …
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars (Unrestricted, 2017)
We’re starting to get into “what if” territory, so here goes: What if Jamie Benn continues to be a 30-goal, 80-point player for the next three seasons? The answer is that he’ll make well over $10 million per season. Luckily for Dallas, they’ve got Tyler Seguin until 2019 at $5.75 million.
Rick Nash, New York Rangers (Unrestricted, 2018)
He’s here because he’s making $8.2 million in salary in 2017-18, but unless his production and the League’s economics both take dramatic up-ticks, it’s hard to believe a 34-year-old Rick Nash breaks the bank.
James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs (Unrestricted, 2018)
Another complete and total “what if,” but if 30 goals and 31 assists in the norm for the next four years and he’s a 29-year-old UFA, we imagine the going rate for a JVR would be over $10 million by then.
John Tavares, New York Islanders (Unrestricted, 2018)
Slam-dunk for eight figures. And by then, the Islanders will likely be (a) contenders and (b) drawing big crowds in Brooklyn and (c) still owned by Charles Wang.
Looking slightly beyond that, we have Seguin, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Logan Couture and Jordan Eberle up in 2019. Start clearing the decks!