Part of the fun of big international tournaments is the excitement of seeing the real best-on-best action of national/oddly-amalgamated teams fighting for supremacy outside of the traditional constraints of stupid things like the salary cap. While some teams were limited for other reasons (North American players too young to go to their national clubs or European players too Danish to play for Finland), the general no-limits atmosphere behind building these clubs lets skill rule.
Of course, since we do have a salary cap and since 95% of the players in this tourney will be playing in the NHL next season, it's also fun to look at how these teams were built from a salary standpoint. With that in mind, I've put together the list of all eight teams and ranked them by their cap hits.
Before we get there though, I've got a few notes on some numbers which have been fudged:
- If a player has a contract for next season, the AAV of that deal is used, otherwise the AAV of the contract which just expired is substituted.
- For all players on ELCs, the total cap hit is the combination of regular salary (capped at $925K) plus all bonuses, whether earned or not.
- Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have been given max-ELC deals because that's what #1 and #2 overall picks get. This matches the deals for McDavid and Eichel. If they somehow sign for less than that this summer, you can scrape my jaw off the floor.
- KHL salaries are incredibly difficult to find for non-superstar players, so I either used what info I could find or estimated a $925K AAV for them. Some of the salary info is taken from a source almost three years old, so take it with a grain of salt.
- Until a replacement is named, Slava Voynov is factored into the Russian squad.
- Thanks very much to Capfriendly and General Fanager for all NHL contract information.
Here we go
#8 - Team Czech Republic
Total AAV - $65,113,333
Biggest Earner - Jakub Voracek ($8.25M)
Lowest-Paid - Michal Jordan ($625,000)
This is the biggest upset of the tournament to-date, as I thought for certain Team "Almost-Entirely Made up of ELCs" North America would be the lowest, but unless Vladimir Sobotka is earning more than anybody thinks in the KHL, the Czechs currently run the all-value team, at least until Jordan, Jaskin and Mrazek get their next deals in place.
#7 - Team North America
Total AAV - $65,610,833
Biggest Earner - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins & Brandon Saad ($6M)
Lowest-Paid - Matt Murray ($902,500)
Only four players on this entire team make more than four million thanks to the cap system by where you're not even allowed to do so before you're 21 and then have to be incredibly good to even get that good a deal before you're 25. I think this is probably why I'm rooting for Team Doesn't Really Understand Why Ending a Phone Call is Called "Hanging Up" in this tournament.
#6 - Team Finland
Total AAV - $69,169,166
Biggest Earner - Tuukka Rask & Pekka Rinne ($7M)
Lowest-Paid - Jyrki Jokipakka ($900,000)
With three KHLers on this squad, this amount could be off by a few million dollars, but it's the fact that Finland gets low-cost deals from being able to take youngsters like Donskoi, Jokipakka, and Teravainen. Finland being ruled in earnings by goalies should be no surprise in North America, as the low-cost powerhouse team has always been known for netminding.
#5 - Team Europe
Total AAV - $88,104,167
Biggest Earner - Anze Kopitar ($10M)
Lowest-Paid - Pierre-Édouard Bellemare ($712,500)
Team Not-From-Those-Other-European-Countries has a good mix of talent from Slovakia, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, and [assorted], but not much in terms of AAV. With Anze Kopitar taking up more than 11% of their total pay, Team Europe is probably going to be lowest in terms of goalie pay for non-ELC players after Mrazek signs his extension.
Though for what it's worth, Christian Ehrhoff's $1.5M AAV doesn't include the buyout he's being paid for five more years.
#4 - Team Russia
Total AAV - $93,119,254
Biggest Earner - Alex Ovechkin ($9,538,462)
Lowest-Paid - Alexey Marchenko ($791,667)
With four KHLers and one replacement D-man to name, Team Russia could find themselves moving in this ranking, but they're still $5M above their nearest contender and $16M below the next rung. Team Russia is getting good value from ELCs with Forwards, Goalies, and D-men. Whether they'll be more competitive than teams below them on the earnings chart? That's another question.
#3 - Team Sweden
Total AAV - $109,073,928
Biggest Earner - Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5M)
Lowest-Paid - Filip Forsberg ($1,460,833)
The first of our countries who don't have a single person with an AAV below $1M, Team Sweden is full of well-paid players who are experienced enough to be so well-paid. Only Forsberg (who is now an RFA) and Jacob Markstrom are still on the ELC pay scale.
Sweden leaving a few younger players off their roster is earning a few questions about how the team is built and it's definitely a big reason they're so high on this list.
#2 - Team USA
Total AAV - $134,000,730
Biggest Earner - Patrick Kane ($10.5M)
Lowest-Paid - John Carlson ($3,966,666)
Boy howdy, you'd figure the team with the second-highest payroll in the whole tournament wouldn't look like the fourth or fifth-best team, but here we are. Just like the other mega-spenders in North America, Team USA was limited by their inability to have any players on entry-level contracts, so the lowest cap hit you get is for the relatively young 26-year old Caps Blueliner.
|James van Riemsdyk||$4,250,000|
#1 - Team Canada
Total AAV - $148,628,330
Biggest Earner - Jonathan Toews ($10.5M)
Lowest-Paid - Jake Muzzin ($4M)
Even when the salary cap goes up next season, Team Canada will have a total AAV more than doubling that amount. After Muzzin, there's Marc-Eddie Vlasic and Brad Marchand on the roster as the only players who pull in less than $5M per year. Again, they're limited because of the no-ELC nature of the tourney, but Canada spends big-time and you still might be able to say a decent chunk of their roster is made up of guys who are underpaid.
- - -
So there we have it, the salaries for all eight World Cup of Hockey teams. We'll be updating this list later in the summer after some new contracts are signed, but I don't think there's going to be a lot of movement. Just three of the teams would be cap compliant in today's NHL, but that's why they don't put a cap on international tourneys.
BONUS - TEAM SNUB
Total AAV - $133,694,166
Biggest Earner - Ilya Kovalchuk ($15M)
Lowest-Paid - Andre Burakovsky ($894,167)
If you'll remember, this team is made up of the Snubs that I think should get put together and be given a chance to compete. If you're looking for the non-KHL highest salary, you've got PK Subban's $9M AAV. Team Snub would slot in just under Team USA and be the third highest-paid group in the entire tournament.
All the more reason I'd like to see them given a chance.