Monday, January 25, 2016

NHL Players Are Supremely Underpaid

One of the larger off-ice stories in the NHL this weekend was the report that Tampa Bay offered Steven Stamkos an extension with a cap hit of $8.5 million per year. To be fair, it's probably their opening offer and I would think they know they have to pay him more.

But still, $8.5 million is peanuts in professional sports. It's what Eagles tight end Zach Ertz just signed for. He's a solid contributor, sure, but Stamkos is one of the ten best hockey players on the planet.

This got me thinking about salary discrepancy between the major American sports, let's take a look at some notable cap hits:

MLB Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw, $34.6 million
Zack Greinke, $34.0
David Price, $30.0
Justin Verlander, $28.0
Felix Hernandez, $25.9
CC Sabathia, $25.0
Jon Lester, $25.0
Cole Hamels, $23.5

MLB Position Players

Miguel Cabrera, $28.0 million
Yoenis Cespedes, $27.5
Albert Pujols, $25.0
Ryan Howard, $25.0 (hang on I'm going to go pour myself a tall glass of bleach)
Prince Fielder, $24.0
Robinson Cano, $24.0
Mark Teixeira, $23.1
Joe Mauer, $23.0

NFL Quarterbacks

Drew Brees, $30.0 million
Joe Flacco, $28.6
Eli Manning, $24.2
Ben Roethlisberger, $24.0
Matt Ryan, $23.8
Matt Stafford, $22.5
Peyton Manning, $21.5
Phil Rivers, $21.0
Tony Romo, $20.8
Cam Newton, $19.5

NFL Position Players

Ndamukong Suh, $28.6 million
Calvin Johnson, $24.0
Mario Williams, $19.9
Justin Houston, $19.1
Darrelle Revis, $17.0
Julio Jones, $15.9
Larry Fitzgerald, $15.9
Calais Cambell, $15.3
Demaryius Thomas, $15.2

NBA Players

Kobe Bryant, $25.0 million
Joe Johnson, $24.9
LeBron James, $23.0
Carmelo Anthony, $22.9
Dwight Howard, $22.4
Chris Bosh, $22.2
Chris Paul, $21.5
Kevin Durant, $21.2
Derrick Rose, $20.1
Dwyane Wade, $20.0
Brook Lopez, $19.7

Every single one of the players on this list makes considerably more than any player in the NHL. That makes sense - football, baseball, and basketball are all more popular than hockey and the total revenue will reflect that popularity. Television deals, especially, create this disparity.

But let's take another angle and find some comparables for the highest-paid NHL players:

Jonathan Toews & Patrick Kane, $10.5 million each

The richest men in hockey (both in terms of contract dollars and trophy case prestige) earn Julius Peppers money. They earn slightly more than linemen Cameron Heyward, Ryan Kalil, and Nate Solder. They're also paid just a bit more than NBA role players Wilson Chandler and Monta Ellis.

I was scared to check the MLB list here because baseball players are so overpaid. For $21 million annually, you could either have Toews and Kane... or Ben Zobrist and Kendrys Morales.

Anze Kopitar's new extention, $10.0 million
Alexander Ovechkin, $9.5 million
Evgeni Malkin, $9.5 million
PK Subban, $9.0 million

The $9-10 million range is where you find four of the six highest-paid players in hockey. Stamkos might join this group to make it five out of seven, but I'd bet he surpasses the two Blackhawks.

In other sports, you're lucky if you can get a solid role player for this kind of money. Receivers like Victor Cruz, Brandon Marshall, DeSean Jackson, and Randall Cobb are all in this range. Some notable defensive footballers here are Lavonte David, Aqib Talib, Cameron Wake, and Byron Maxwell (this is a really rough post overall for Philly fans, need more bleach).

In the NBA, this range is split between old guys who are banking a bunch of money in the twilight of their careers (Zach Randolph, Anderson Varejao, Jeff Green) and guys who are in their prime (Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Rajon Rondo).

There are some nice value contracts in the MLB in this range. Primarily, that group is starting pitchers: Chris Sale ($9.2 million), Madison Bumgarner ($10.0), Jeff Samarzdija ($9.0), Edinson Volquez ($9.5).

Sidney Crosby, $8.7 million
Henrik Lundqvist, $8.5 million

Unquestionably among the NHL's elite, you could even argue that Sid and Hank are the best at their position in the league. For the price of them you could have Nick Foles, Jason Witten, Donte Whitner, or Jordy Nelson. If you look to the NBA, instead of a franchise cornerstone you get Tiago Splitter, Brandon Jennings, or Trevor Ariza.

To be fair, there are a pair of cornerstone NBA guys in this range. But they are Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki, who are as old as Topher Grace and the actress who plays the Red Woman in Game of Thrones. Dirk and KG are certainly over the hill, so I guess it makes sense that they're in the same group as Crosby and Lundqvist.

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz is also in this price range. He's also over the hill and I'm going to need to refill my mason jar of bleach again.

Daniel & Henrik Sedin, $7.0 million each

The Sedin twins' cap hit is matched exactly by linemen Logan Mankins, Michael Bennett, and Desmond Bryant; point guards Rodney Stuckey and Cory Joseph; and infielders Mike Napoli and Yunel Escobar.

It's easy to argue that the Sedins are overpaid (and even easier to argue that they're super fucking weird), but they've been among the NHL's elite for like a decade. Those other guys - not so much.

Tyler Seguin, $5.8 million

Perhaps the best value in the NHL, Seguin's a superstar in Dallas. The best comparable in the NFL is Jameis Winston's rookie contract. To reiterate: a player that had never played a second of professional football signed a contract that paid him as well as one of the most electric young hockey players in the world. What a time to play a sport other than hockey.

The NBA comparable might be even funnier. It's Kyle Korver.

RJ Umberger $4.6 million (I have to start going to a new CVS because I bought out all of the bleach from the one by my house)

At this point in the other pro sports leagues, you're looking at (1) guys you've only vaguely heard of and (2) rookie contracts. Some of my favorite football players (aka the ones I've heard of before) are Rob Ninkovich, Paul Posluszny, and Michael Oher.

The Umberger cap figure is also a great microcosm of the Philadelphia sports scene. As his contract dwindles to its bitter end and moves the Flyers closer to having cap flexibility and competing, he's earning as much as two youngsters that share his building: Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid.

Have you guys tried the new Clorox Fresh Meadow Scented Bleach? It really tastes good and makes me forget about how much it sucks to live in Philly.

Sean Couturier's extension, $4.3 million

Happiness! Young talent locked up long term! Hope! We have some!

The only players that can even hope to be in the conversation at this price range are Danny Amendola ($4.4 million), Steve Smith ($4.2), Matt Harvey ($4.3), and a big group of NBA rookie contracts.

That group of rookies - Lillard, Porzingis, Harrison Barnes, to name a few - will almost certainly be getting raises that put them among the group of NBA players at the beginning of this post. I'd guess that for the upcoming cap hits of Lillard/Porzingis/Barnes combined, you could afford to ice a full set of four forward lines of just Sean Couturier clones. I love you, Ron Hextall.

Shayne Gostisbehere, $0.9

Okay fine, this one is a rookie contract so it's kind of cheating.

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