by PuckStopsHere on 06/26/09 at 03:36 AM ET
I am going to interrupt the Hall of Fame profiles to discuss a trend that is not a good one for the NHL. Increasingly, some of the marquis names in the NHL are choosing to play in Europe at the tail end of their careers. A big reason for this is the salary cap. They find that they can get paid more to play in Europe than in the NHL as teams would rather fill their roster with young players who might out-perform their contracts instead of playing some of the future Hall of Fame players in the league.
The most recent example is Sergei Fedorov signing in Russia with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He joins Jaromir Jagr in the KHL - although many rumors have Jagr returning to the NHL this summer. Reportedly, Fedorov will make around $3.8 million US for two seasons. He will be a teammate of his brother Fedor.
Sergei Fedorov is clearly an NHL capable player. Fedorov draws fans to see him more than most equivalent level players because he has been such a successful player. The NHL should be able to find a structure that makes room for its aging stars that are still NHL talents and still want to play.
It is not only the KHL that has poached such players. Ed Belfour played his final season in Sweden.
It is inevitable that a salary cap will create a situation where some players can get paid more than the NHL would afford them by playing elsewhere. The most significant group of these players is the NHL’s aging future Hall of Famers. To a rival league a Fedorov or a Jagr or a Belfour is a huge draw. He will be the most famous player in the league and can be paid as such. To an NHL team with salary cap issues, it may only pay to bring back an aging star if he accepts a significant pay cut. It is easy to see why the European option looks attractive given what the NHL offers at that point.
Many fans appreciate seeing future Hall of Fame players in the twilight of their careers. They can look at them and remember the player’s successes and tell stories to younger fans of how good he was. This is being lost in the NHL when these older players depart to other leagues. It is one example where the cost cutting of the salary cap hurts the league as a whole.
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