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Is The NHL System Working?

from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,

Last season, the Avalanche’s Matt Duchene — the No. 3 choice in the 2009 draft — made $900,000 in salary and his cap hit, because of potential bonuses, was $3.4 million. It’s a bit tricky because the NHL draft age is 18 (oversimplifying), and only the very elite step right into the NHL rather than remaining in major junior hockey or heading to college for a year or four.

That kind of “reasonable” deal makes the NFL jealous, not so much because of the dollar figure (everyone knows the NFL figures would be multiplied many-fold), but the concept of making rookies, even the most accomplished and highly prized, wait their turns.

There isn’t a lot of cross-ownership in the NBA and NHL, but I’m surprised that Stan Kroenke and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, for example, haven’t more forcefully said in NBA meetings: “You know, the hockey system is working. It’s relatively simple, it has held up, and it makes sense for everybody.” Now Kroenke can go into NFL meetings and say the same things.

The horses are out of the barns in some ways. The football and basketball players associations aren’t going to just say: “Sure!”

But the NHL has a system that’s working.


Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: nba, nfl


Leafsfan 4life's avatar

I think overall the NHL has the best policies in regard to drafting. The amount of money that first round draft picks make in the NFL is sickening. The first rounders in the NFL usually come from at least one or two years of playing college ball. The only reason why every player goes to a college for one or two years is because it is such a hard sport. Making the jump from High School football to professional football would be suicide. Thats just unthinkable for any 18 year old to go straight to the pros. Im not aware of any NFL policies that prohibit a high school or 18 year old kid from getting drafted.

The NHL first rounders make a fair amount of money. Comparing them to the NFL is unfair. Everyone knows the NFL draftees make way too much money especially because they have never played a second in the pros. A large reason the NFL will most likely have a lockout next year is to hault these large contracts for first rounders. So comparing NFL draftees to NHL draftees is not the best comparison. After the NFL lockout next year, those extremely big contracts for first rounders will go down dramatically.

I agree with the NHL in letting players go straight from high school to the pros. Again comparing the NHL to the NBA is another bad comparison. The NBA now makes players play one year of college before entering the draft. The NBA had to do that because so many kids where trying to make that leap. That only happens in the NHL when a player really has the talent to do so. As far as I know, the NHL doesnt really have alot of players attempting to play pro at the age of 18.

Posted by Leafsfan 4life from North America on 08/29/10 at 05:13 PM ET

Baroque's avatar

Im not aware of any NFL policies that prohibit a high school or 18 year old kid from getting drafted.

Maurice Clarett?

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 08/29/10 at 10:19 PM ET


Im not aware of any NFL policies that prohibit a high school or 18 year old kid from getting drafted.

Maurice Clarett?

Posted by Baroque from Michigan on 08/29/10 at 09:19 PM ET

I believe it’s 3 years out of high school required for all players.  Not necessarily 3 years of College Football, but there isn’t really any better options.

Posted by CoolJ90 on 08/30/10 at 12:40 AM ET


Agreed. There’s something to be said for a league that demands its youngsters to step up and prove that they deserve to be there before getting paid more than some country’s GDPs.

I’m not blaming the NFL draft picks, as they’re merely working to get the most they can, but it’s just a refreshing ruleset that makes the NHL that much more enjoyable.

Posted by dez on 08/30/10 at 11:07 AM ET


To play devil’s advocate, I think that the NFL rookie salary is is better compared against an NHL player’s first post entry-level contract. The NFL system is set up so that college football is the equivalent of playing a few seasons at the AHL level. You have a better understanding of what a player can do and he is expected to perform at a higher level than most NHL rookies. The money is still sick, but you get paid what the market is willing and the NFL owners didn’t become billionaires by overpaying anyone.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/30/10 at 11:15 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/30/10 at 10:15 AM ET

I partially agree with you here with the caveat that more NHL rookies get paid insane contract amounts compared to NHL youngsters getting their first post entry-level contract (as compared to their own sport and not each other, since NFL contracts are so much bigger than NHL paydays). 

The reason the NHL system works is that it truly does force a guy to show he has the right potential before making his payday.  While college ball might be a good analog to the AHL in terms of difference between speed and skill from one level to the next, most NHLers have their rookie seasons while they’re still on their entry-level low-paying deal.  The biggest question mark for both young NHLers and football players is whether they’ll be able to successfully make the jump from the lower level to the speed of the higher level.  The NHL system helps in many ways to alleviate some of the risks for when a player won’t pan out.  Of course, it’s not good for the player in either situation when he doesn’t pan out like people think he will, but the NHLer still has the advantage in that he’s still likely to be in the league as at least a plugger five years down the line.  The NFL chews players up and spits them out; second chances are few and far between for them.  That’s part of what leads to the supposed greed and attitude problems of football players.

I will give the NHL credit in that they have put together the basics for a very good system.  The system still needs tweaks to improve it, but not a complete overhaul like we’re likely to see in basketball and football in the coming years.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/30/10 at 12:19 PM ET


My biggest concern with the NHL system is that they are drafting 18 year olds . So it is a tremendous crap shoot on how any player selected beyond the top 3 will turn out, so in that regards the contracts have to be more reasonable since the upside\downside is almost completely unpredictable. There just happens to be a greater risk in the NHL model to manage because there is much less to work with in terms of body of evidence.

It is particularly hard to predict what a child is capabale of doing competing against men.  NHLers don’t get chewed up and spit out as fast because they have quite a few more years left in the veal before they get tough. It also helps that contracts are guaranteed so a team is forced to pay the player for the duration of the entry level deal and forces a longer evaluation period. If the NFL had guaranteed rookie contracts then the contract value should be lowered since the risk is more evenly shared between owner and player. I still think that part of what drives the higher NFL rookies salaries is the relative maturity (interms of the sport) of the player and the brevity of an NFL career with non-gauranteed contracts.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/30/10 at 12:58 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I absolutely agree that the non-guaranteed contracts and relative brevity of an NFL career also drive the get-money-while-you-can attitude, but it seems you know more about a hockey player’s level of ability at the big level when he’s 21 than you do about a footballer’s ability to rule in the NFL when he’s drafted.

I don’t think the drafting at 18 is a problem really.  They get entry-level deals.  The guys who are ready for the NHL at 18 go into the NHL at 18, those that aren’t play in the AHL until they’re ready.  Very few people in the NHL anymore get paydays that aren’t deserved (*cough* Cristobal Huet *cough*), compared to NFL rookie salaries.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/30/10 at 01:20 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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