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Money for Nothing? Apparently Not.

With my hockey draft less than a week away, I decided that it was time to start preparing. This draft, however, is no ordinary hockey pool. Each team has to draft players to fill a full 22 man roster. The catch? Well, we use each player’s current NHL salary and our team salary cannot exceed the current NHL team salary cup. Naturally, as both an NHL fan and as a fantasy owner of Lecavalier’s and St. Louis’ collective $12 million plus salary, I was quite happy when the NHL announced again this year that the cap would be increasing.

The strategy for this pool is to obviously draft players who produce a lot of points relative to their salary. It’s all about maximizing player’s point production! Accordingly, in order to prepare for this draft, I searched the internet for NHL player stats and salaries, so I could perform my nerdy calculations.

Sure enough, someone had beat me to it. I came across a study by Canadian Business magazine entitled “Hockey’s Most and Least Valuable 2007”. The study compared each player’s 06/07 salary to their production and provided statistics like $/game played, $/goal, $/point, and $/minute on ice. As a fantasy hockey participant, I found this site very interesting and it would have certainly provided me with an edge for the upcoming draft. However, in the interests of Illegal Curve, I have sacrificed my competitive edge and posted this article with a link and now all of my competitors can read it and prepare accordingly.

As a fan of the NHL, though, should I really care about these stats? Should I really care how much money my favourite players are being paid? Should I go out and buy a John Pohl (ranked #20 in the NHL last year for $/point) jersey because he is only costing my beloved Maple Leafs (please email your condolences) $15,517 for every point he scored last year and toss out my “old” generation Sundin jersey because he had the nerve to “charge” $100,000 (tied for 283rd overall) for every point he scored? Further, does this mean that John Ferguson Jr. is a good GM because the Leafs have a whopping 6 players in the Top 100 list for $/points (Pohl, Ponikarovsky, Battaglia, Perreault, Stajan, and Steen)?

In short, no! As a fan, all you should care about is that the player’s on your favourite team are producing. Those six guys on the Leafs who were in the Top 100 list combined for a measly 217 points on the way to helping the team miss the playoffs for a second straight year. Conversely, do you think anyone is going to suggest that Jay Feester made a bad move by signing Lecalvalier to a contract that saw him earn $7,166,667 last year?

Lecavalier is one of the best players in the league. Last year, he posted the best numbers of his career scoring 108 points with 52 goals. However, he cost the Lightning $66,358 for every point he scored, which was almost $60,000 more than first place Milan Michalek. The fact is, it doesn’t really matter how much a player makes. All that really matters is that there are owners out there who are willing to pay the salaries.

Last year, Kristian Huselius scored 77 points while “only” being paid $1,400,000 placing him a respectable 39th on the list. Sure, that seems like such a great signing by the Flames, but do you actually care that he makes almost $6 million less than Lecavalier? Would your now prefer to have Huselius on your roster instead of the inefficient Lecavalier? I certainly would not. Save the conversations about these “bargain” players for the guys that actually pay the bills. All we want is for the players to produce.

So, you ask, does that analysis of player productivity compared to their salary actually indicate anything? Indirectly, it does! What it mainly demonstrates is which teams have drafted or signed talented young players. The majority of the players at the top of the list are very promising and very skilled young hockey players, including the likes of Stastny, Plekanec, Parise, and Getzlaf. Players’ salaries are capped for the first years of their professional careers. Therefore, as a fan, you should be excited to see young players on the top of the list, like the 9th placed Vanek. You should be excited not because he only costs $11,219 for every point he produces, but because that number, mathematically, indicates that he had a great year, scoring 84 points.

When your team signs a player to a contract, do not be concerned about how much money he is making. Instead, be concerned about how he will produce. Let Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment worry that they will only make $61 million this year instead of $65 million.

For now, I am adding Anze Kopitar (#26 with $16,131/point) and Travis Zajac (#66 with $23,433/point) to my draft target list.

For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.