1/3rd of NHL Players receive 2/3rds of total salary

As the collective bargaining agreement discussions began today, it was interesting to think about where the power lies within the NHLPA.  As we have seen in our analyisis, veteran / UFA players appear to receive disproportionate compensation relative to their performance when compared to entry level and restricted free agent player output. Basically on a pay-for-performance basis, younger players are subsidizing older players based on seniority.  That being said, we saw how the latest NFL CBA strongly favor veteran, multi-year players over less experienced players.

So we decided to see what the distibution of salaries looks like in the NHL and examine how much power the elite players might yield based on their compensation.  Here are the results of our analyis of the top 752 players who played in the NHL in 2011-12.


2011-12  Distribution of Player Salaries (Cap Hit)

Salary   Level $5M or more $4M – $5M $3M-$4M $2M-$3M $1M-$2M <$1M Total
# of Players 78 61 103 85 152 272 751
% of Players 10% 8% 14% 11% 20% 36%
Total $ (M) $486 $262 $352 $211 $212 $171 $1,693
% of Ttl $ 29% 15% 21% 12% 13% 10%

As you can, about 65% of all the salaries go to about 32% of players who make more than $3M per year. This is not surprising, and somewhat less disproportionate than one might have expected.

Note: This analysis is consistent with the Puckonomics methodology and does not include every single player who played in the NHL in 2011-12 or who got paid despite not playing.

2011-12 Most Valuable Rookies

In anticipation of the NHL Awards being given out tonight, and in particular the Calder Trophy for the best rookie of the 2011-12 campaign. Here is our analysis on who contributed to most value this past year of the three finalists up for the award.

Team GP Goals Assists Points True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Difference ($M)
1. Gabriel Landeskog COL 82 22 30 52 3.85 3.58 0.28
2. Adam Henrique NJD 74 16 35 51 3.69 0.81 2.89
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins EDM 62 18 34 52 3.60 3.78 -0.17

Clearly there was not much different in the True Value of the finalists, but if RNH played the entire without injury he likely would have easily won the award.  However based on our analysis, Gabriel Landeskog was the most valuable rookie in 2011-12 especially when seeing that he had a +20 plus/minus.   We shall see how the voting turned out later tonight.

2011-12 Most Overpaid Forwards

Similar to defensemen, a couple of the most overpaid forwards did not play a full season.  The exception is Alex Ovechkin who played the full season (except for his suspension) but is clearly paid for more than just his performance on the ice. He is one of few players who puts butts in the seat and eyeballs in front of the television.

We discussed Scott Gomez’s contract previously, but in 2011-12 injuries did play a partial role in how much he was overpaid by only playing in  38 games, but it is likely he still would have been on our list.

Team GP Goals Assists Points True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Difference ($M)
1. Scott Gomez MTL 38 2 9 11 0.94 7.36 -6.42
2. Chuck Kobasew COL 58 7 7 14 1.20 6.75 -5.55
3. Alex Ovechkin WSH 78 38 27 65 4.61 9.02 -4.42

Sidney Crosby and Kristian Huselius would have been on this list but both missed many games in 2011-12. In particular, Crosby’s numbers in just 22 games were essentially on pace for his $8.7M cap hit.

2011-12 Most Overpaid Defensemen

This year’s list of most overpaid defensement based on the True Value they provided to their teams had two things in common. All had injuries during the season which kept them out of a significant number of games. Also, on top of not playing many games, they also did not perform at a level commiserate with their contract, so that even if their stats were extrapolated to a full season they would still have grossly underperformed relative to their cap hit. A third coincindence is that all three were named Michael.

Team GP Goals Assists Points TOI True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Difference ($M)
1. Mike Green WSH 32 3 4 7 21.03 1.11 5.11 -3.99
2. Mike Komisarek TOR 45 1 4 5 16.65 1.10 4.50 -3.40
3. Michal Rozsival PHX 54 1 12 13 19.32 1.83 5.00 -3.17

Chris Pronger and Andrei Markov are not on this list since both players played less than 15 games in 2011-12, otherwise they would be nat or near the top of this list.

2011-12 Most Valuable Forwards

For the forwards the Top 3 most valuable players were not much of a surprise. They were hands down the top forwards in the league last year over the course of 82 games.


Team GP Goals Assists Points True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Difference ($M)
1. Evgeni Malkin PIT 75 50 59 109 7.13 8.70 -1.57
2. Steven Stamkos TBL 82 60 37 97 6.58 7.50 -0.92
3. Claude Giroux PHI 77 28 65 93 6.27 3.75 2.52

The only question may be about Ilya Kovalchuck, but at 83 points we a tier below the top 3.

2011-12 Most Valuable Defensemen

Well, the top three most valuable defensement are not really that difficult to explain other than Shea Webber not appearing on the list.

Team GP Goals Assists Points TOI True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Difference ($M)
1. Erik Karlsson OTT 81 19 59 78 25.32 6.24 1.30 4.94
2. Brian Campbell FLA 82 4 49 53 26.88 5.16 7.14 -1.98
3. Zdeno Chara BOS 79 12 40 52 25.00 4.85 6.92 -2.07

Once again it is important to keep in mind a couple of things, this analysis looks at who added the most value over 82 games, not the ‘best’ player.  Shea Webber was just marginally left out of the top 3, but it is likely if he played the 82 games instead of 79 he would be on this list.  Net-net, given the profilic offensive performance of Erik Karlsson, it would be a surprise if he didn’t win the Norris trophy this year.

2011-12 Most Overpaid Goalies

Before we start it is important to point out that the Puckonomics methodology sees the True Value of goalies consistently being significantly lower than the actual salaries of the top goalies in the league. Essentially this means there is significant inefficiency in the goalie salary market which results in high-end goalies being disproportionally over-compensated for the value they contribute.

Now that being said there are a couple of caveats to the list below.

Team GP Wins OTL True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Amt Overpaid   ($M)
1. Niklas Backstrom MIN 46 19 7 2.53 6.00 3.47
2. Henrik Lundqvist NYR 62 39 5 4.15 6.88 2.72
3. Ryan Miller BUF 61 31 7 3.66 6.25 2.59

First off, Rick Dipietro would be at the top of this list if he played in more than eight games, but since he was injured for most of the season he did not qualify for this list. We will do a separate analysis of his true value compared to his cap hit shortly.

Niklas Backstrom is at the top of the list for a similar reason, if he hadn’t gotten hurt and played in 60 or more games he likely would not have been on this list.

Lundqvist and Miller made the list due mostly to the over-compensation of high-end goalies detailed above and just partially due to number of games played.

2011-12 Most Valuable Goalies

Before we detail the winners, it is very important to be clear about what the Puckonomics analysis calculates and what it does not. For goalies, we determine who provided the most value over the 82 regular season games. What the analysis does do not assess is who is the best goalie during the season. To be more specific, Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak might be two  of the best goalies in 2011-12 but because they shared the St Louis Blues net, neither played enough games to be one to have be one of the highest True Value goalies.

So here are the results:

Team GP Wins OTL True Value ($M) Cap Hit ($M) Difference ($M)
1. Pekka Rinne NSH 73 43 8 4.66 3.40 1.26
2. Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 67 42 4 4.36 5.00 -0.64
3. Jonathan Quick LAK 69 35 13 4.33 1.80 2.53

A couple of notes.

First, the obvious question is why isn’t Henrik Lundqvist on this list?  Well, he is one of the highest True Value goalies in the league, but not in the Top 3. Compare to Pekka Rinne he only play in 62 games and that 11 game differential means a lot. In particular it means the New York Rangers back-up, Martin Biron is worth a lot more than a regular back-up, which decreases the True Value of Lundqvist. This does not mean he wasn’t the best goalie in the league during 2011-12. He in fact may win the Vezina trophy and it will be well-deserved. The Rangers got phenomenal goaltending from Lundqvist when he played. By there were at least 20 games when they used another goalie, so that goalie created value for the Rangers too.

On a separate note, as detailed in previous posts, it is important to point out that the Puckonomics methodology sees the True Value of goalies as being significatnly lower than the actual salaries of the top goalies in the league. Essentially this means there is significant inefficiency in the goalie salary market which results in high-end goalies being disproportionally over-compensated for the value they contribute.


2011-12 Top 3 Underpaid Forwards

Here are the results of our True Value analysis of the Top 3 underpaid forwards during the 2011-12 campaign.  All three were making $1.25M or less and were worth at least $3M more than their cap hit. Pretty impressive numbers for all three of them.


Team Goals Assists Points Cap Hit ($M) True Value ($M) Amt Underpaid   ($M)
1. Jordan Eberle EDM 34 42 76 1.16 5.13 3.97
2. Jamie Benn DAL 26 37 63 0.82 4.34 3.52
3. PA Parenteau NYI 18 49 67 1.25 4.69 3.44

Eberle still has one more year left on his entry-level contract and Benn is an RFA this summer. The big winner from such a productive year is PA Parenteau who is a UFA on July 1st and should expect a big pay raise.

2011-12 Top 3 Underpaid Defensemen

Here is the list of most underpaid defensemen fromt he 2011-12 season.  There is no surprise that Erik Karlsson is at the top of the list given his Norris Trophy nomination.  What is consistant among all three of them is that they are still on their entry-level contracts and are playing at a very high level with less than three years of NHL experience.

Team Goals Assists Points TOI Cap Hit ($M) True Value ($M) Amt Underpaid   ($M)
1. Erik Karlsson OTT 19 59 78 25.32 1.30 6.24 4.94
2. P.K. Subban MTL 7 29 36 24.30 0.88 4.04 3.16
3. Ryan McDonagh NYR 7 25 32 24.73 0.85 3.90 3.05

Both Karlson and Subban and RFAs this summer, so both should expect big increases in their pay and will certainly not be on this list next year. Unfrotunately,  McDonagh still has one more year on his entry level contract, so his pay day won’t come until next year. The Montreal Canadiens don’t need another reminder that they gave up McDonagh in the Gomez deal, but this is yet another piece of data reinforcing how one-sided that trade was.