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Thursday Links, News, and Notes

A strange front-office situation in Carolina, farm system rankings, and the real numbers behind player salaries

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NHL: JUN 19 NHL Awards Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to share some of the news and articles that caught our attention around the league:

  • Don Waddell signed a three-year contract to remain with the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. In what was becoming an increasingly curious situation, Waddell’s prior contract expired on June 30th but he had continued to operate as the team’s GM and lead hockey decision-maker; Waddell was even quoted in press releases announcing the signings of Erik Haula and former Ottawa Senator Ryan Dzingel. Then, on August 5th, Waddell interviewed for the vacant Minnnesota Wild GM position. Both Waddell and Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon had been adamant that Waddell would not be leaving the franchise but interviewing for a vacant GM role seems like an awfully strange move for someone who has no plans to change jobs. Maybe the Wild seeking his services was the leverage Waddell needed, as he put pen to paper on a three year deal just a week later.

Carolina had a remarkable season last year and were probably loathe to shake things up too much, but Dundon has already developed a reputation for being anything but conventional. The ascendancy of stats pioneer Eric Tulsky to VP of Hockey Management and Strategy, as well as his five-year contract, would attest to that. But walking away from a GM after your best season in years, and with a promising core to boot, would probably have been too unorthodox even for Dundon.

  • Corey Pronman returns with his annual Farm System Rankings. I mentioned the rankings in my article about Filip Gustavsson for our Top 25 Under 25 feature, but I’ll re-iterate here that for my money Pronman is the best resource out there for comprehensive prospect coverage. Pronman uses a specific definition of prospect that will exclude Brady Tkachuk from consideration, so I’ll be interested to see where the Sens wind up. They finished 13th last year with Tkachuk in the fold, but I still expect them to move up several spots nonetheless given the sheer depth that’s been added.

These lists are also a great opportunity for fans to put their favourite team’s prospects in a proper context: Ottawa’s system looks great, but is it better than say Colorado’s? In August, everyone’s top prospects are all going to be future stars.

  • Lastly, Sean Gordon had a very interesting piece in the Athletic about NHL player salaries. I didn’t love the framing of this article, NHL players are absolutely in the 1% of the general population and some of the “problems” cited in the article hardly seem like earth-shattering challenges to me, but it’s a good reminder of how precarious a financial situation these players can find themselves in; especially the ones who never get that one big NHL contract. The section about insurance in a contract year, in particular, was eye-opening:

“Depends on the player and what they want to do, but I typically suggest off-ice coverage throughout the deal and in the last year we switch to 24-hour (the athlete is covered both on and off the ice) to almost protect the future contract,” Shannon said.

That sometimes runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can cost $7,000 up front per million insured. For example, if Scandella decides to insure himself for $15 million in his contract year (or a figure akin to what he hopes will be the value of his next contract), he’s looking at $105,000 for disability insurance. Life insurance comes in addition to that.

Shannon estimates an NHLer making in the area of $5 million who follows his recommendations can expect to pay $130,000 for insurance, perhaps more in a contract year.

The elephant in the room throughout is that the reason these players need to be setting aside so much cash is that they often have very little by the way of job skills outside of playing hockey and life in retirement typically means a dramatically reduced income. I would be very interested in a piece detailing the life of NHLers who have successfully made the transition from hockey into another professional field in retirement; their number sometimes seem to be so few and far between.