According to a report I read earlier today, the main issue Brian Burke has with paying Nikolai Kulemin $3 million dollars a year is he believes it's too high a dollar mark to commit to for a player of his limited NHL experience.
Is that really the way Burke has framed the issue? Because if it is, he's being a little disingenuous in his negotiations (through the press no less). Last year Burke signed RFA Mikhail Grabovski to a three year deal with a cap hit of $2.9 million a year, and Grabovski had played 105 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. He had also played 152 games in the Russian Super League, and another 78 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Nikolai Kulemin to date has played 151 NHL games with the Leafs, 142 RSL games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and another 5 games in the AHL with the Marlies. If the sticking point is the extra season of AHL hockey played in the case of Grabovski, I think Burke is full of it.
A valid comparison from Burke's past might be Brendan Morrison. Following the 2001-02 season, where Morrison first topped the 20 goal, and 60 point plateau, Morrison began a new contract with Burke's Vancouver Canucks that paid him $2.15 million in 2002-03, and $2.45 million in 2003-04. Morrison has never bested his 71 points of the 2003-04 season, and his yearly salary eventually plateaued at $3.2 million a year.
Upon reading that one may think those numbers are comparable to what Kulemin should be making longer term. Unfortunately that wouldn't be fair to things such as inflation and the like. You see, in 2001-02 the median income for the Vancouver Canucks was only $900,000 and the highest paid players on the team, Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund, were only making $4 million a year. The entire Canucks team was only making $29,984,579 that season.
Last year the Toronto Maple Leafs median income was $1.4 million a year, and the highest paid player, Dion Phaneuf, made $6.5 million. The entire team was paid $51,170,000 last season. Based on the median income, that's an inflation rate of 66%. Based on the top salary that's an inflation rate of 62.5%. Based on the team's income that's an inflation rate of 70.6%. So guess what... even if we reduce the inflation rate to a far more modest 40%, then Morrison's $2.15 million would translate to $3.01 million this year.
If we actually followed the same inflation pattern, only in reverse, and reduced Kulemin's request for $3 million a year by 65% or so, then we're basically saying he's asking for the equivalent to a $1.05 million contract in 2001-02 NHL terms. That's right people, he's asking for Yanic Perreault type money! Perish the thought.
Here are some other NHL wingers that are making around $3 million a season:
He might not be as good as some of those players right now, but in a few years I think he will be equivalent to much of that group.