How All 30 Teams Stand in the Wake of the Cancellation


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How all 30 teams stand in the wake of the cancellation
February 16, 2005

(CP) - A look at how all 30 NHL teams stand in the wake of the 2004-05 season being wiped out (all figures in U.S. dollars; payroll figures from NHL's Dec. 14 proposal; option years and two-way contracts included in team payrolls):

Anaheim Mighty Ducks: The Ducks don't operate their own rink, which hammers them financially. They're currently for sale and reports indicate the league is ready to take them over. They were 23rd in the 30-team league last season in attendance at 14,987 per home game (87.3 per cent arena capacity). Current payroll is $44.545 million, 24 players under contract for this season and 10 for 2005-06. Sergei Fedorov is highest-paid player at $6 million.

Verdict: Wiped-out season could spell the end of hockey in Anaheim.

Atlanta Thrashers: Current payroll is only $28.175 million but that doesn't include unsigned restricted free agents Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk , who will easily surpass Slava Kozlov ($3 million) as the highest-paid players on the club once they re-sign.
Have 28 players under contract this season and 16 for 2005-06. On the ice, GM Don Waddell has a done a good job of putting together a young nucleus that should grow into a contender. Off the ice, not enough people care about hockey in Atlanta - 21st in attendance last season at 15,121, which was 81.5 per cent of arena capacity. A wiped-out season will only intensify that.

Verdict: Given the new ownership group runs the NBA club and the (debt-ridden) arena as well, the owners will do all they can to keep hockey dates in the rink because they need them.


Boston Bruins: While they do technically have 19 players under contract this season - at $33.875 million - at least six of them are minor-league players. Joe Thornton is highest-paid at $6.75 million although he's not happy with the team. Only five players are signed for 2005-06. Perhaps tired of a club that won't spend to win, average attendance plummeted to 22nd in the league last season at 15,070 (85.8 per cent capacity). But regardless of how long hockey is out, it's no worry to hard-line owner Jeremy Jacobs. He owns his rink, charges rent to the NBA's Celtics and owns 20 per cent of the NESN cable network. The Bruins may never spend on a winner but they're as solid as anyone off the ice.

Verdict: Lockout will have minimal effect in Beantown.


Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres were ready to play hockey this year, with 31 players under contract for a total payroll of $39.885 million. That drops to 10 in 2005-06. Miro Satan is highest-paid at $5.25 million. Club was 20th in league average attendance at 15,343 last season (80.6 per cent of capacity). Owner Thomas Golisano has deep pockets, owns the rink, and has great hockey fans in his market.

Verdict: Up-coming club will survive the lockout and thrive when hockey returns.


Calgary Flames: The Stanley Cup finalists have 25 players under contract right now (at $32.435 million) but not the one that matters most: superstar Jarome Iginla . They better hope that 24 per cent rollback sticks in any new agreement between the league and NHLPA because Iggy's new deal won't come cheap. They drop to 12 players signed for 2005-06. A new economic system will benefit the Flames and help them keep their young core together. Flames 16th in league average attendance at 16,600 (96.8 per cent of capacity).

Verdict: Toronto and Montreal think they have the best fans in hockey? Forget it. Calgary's loyal following stuck through seven years of no playoffs before last spring's thrilling ride, not to mention years of selling off their top players they could no longer afford. Flames will come back stronger than ever.


Carolina Hurricanes: Veteran Rod Brind'Amour is the highest-paid player this year at $5 million, one of 23 players under contract for a total of $30.83 million. That drops to seven players in 2005-06. Owner Peter Karmanos told CP last month he is willing to wait two years, if necessary, to get cost certainty in the new CBA. The question is, will Hurricanes fans be willing to wait? The club, just two years removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup final, was 29th in league average attendance last season at 12,171 (65 per cent of arena capacity). But Karmanos is confident he'll survive the lockout. "Raleigh is the second-fastest growing city in the country. And we've got the highest per-capita income in the Raleigh area of any of the NHL cities. I've got a beautiful arena," he said. That doesn't mean all those people with money want to watch hockey.

Verdict: Hurricanes could blow away.


Chicago Blackhawks: The only thing saving this franchise from its own ineptitude is the fact it's an Original Six franchise in perhaps the best sports town in the U.S. The lowly Hawks have 31 players under contract for this season at $33.187 million with goalie Jocelyn Thibault leading the way at $3.1 million. They drop to 16 players in 2005-06. Also dropping lately has been the team's attendance, down to 13,253 on average last season (64.7 per cent capacity) - 27th in the league. Much like Boston, even some of the die-hards have fallen off the wagon, feeling owner Bill Wirtz won't spend on a winner.

Verdict: Rich history, owning their rink, and a great market will save the Hawks.


Colorado Avalanche: The high-flying Avs were ready to play this year, with 28 players under contract for a $54.44-million payroll - led by Joe Sakic 's $8.74 million salary. That doesn't include Peter Forsberg and his $11-million salary after the superstar centre committed to a full season in his native Sweden. The Avs have 12 players signed for 2005-06. One of the league's elite hockey markets, the Avs were at 100 per cent capacity last year in averaging 18,007 fans a game, good for 10th in the NHL. Deep-pocketed Stanley Kroenke owns the Avs, the NBA's Nuggets and the Pepsi Center. But he needs hockey to come back soon to fill out his programming on his new TV network.

Verdict: No problem here, fans will come back in droves and Kroenke has the bucks to wait it out.


Columbus Blue Jackets: Another team that was ready to rock this year, with 31 players under contract for a $36.73-million payroll. Andrew Cassels is highest-paid at $3.05 million. There's 20 players under contract for 2005-06. People often mention Columbus as an example of having too many teams in the NHL but the reality is that this is a good market with a solid fan base, a great rink and good ownership. They're the only pro team in town and are sorely missed right now. The Jackets were 15th in the NHL in average attendance at 17,339 last season (95.6 per cent capacity).

Verdict: This team is around to stay, no matter how long the lockout lasts.


Dallas Stars: Longtime Star Mike Modano is the highest-paid player on the team at $9 million, one of 22 players that fit into this year's $56.34-million payroll. Nine players are signed for 2005-06. What was once of the league's great stories has soured somewhat. The Stars dropped from 15,000 season tickets in 1999 to 10,000 today. Still, they were eighth in average attendance last season at 18,350, which was 99 per cent capacity. Owner Tom Hicks is said to be willing to sell the club and his 50 per cent share in American Airlines Center - for the right price.

Verdict: Despite the drop in season tickets, the Stars have been around 12 years and built enough of a niche to survive.

Detroit Red Wings: There was a whole lot of head-scratching around the league last year when the Wings re-signed star defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom at $10 million a year - but that's why Don Meehan is arguably the game's top agent. The Wings were on the tab for $59.645 million this season, with Lidstrom highest-paid among the 26 players under contract. It goes to 18 players in 2005-06. Owner Mike Ilitch overspends on his beloved hockey team, so much so that he reportedly lost money last year despite nearly $100 million in revenues. The Wings were second in the NHL in average attendance last season at 20,066, slightly over capacity. The new CBA may hurt the Wings in the short-term, forcing them to go younger and cheaper.

Verdict: Hey, it's called Hockeytown for a reason. No sweating the lockout here.


Edmonton Oilers: There's no Mike Ilitch in Edmonton. Local ownership group has had a few cash calls over the years just to keep the team afloat. This is cap country, and it's why Gary Bettman got a standing ovation from Oiler fans during a stop in November. GM Kevin Lowe has 28 players under contract this year on his $33.795-million payroll, Ryan Smyth leading the way at $3.55 million. For 2005-06, 14 players are under contract. Like the Flames, the Oilers have some of the game's most loyal fans, averaging 17,698 fans a game last season - 14th in the league and 100 per cent capacity. Unlike the Flames, the Oilers don't have much in way of corporate sponsorship support.

Verdict: The Oilers insist no salary cap means no NHL in Edmonton. But the length of the lockout itself is meaningless as long as the club gets what its wants in the new CBA.


Florida Panthers: This team is already set for a salary cap, having 29 players under contract this year at only $24.34 million, led by star goalie Roberto Luongo at $2.4 million. It drops to 11 players in 2005-06. Believed to be among the biggest money-losers in the NHL over the last few years, the Panthers were 17th in league average attendance at 15,904 (82.6 capacity) last season. While they have the advantage of running their own rink, the fan base is on shaky ground in south Florida.

Verdict: Long lockout may kill the Panthers.


Los Angeles Kings: The Kings have 26 players under contract this season for a total of $37.525 million - Martin Straka highest-paid at $4.7 million. They have 14 players signed for 2005-06. Multibillionaire owner Philip Anschutz, whose net worth is listed at $5.2 billion by Forbes magazine, also controls the Staples Center - a money-making machine. But the Kings themselves insist they lost money on their operation last year, that despite being 11th in league average attendance at 17,855 (98.6 per cent capacity).

Verdict: Kings have just enough of a niche in Southern California and a great owner to survive the lockout.


Minnesota Wild: Gary Bettman doesn't get credit for a whole lot these days but his decision to expand to Columbus and Minnesota has proven to be tremendous. The Wild are a huge hit in hockey-mad Minnesota. The team has operating control of the rink and has super fan support, averaging 18,530 fans a game last season, seventh in the NHL and 102.6 per cent of capacity. They have 26 players under contract this year for a total payroll of $31.235 million, Brian Rolston highest-paid at $3.2 million. They have 14 players signed for 2005-06.

Verdict: No worries here, they'll fill the joint once hockey resumes.


Montreal Canadiens: The Habs have 24 players under contract this year at the cost of $41.015 million, with star netminder Jose Theodore leading the way at $6 million. They have 11 players on the books for 2005-06. Despite a rather long stretch without any real success - two playoff appearances in six years - the Canadiens continue to pack them in to the Bell Centre, leading the NHL in average attendance once again last season at 20,555 (96.6 per cent capacity), a testimony to their important role in the fabric of the province to this day. A young and talented nucleus is in good shape once hockey resumes with a new economic system that will help the middle-level spending Habs compete with the big boys.

Verdict: Habs will still lead the league in attendance on the other side of this labour battle.


Nashville Predators: The lockout sure hurts in the Music City, where the Preds have been unable to build off last season's first playoff appearance. The team has 28 players under contract for this season at a tune of $30.15 million, with Steve Sullivan highest-paid at $3.8 million. There are 14 signed for 2005-06. The playoffs were a must after the Preds sank to 28th in average attendance last season at 13,177 (77 per cent capacity). People love to mention this team as one of the sure-bets to fold during a prolonged lockout, but owner Craig Leipold has too much of a sweetheart deal to give up that easily. For starters, the city paid $25 million of the $80-million expansion fee in 1997 (according to Forbes), and the Preds control their rink and have any operating losses from the arena picked up by the city as well.

Verdict: Lockout will hurt because few fans care there's no hockey, but Leipold won't find a better deal anywhere else on the continent. It'll be touch and go, but the Preds may survive.


New Jersey Devils: Only by the genius of GM Lou Lamoriello have the Devils stayed afloat over the years. A horrible lease at a bad rink and a mediocre attendance (24th last season at 14,912) bears no resemblance to the on-ice product: an automatic contender built on excellent drafting and shrewd dealing. Basically, if you put Lou's Devils across the river in Ranger uniforms and MSG revenues, you'd have the best-run team in the history of pro sports. At least the Devils are getting out of Continental Airlines Arena, announcing earlier this month an agreement with the city of Newark to build a $310-million, 18,000-seat arena that is scheduled to open for the 2007-08 season. The city will pay about $210 million toward the project, a major victory for the Devils. Team has 31 players under contract for this season at $64.15 million, Scott Niedermayer tops at $7 million. There's 14 under contract for 2005-06.

Verdict: To be honest, the lockout's timing is perfect for the Devils, who can't make money in their present situation anyway. The new rink will ensure their survival.


New York Islanders: Club vice-president Michael Picker told Newsday on Feb. 7 that Isles owner Charles Wang has sustained $100 million in operating losses over the past four years, thanks in large part to a horrible lease agreement at Nassau Coliseum, which still has 11 years remaining on it. But plans are afoot for $200 million in renovations which will add 1,300 seats and 50 luxury suites. The transformation is slated to be done by 2009. On the ice, you'd be hard-pressed to get anyone to notice the Isles have actually made the playoffs three consecutive seasons and have some young talent to build around and one of the game's great leaders in Michael Peca . They have 22 players under contract for 2004-05, Alexei Yashin 's $10-million salary taking up nearly a quarter of the $40.62-million payroll. Only five players are under contract for 2005-06, including Yashin's ridiculous $10-million salary. The Isles were 26th in league average attendance at 13,431 (82.4 capacity) last season.

Verdict: Should be OK on the other side of this lockout, especially with improvements to the rink, but remains a question mark.


New York Rangers: The NHL's most valuable franchise ($282 million according to Forbes) says it lost money last season. Hard to believe. Team owner Cablevision Systems also owns Madison Square Garden, the NBA's Knicks and the sports cable station MSG Network, among other things. On the ice, the Rangers had 31 players signed for this season for a total of $51.146 million, Jaromir Jagr tops at $11 million although Washington would be on the hook for $4 million of that. The Rangers have 11 players under contract for 2005-06.

Verdict: Despite on-ice woes in recent years, the Rangers have tremendous fans (ninth in NHL last season with 18,073 average) and will rebound easily from the long lockout.

Ottawa Senators: The Sens are in great shape on and off the ice, owner Eugene Melnyk providing the stability long needed in Canada's capital, and a star-studded roster set to remain among the elite contenders for years to come. Ottawa was 13th in average attendance at 17,758 last season (96 per cent capacity) although the jury's out on whether the fickle fan base will be as supportive for a losing product. The Sens have 26 players under contract for this season at a tune of $45.48 million, captain Daniel Alfredsson leading the way at $6.43 million, while 12 players are signed for 2005-06.

Verdict: New economic system should cement Ottawa's future in the NHL.


Philadelphia Flyers: What's not to like about this franchise? Solid ownership (Ed Snider/Comcast cable), a good GM (Bob Clarke) and great head coach (Ken Hitchcock). Add to that high levels of revenues streams from broadcasting and corporate sponsors and one the league's most loyal fan bases (fourth in NHL last season with 19,375 per game), and you get a recipe to make money, which is why the Flyers don't need a salary cap. The Flyers have 32 players under contract for this season ($67.47 million), led by John Leclair 's ill-advised $9-million salary, while 16 are under contract for 2005-06.

Verdict: Cap or no cap, Philly fans will welcome their team back with open arms.


Phoenix Coyotes: Another favourite target of those who believe the lockout will wipe out a few teams. But here's three major reasons why the Coyotes may survive: a brand-new rink, a savvy GM (Mike Barnett) and the greatest ambassador in the history of the game as its managing partner (Wayne Gretzky). Still, it's not a pretty picture. The team apparently has $60 million in debt registered against the team. On the ice, the Coyotes have 32 players under contract for this season, costing a total $43.647 million, with Brian Savage tops at $3.75 million. There's 21 inked for 2005-06.

Verdict: The Great One sold hockey in places no one could ever imagine as a player. He can do it again in Phoenix but the damage from the lockout will hurt big time with soft fan base.


Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens play in the oldest rink in the league and desperately need a new one if they're going to survive, lockout or no lockout. The team was dead last in NHL average attendance last season at 11,877 as fans turned away from a terrible product, the result of not being able to afford top-calibre players. The Pens are on thin ice and it's sad because Pittsburgh is a good hockey market with a solid history. Pittsburgh has 22 players under contract this season for a paltry $18.656 million, veteran Mark Recchi tops at $3 million. They have nine signed for 2005-06.

Verdict: Here's a perfect example of a team that will likely lose less money not playing a single game during the lockout. The new economic system will help, but a new arena, with the kind of revenues it brings, is a must.


San Jose Sharks: The Sharks dipped to 18th in average attendance last season at 15,835 (90.5 capacity), but have largely enjoyed a loyal fan base since coming into the league in 1990. The Sharks cut payroll and went young last year and guess what happened, they reached Western Conference final. They have 24 players under contract this year at $33.39 million, goalie Evgeni Nabokov tops at $4.425 million. They have 10 signed for 2005-06.

Verdict: A good young team with a good lease on a nice rink, the Sharks should thrive under the new agreement and should not lose too many fans in the Bay Area during a prolonged absence. But they must come back a winner.


St. Louis Blues: According to Forbes, the Blues have lost money over first in the last two seasons, much of it due to high payrolls and very little return on the ice. They're not set up that badly, owner Bill Laurie (Wal-Mart) controlling his own rink. But a $64-million payroll last season led to another first-round exit. As far as this year is concerned, the Blues had $47.6 million tied up on 25 players, star defenceman Chris Pronger leading the way at $10 million. They have 16 players signed for 2005-06. The Blues were sixth in average attendance last season at 18,560 (97.6 per cent capacity).

Verdict: Despite financial mess of recent years, the Blues have a rich owner, great fans and a solid history with the game. The lockout won't mess with that.


Tampa Bay Lightning: Big decisions lie ahead for GM Jay Feaster when hockey finally resumes. Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis is unsigned, and netminder Nikolai Khabibulin and centre Vincent Lecavalier will need new deals for 2005-06. The lockout, meanwhile, came at a terrible time in Tampa, where after years of trying to build a fan base the Lightning generated tremendous excitement with a Stanley Cup victory but were unable to build off that momentum this season. The Bolts have to cross their fingers the fans who packed their rink in the playoffs will return after a prolonged lockout. There's no guarantee of that. Despite having a tremendous regular season as well as last season, Tampa was 12th in average attendance at 17,820 - 90.2 per cent capacity - good but not great considering it was the best team in the NHL. The Bolts had 24 players signed for this season and 11 are under contract for 2005-06. If there's a salary cap in the new system, the Bolts won't be able to keep all of their young stars, someone will have to be dropped to fit under the cap.

Verdict: There's work to be done here to bring back some fans who will have bolted during the wiped-out season.


Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's be honest, when hockey finally resumes, the Leafs will sell out every single game upon their return. Toronto was third in the NHL in average attendance last season at 19,376 (103 per cent capacity). But it should be noted that Toronto citizens have gone on with the lives quite nicely, thank you, in the absence of their beloved Leafs. After all, there's a lot to do in Toronto besides paying $300 a ticket to watch hockey. The Leafs had 25 players under contract for this season (for a total of $64.69 million), from captain Mats Sundin at $8 million to Harold Druken at $400,000. That drops to 13 next season.

Verdict: Challenge for the Leafs, specifically GM John Ferguson, will be to reshape his veteran team under the new CBA that will eventually arrive, one that will surely mean cutting payroll and going younger. Will Leaf fans accept this?


Vancouver Canucks: GM Dave Nonis will have his hands full once hockey returns, needing to get two-thirds of his top line (Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison ) and his No. 2 blue-liner (Mattias Ohlund ) under contract for 2005-06. He also needs his highest-paid player, Todd Bertuzzi ($7.133 million), reinstated by the NHL. The Canucks had 29 players under contract this season ($47.8 million), although only 17 were really regular NHLers last season. That drops to 12 signed for 2005-06, most of them currently in the AHL. The Canucks were fifth in the NHL in average attendance last season at 18,630 (101.1 per cent capacity).

Verdict: If there's a salary cap, the jury's out on whether the Canucks can afford Naslund, Morrison, Bertuzzi, Ohlund and Ed Jovanovski all under one roof.


Washington Capitals: Bring on the cap, that was the motto in Washington last year as the Caps shredded their roster of every single big money-maker other than goalie Olaf Kolzig ($6.25 million). The Caps, counting a bunch of AHLers, had 24 players under contract this season for only $24.27 million. That drops to six for 2005-06. If the new CBA demands a minimum payroll of around $32 million, the Caps will need to go on a signing spree to reach that level. Washington was 25th in average attendance last season at 14,720 (78.8 per cent capacity).

Verdict: Given that the Caps and the NBA's Wizards and the arena are all tied together in some fashion, hockey will survive in Washington despite the fan apathy, the arena needing the dates. But it wouldn't be a shock to see them fold.

Updated on Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005 3:14 pm EST