Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How to Get Rich Without Really Trying

The Syracuse Post-Standard published an interesting story yesterday about the ramifications that the new NHL salary cap is having in its primary feeder league, the AHL. In order to prevent teams from stashing high-priced star players in the minor leagues to avoid going over the salary cap, the NHL has instituted a rule that any AHL player earning more than $75,000 a year must clear re-entry waivers if recalled by his NHL parent team. Should another team claim him, the team that called him up loses the player AND has to pay half of his salary. According to the article, some players are exempt from waivers, but it doesn't explain what qualifies a player for this exemption, other than it typically applies only to younger players.

This rule change has prompted AHL veterans who are used to pulling down six figure paychecks to consider taking a pay cut to get down to the $75K cutoff and presumably, improve their chances of getting called up to the big leagues. I was surprised to learn that players in the AHL made so much money. I thought that the compensation structure for all sporting leagues was you make virtually nothing until you make the big leagues, and then immediately begin making big money. According to this article, the average AHL salary is around $50,000/year. According to this source, the minmum minor league salary for baseball player who has played a day in the majors is $52,600. It seems like the hockey players are getting the better end of the deal here, since I'm guessing that even on a triple-A baseball team, most of the players haven't played a day in the big leagues. These numbers could be way off, but the Post-Standard article made it sound like it's pretty common for AHL veterans, especially those with some NHL experience, to pull down six figures. Disregarding big leaguers doing a rehab stint down on the farm, I can't imagine anyone other than hot prospects (Drew Henson, anyone) making that kind of scratch in triple-A ball.

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