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Volume 25 No. 61
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NHL's Signing Bonuses Create A Rift Between Teams, League

Tavares' $77M deal with the Leafs will see almost $71M -- 92% of his contract -- come by way of signing bonus
Photo: getty images

The NHL's rules on signing bonuses have "created an interesting 'have' versus 'have not' dichotomy" among teams that "highlights spending disparities in a league that prides itself in a hard cap structure and intensive revenue sharing program," according to Travis Yost of TSN.ca. The NHL has been "increasingly aware and vocal about the signing bonus issue over the last couple of seasons." The Maple Leafs this offseason signed C John Tavares to a $77M deal (all figures $US), and almost $71M -- or 92% of his contract -- will "come by way of signing bonus, which offers myriad benefits to the player." Tavares will "pay at a substantially lower tax rate and his contract effectively becomes buyout proof." The signing bonus all but "guarantees a player will be paid for what his contract was actually signed for and not a stipulated lesser amount." Signing bonuses, "unlike straight salary, must be paid if the league decides to shut its doors." Tavares is "certainly not the only player to earn a lot of his pay by way of signing bonuses" -- Oilers C Connor McDavid will earn $86M of his "next contract in a similar manner," while Lightning C Steven Stamkos and Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane and C Jonathan Toews also signed for large bonuses. Reports indicate that the league has "either informally or formally pled with teams to stop handing them out." Signing bonuses have put "substantially more leverage in the hands of the players, which the league is never going to be particularly happy with." It also has created a "massive delta between revenue sharing and non-revenue-sharing teams." Yost noted the signing bonuses will be an interesting issue to keep an eye on as the NHL and NHLPA gear up for the next round of CBA negotiations" (TSN.ca, 8/7).