While doing some research for a piece on the merits of participating in the annual July 1 free agent frenzy, I came across a year by year listing of player salaries. Chris Gratton made $10.15 million in 1997-1998 and was still $6.3 million behind the top earner, Joe Sakic. Setting aside the insanity of the size of the salary for a moment, how the heck did Gratton end up being the 2nd highest paid player in the league? He scored 62 points in 1996-1997 and that convinced Philadelphia to break the bank.
Looking at the numbers a little more closely, there have been three distinct salary eras over the past 20 years: pre-2004 lockout; 1995-2004 lockout; and 2005-today. Prior to the 2004 lockout, the best players in the NHL made the most money. You may argue with one or two names in the table below, but by and the list is full of the legends of the game. Continue reading