It's true that the NHL has the highest percentage of teams to make the playoffs out of the four major American sports. Out of only 30 teams, 16 get to play for Lord Stanley's Cup every summer from April-June. But that leaves 14 very unhappy teams every year. Most of those teams have a glimmer of hope to get to the postseason. They have big stars and free agents alike that they paid a lot of money to help them reach that promised land.
This list is going to showcase the biggest stars and highest-paid players that enjoyed a longer offseason than the rest of the NHL. For many, they should be back with the same team next season, but others could see mounting frustration with a bad team in a multi-year drought. Many of the names on this list have also already moved on to other, better teams in trade or free agency.
To look at this issue from a different light, missing the playoffs could extend a player's career by giving him a longer break from the wear and tear of the more grueling postseason style. However, other than that plus, it's a big hit to a player's career. There are playoff bonuses to consider, as well as the increase in exposure during nationally televised playoff games. Many free agents have gotten much sweeter deals based on a good run for the Stanley Cup.
The salaries listed are all based on the 2014-2015 season and based on their base salary, not cap hit.
20 Cam Ward - $6,700,000
19 Roberto Luongo - $6,714,000
It's been two years without one of the most colorful characters in the NHL in the playoffs. The weird and wild saga between Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks ended in the goalie and his massive contract, that was supposedly impossible to trade, getting, of course, traded to the Panthers for them to rebuild around him.
18 T17. Joe Thornton - $6,750,000
17 T17. Jeff Carter - $6,750,000
The Kings' shocking and disappointing year landed Jeff Carter home early for only the second time in his ten year career. He hasn't played up to the potential of his monster contract, but Carter has still been a solid contributor in the postseason while helping the Kings to their last two Stanley Cups.
16 T11. Jonathan Quick - $7,000,000
15 T11. Drew Doughty - $7,000,000
14 T11. Mike Richards - $7,000,000
Mike Richards made his career as the young captain of the Philadelphia Flyers until his unexpected trade to the Kings four years ago. After two Stanley Cup wins, things should have been pretty smooth, right?
13 T11. Alexander Semin - $7,000,000
12 T11. Zdeno Chara - $7,000,000
11 T11. Patrick Marleau - $7,000,000
10 Brian Campbell - $7,142,875
9 Dustin Brown - $7,250,000
Dustin Brown, at the ripe age of 30, is the eldest star of the Kings. It's also not a surprise that he's also the captain of the two-time champs, as Brown was with the team for the five year playoff drought that preceded their run of the last few years.
8 Tyler Ennis - $7,300,000
7 T6. Anze Kopitar - $7,500,000
This is the last Los Angeles King on the list, I swear. Kopitar was the first NHL star from the country of Slovenia and has been the Kings' best offensive threat from his first year in the league. Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring for each of the first seven seasons of his career. He also serves as an alternate captain alongside Dustin Brown.
6 T6. Tuukka Rask - $7,500,000
5 Dion Phaneuf - $8,000,000
4 Patrice Bergeron - $8,750,000
3 Eric Staal - $9,250,000
2 T1. Claude Giroux - $10,000,000
Giroux has ascended quickly to become the young captain and star of the Flyers franchise. He's played his entire career there and is signed for 6 years to come. His captaincy hasn't brought any stability to the Flyers franchise, however, as they've missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons.
1 T1. Phil Kessel - $10,000,000
Kessel became one of the biggest individual winners of this offseason when he was traded from the woeful Maple Leafs to the Penguins. It's highly unlikely his playoff drought will continue too long while he's playing alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and whoever else joins the Penguins bandwagon.
After only one playoff trip in six seasons with Toronto, Kessel and his $10M pricetag should easily make the playoffs with Pittsburgh. Kessel is also likely to raise his point per game pace now that he's playing with one of the most offensively talented teams in hockey.
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