Penguins Payroll Expensive, but Hardly Worth a Lockout

This article originally appears at The Hockey Writers

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ home sellout streak spans five seasons and two arenas. They’ve got the highest local television ratings of any team in the NHL or NBA. They’ve spent to the salary cap ceiling in each of the last five years and the franchise’s value has more than doubled since ownership last changed hands in 1999.

Crosby earned a $104.4 million deal this offseason. Will Pittsburgh come down on the side of reduced player salaries? (slidingsideways / flickr)

Unlike the league’s true deep pockets, though, the Penguins won’t float through another NHL lockout unscathed.

The likelihood of said work stoppage seems to be increasing every day. The NHLPA, led by Donald Fehr, is at odds with an owners group led apparently by a collective sense of greed.

The owners submitted their first formal offer to the players’ union a few weeks ago, and the first salvo was an eye-popper: a proposed player salary rollback of 14 percent, from 57 percent of league revenues to just 43 percent under a new deal, among other concessions.

In a summer in which the league has happily bandied its $3.3 billion 2012 revenues to potential advertisers, it’s difficult to take the league’s cries of payroll poverty seriously.

Players took significant pay cuts in 2005, but don’t expect such generosity again. The league’s proposed rollbacks would have shaved some $450 million off of payrolls last season.

Insane though it is, some of the very owners who asked for those concessions handed out contracts totaling 52 years and $410.4 million in the same month to just four players in Sidney Crosby ($104.4 million), Shea Weber ($110 million) and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter ($98 million apiece).

In spite (or perhaps because) of such expenditures, owners have predictably cried poverty out of one side of their mouths while selling their fans on $100-plus million players from the other.

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About James Conley

Chud Emeritus of Slew Footers. Penguins Correspondent at The Hockey Writers. Writer for sale.