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Published in the Toronto Star
January 20, 2004

In his article, Garth Woolsey credits as a source. The quote from Patrice Brisebois is also taken from a collection of humorous NHLers quotes on

Article below and also available on the Toronto Star website.

Sundin sits 11th in all-time earnings at $54M


We already knew that Mats Sundin was extremely well paid. Most Leafs fans might even go so far as to say that the captain has been earning every nickel of his $9 million (all figures U.S.) salary this season.

But it still comes as a bit of a shock to stand back and look at his career earnings. Still only 32 years old, Sundin has lifetime earnings totalling $54,787,526, not counting whatever he has managed to make from endorsements and the like.

As generous as that total may be, it ranks only No.11 on the list of top career earners since the 1989 season as compiled by The enigmatic Jaromir Jagr, currently collecting pay stubs with the Washington Capitals, tops the charts with career earnings of $74,694,851. Joe Sakic of the Avalanche is next, well back at $68,857,923. Jagr's current salary is an NHL-high, too, (tied with Peter Forsberg of the Avs) at $11 million; Sakic is earning $9,880,939.

One might argue whether or not Jagr, the biggest dog at the pay dish, has delivered fair value on his salary this season, but he has been in the top 10 or 15 in scoring through recent weeks and, all things considered, that's what he gets paid to do.

Winning Stanley Cups is neither a one-man act nor something the dismal Caps are going to accomplish collectively any time soon. But Jagr has won Cups in the past, as well as scoring championships and MVP awards. He has given, as well as he has got.

For a total failure to deliver — at least in terms of current contribution — one need look no further than third place on the Web site's "fortunes accumulated" list. There sits Pavel Bure of the Rangers, out all season due to injury, but still collecting on a $10 million contract that lifts his lifetime NHL earnings to $68,857,923.

The top 10 accumulations after Jagr, Sakic and Bure, belong to, in order, Steve Yzerman (Detroit), Mark Messier (Rangers), Keith Tkachuk (Blues), Mike Modano (Dallas), Patrick Roy (retired), Paul Kariya (Colorado) and Brian Leetch (Rangers).

(The calculations all start with 1989. Before that, salaries of guys like Wayne Gretzky were relatively modest. He was making $1.72 million that '89 season and $6 million when he retired in 1998-99, for a total in that span of $43 million and change. Mario Lemieux, having lost seasons to retirement, clocks in at No.25 with earnings of nearly $48 million).

The way it works in the NHL, players toil the first few years for relatively little pay, then get rewarded later on. Sometimes, of course, guys get enormous contracts based on a career season or two, then fail to deliver on heightened expectations.

Injury is the wild card. Pity the Los Angeles Kings who have lost not one, but two players off the league's top 25 highest-paid list for this season, in Jason Allison ($8 million) and Ziggy Palffy ($7 million).

Less easy to accept in Dallas is the missing-in-action play of top 20 earners Modano ($9 million, with eight goals and a minus-19 going into last night's game against Vancouver) and Pierre Turgeon ($7.5 million, three goals). The Stars roster also boasts Stu Barnes, who accords the distinction of having enjoyed the highest percentage increase in salary — 900 per cent, up to $2.8 million — this season over last. He's clipping along with (count 'em) seven goals.

Next behind Barnes on that particular list are Mighty Ducks teammates Sergei Fedorov ($10 million) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere ($4.5 million), both of whom had their stipends jacked up by 400 per cent this year over last. They, and the Ducks in general, have brought new meaning to fowl this season — they also gave Vaclav Prospal a 319 per cent pay increase, which he promptly used to disappear. Entering last night's game against Detroit, Fedorov had 15 goals but was minus-10, Prospal had seven goals and Giguere's record was 7-18-4.

Hindsight is 20-20. Maybe some of these players will turn things around the rest of the way. Earn their keep. Anyway, when it comes to money, just how much is enough?

"I only want to be paid what I'm worth," Patrice Brisebois once told reporters of his salary negotiations with the Montreal Canadiens. "I'm not asking for millions." (Pause, realizing what he had just said).

"Uh, excuse me, I meant to say ..."

Brisebois is making $4 million this season and made $19,396,519 lifetime.

Other Mentions:
Toronto Star
USA Today
Minn.-St.Paul Star Tribune
Toronto Star
Journal de Montréal
The Tennessean
Houston Press
Seattle Times
Dallas News
Planète Québec
Montreal Gazette
CHOI 98.1 FM
Site du JOUR
Journal de Montréal
San Antonio Express News
Internet Today - ZDTV
Guide Internet
Sportz Nutz
La Toile du Québec
St.Louis Post-Dispatch



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