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Wednesday, May 16, 2021

pay daigle
It seems that having Alexandre Daigle on your side — even in spirit only — produces a too-familiar “L” for the Ottawa Senators.

I’m as shocked as anyone to learn that he’s still playing, albeit not in North America:

After 616 NHL games and 327 points (129-198) with Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, Daigle may end his pro career in the Swiss League.

“The hockey is really good,” said Daigle. “The lifestyle is way different because you only have a 45-game regular season. You only play on weekends in the regular season, which also makes it different.

Most hockey observers seem to have forgotten Daigle’s central role in starting the salary-level boost in the National Hockey League. Here’s the rundown, by my recollection (feel free to corroborate via other sources):

When the Senators selected Daigle as the Number 1 overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, the team was so sure it had snagged the second coming of Mario Lemieux that it promptly locked him up with a five-year, $10-million contract. Those were eye-popping dollars back then, when the top tier of NHL annual salaries was established at the $3-million range (with the exception of Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, who, owing to their star power, were earning about twice that during this period). In effect, paying a rookie $2 million led, eventually, to a process that threw the league’s salary structure out of whack (or toward equitability, depending on your outlook).

The Sens were justified in committing to that package. Daigle seemed to have it all: Credentials as an offensive wizard in Canada’s most competitive junior league; camera-friendly looks; French-Canadian heritage, which, owing to Ottawa’s location on the Ontario-Quebec border, would bring built-in popularity. And ultimately, Daigle’s skills would be a major asset (along with the team’s previous-year first-rounder, Alexei Yashin) toward pulling the Senators out of their expansion-team doldrums quickly. It made sense to ante up early for a player who would be the franchise savior. When Daigle didn’t develop into anything close to the dominating playmaker everyone expected, his contract seemed like a folly.

But by then, the acceleration in salaries had begun. Even with two collective bargaining agreements designed to curb entry-level contracts, payrolls around the league began a sharp increase that wasn’t rolled back until the 2004 lockout.

The irony, of course, is that the years of salary inflation were always presumed to come from big-market, free-spending teams like the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings. In reality, a team often cited as a small-market club — in currency-conversion-challenged Canada, no less — initiated the league-wide ramp-up by making a bet that didn’t pay back.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/16/2007 11:30:23 PM
Category: Hockey | Permalink |

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