Today Damien Cox mentioned that Max Talbot apparently turned down a four-year contract offer from the Leafs. The deal would have seen him make $1.7 million per year. He’s decided instead to test free agency, where he thinks he’ll get more. He made $1,050,000 in each of the last two seasons in Pittsburgh.

Max Talbot is a worthy addition to any hockey team. He’s a hard-working, character player who will forever be known as the guy who scored two goals in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. However, he also scored eight goals in 82 games last season. He scored 2 goals in 45 games the year before. His career high is 13 goals, which he scored in his rookie year.

He’s going to make over $2 million a year next season.

Obviously it’s not just Talbot who will be cashing some big cheques in the near future. Due to the weak free agent crop, the salary cap changes and increased parity in the NHL, general managers are going to be tossing cash around like they’re in a rap video.

It’s already begun.

Tomas Kopecky now makes $3 million a season with Florida. Brooks Laich signed a six-year contract with the Capitals that will see him collect an average of $4.5 million a year. Ilya Bryzgalov now has a nine-year deal with an average cap hit of $5.66 million per season.

All of these people are talented hockey players and they all deserve to make large salaries for their skill and effort. However, they’re all going to be collecting salaries that would have seemed ridiculous just a few years ago.

And it’s about to get worse.

Who knows how much money will be tossed at Brad Richards on Friday? And if Steven Stamkos somehow makes it to July 1st without a contract… get ready for anarchy.

Even worse, the teams that lose out on these players will try to make up for it by directing that money towards some other free agents… free agents who aren’t at the level of Stamkos and Richards.

Of course, this isn’t the first time insane contracts have been handed out like chips at a party. Thanks to teams like the New York Rangers, we’ve already seen some pretty laughable contracts over the last few years. We’ve also seen some big buyouts a few years later. We’ve watched players like Jeff Finger, Mike Commodore, Wade Redden and Sheldon Souray play in the AHL mostly due to their large cap hits.

And now this phenomenon is about to get much more widespread. The rising salary cap gives everyone more money to spend now. Even cash-strapped teams are forced to pony up big dollars so they can reach the salary floor.

Brad Richards and Steven Stamkos are in the upper echelon of NHL players. They can make teams better and sell tickets. No one really bats an eye when a star player has a dump truck full of money driven up to his house. But when third and fourth line players are commanding big salaries as well, things are getting a little ridiculous.

Of course, no one can blame these players for wanting the cash.

Most people would jump at the chance to double or triple their current salary and NHL players are no different. It’s the fact that the general managers are perfectly willing to allow this is what’s causing the problem. It’s the same thing that led to the NHL lockout a few years ago…

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