Andrew Shaw ($577,500) punches Brad Marchand ($2,500,000) repeatedly (priceless). - Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Andrew Shaw ($577,500) punches Brad Marchand ($2,500,000) repeatedly (priceless). – Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It seems like NHL fans, media, and even some General Managers were big fans of After School Specials. After all, it’s not enough that a Stanley Cup Final is thrilling, tense, and exciting — we have to learn a lesson as well. Every Stanley Cup Final seems to turn into a teachable moment: forget all the other Finals, this is how you win the Stanley Cup.

In 2010, the lesson apparently was to go with a cheap goaltender so you can use your cap space elsewhere. And yet, in 2011, the two teams that made it to the Final had two of the more expensive goalies in the league. That year, the lesson was that you won through toughness and intimidation (rather than Vezina-calibre goaltending, apparently).

The lesson some got out of Anaheim’s Cup win in 2007 was that fighting and goonery was once again a viable way to win. The next year, the Detroit Red Wings had the fewest fights in the league enroute to winning the Cup.

With all that said, we can clearly learn something from the two teams that made it to the Stanley Cup Final this year. I got to wondering how exactly these two teams spent their money to get to this point? How did they divvy up their salary cap and is there something that can be learned from that?

To prevent the onslaught of information from boring you, I put my mediocre Photoshop (secretly GIMP) skills to work to create a slightly more aesthetically pleasing chart. All data is from and and includes performance bonusses.

Bruins and Blackhawks Salary Cap InfographicSome notes on this infographic and other information I dug up along the way:

  • The Blackhawks pay a lot more to their top-end talent, but make up for it with quite a few cheap contracts, including four entry-level deals. Eight players with cap hits under $1 million have played for the Blackhawks this post-season. The Bruins have just two — Kaspars Daugavins and Matt Bartkowski — and they’ve played a combined 12 games.
  • The Bruins have allocated a slightly higher percentage of their salary cap to their forwards than the Blackhawks, but have that money spread more equally across the top three lines. About $4.5 million separates the Bruins’ first line from the third, while the gap is over $14 million for the Blackhawks.
  • The Blackhawks are not paying a premium for their goaltenders, but have managed to get elite results, while the Bruins are benefiting from Tuukka Rask while he’s still relatively cheap. He’s an RFA this off-season, however.
  • Both the Bruins and the Blackhawks used over 50% of their defence spending on the top pairing.
  • The Bruins and Blackhawks appear to have very different philosophies when it comes to long-term contracts. The longest contract for the Bruins is Zdeno Chara’s seven-year deal that runs through 2018. For the Blackhawks, it’s Duncan Keith’s 13-year deal that expires in 2023. They also have Marian Hossa’s 12-year deal that runs through 2021.
  • What’s most striking is how different the two teams’ spending is, but there are some commonalities that might teach us a couple lessons: don’t overspend on goaltending, prioritize your top pairing on defence, and don’t be afraid to spend a little bit on your fourth line, keeping it at or below $4 million. Frankly, if you’ve got that much to spend on your fourth line, you’re likely doing a good job managing expenses elsewhere in the lineup. 

Comments (13)

  1. Top picture = my favorite picture of the playoffs

  2. Ugh. That year that everyone decided that the lesson was that you don’t need to spend money on goalies. Ugh.

    The real lesson is build a team that has two way forwards, can roll four lines, and has a solid goalie that can steal a few games.

    • Agreed. The only reason the goalie budgets are so low is because both starters are young and relatively unproven. They’ll both be cashing in with their next contract.

      The more relevant tie-ins are to have a Selke-caliber leader, a Norris-caliber D, an agitator who can score and plenty of depth.

    • They key seems to be making hay while your goalie earns less than $3.5 / season. The Hawks made the hard decision to dump Niemi, and it worked out well for them. The Bruins dumped Thomas.

      Frankly, the Kings might’ve done the same thing at the end of last season with Quick and I don’t know if people would have blamed them for it, especially with Bernier around.

      • But the Bruins didn’t dump Thomas. They won with him having his 5M cap hit and then he opted not to play. Thomas dumped the Bruins, not the other way around.

  3. Shaw loses all his manhood points in that picture.

  4. I think next year’s lesson will be how to create enough chemistry with a bunch of nobody players, yet underpaying premium players to stay below $64.3 and still win the cup.

  5. I’ve thought that the thread that ran through most of the post-lockout Cup winners was that you one dominant D to win the Cup (Carolina and the Pens being the outliers then, but then the Pens are weirdly built in a lot of ways thanks to their lottery luck and picking second in a rare draft where there’s two surefire MVP talents on the block)

    Ducks? Pronger and Neidermayer. Wings? Lidstrom. Hawks? Keith, and to a lesser extent, Seabrook. Bruins? Chara. Kings? Doughty.

    When you have one defender that is capable of eating 27 minutes a game of ice time, you take the burden off your 3rd pair, and can afford to have those guys as lower cap hits.

  6. Cool infographic, I would be interested to see it expanded to compare with other successful and unsuccessful cap-spending teams to get a more complete picture and look for trends.

    The after-school lessons you mention are really counterproductive but it gives us all a lot of talking points and gives lousy general managers something to emulate to justify their salaries as they chase the magic formula from the previous year.

  7. Hi I amm so thrilled I found your web site, I really found you by
    error, while I was browsing oon Yahoo for something else, Nonetheless
    I am here now and woulld just like to say thanks
    for a fantastic post annd a all round thrillingg blog (I also love the
    theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added your
    RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read
    much more, Please do keep up the great job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *