A bump in payroll may not equal a bump in talent level for Phoenix Coyotes

Christian Petersen

Phoenix's payroll may be going up next season with new ownership firmly in place, but so are current Coyotes' salaries.

From the day Gary Bettman introduced the new Phoenix Coyotes Chairman and Governor George Gosbee and CEO Anthony LeBlanc at Jobing.com Arena, new ownership made it abundantly clear the penny-pinching days of the past would give way to a more fluid budget in the future.

"We're definitely planning to increase the player payroll and we're going to increase it year over year," LeBlanc said at IceArizona's introductory press conference last August.

However, an increase in payroll may not raise Phoenix's talent level all that much.

Some of that extra money might go to unrestricted free agent to be Radim Vrbata, who will likely be looking for a raise. Even more will be spent on the players already in a Coyotes uniform.

The Coyotes will begin to pay for the big contracts they handed out over the last couple years, specifically structured to help with new ownership's year one transition. The majority of players already under contract for next season have an increase in salary, including large raises to their primary playmaker and starting goaltender. (All numbers per CapGeek)

13-14 salary 14-15 salary Difference
Mike Ribeiro $4,500,000 $5,500,000 +$1,000,000
Shane Doan $5,550,000 $5,050,000 -$500,000
Antoine Vermette $3,750,000 $3,750,000 0
Martin Hanzal $2,750,000 $3,250,000 +$500,000
Mikkel Boedker $2,300,000 $2,800,000 +$500,000
Lauri Korpikoski $2,000,000 $2,300,000 +$300,000
Kyle Chipchura $800,000 $875,000 +$75,000
Rob Klinkhammer $600,000 $650,000 +$50,000
Oliver Ekman-Larsson $3,500,000 $4,000,000 +$500,000
Keith Yandle $5,250,000 $5,500,000 +$250,000
Zbynek Michalek $4,000,000 $4,000,000 0
David Schlemko $1,100,000 $1,275,000 +$175,000
Michael Stone $800,000 $1,200,000 +$400,000
David Rundblad $700,000 $870,000 +$170,000
Mike Smith $4,000,000 $6,000,000 +$2,000,000

Total amount of increased salary by the 15 players under contract for next season -- $5.42 million.

While the salary bump is significant, the expiring contracts of Vrbata, David Moss, Derek Morris and Rostislav Klesla, will free up $10.8 million. The rest of Phoenix's expiring NHL contracts will free up about $3.4 million more.

If the Coyotes don't re-sign any of their UFAs, Phoenix has about $8.8 to spend on seven skaters and a back-up goaltender to equal this season's payroll, an average of $1.25 million per opening.

Salary considerations are important for a team more concerned with its bottom line than the cap ceiling. The Coyotes are not going to be a team that spends up to the cap, so their personnel decisions will be heavily driven by salaries and bonuses not cap hits.

How much will payroll increase? No one knows for sure. But a small increase is needed next season just to combat the increase of internal salaries.

Don't fret Coyotes fans, an increase in payroll, especially year over year, will help the Coyotes' ability to attract free agents and make trades like they were not able to do in the past several years. But, Phoenix's escalating contracts salary wise, particularity those of Ribeiro, Ekman-Larsson and Smith, are something to be aware of going forward.

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