Monday, October 24, 2011
Written by Neal Goulet
It pays to play for the Hershey Bears, and not just in terms of opportunities to compete for Calder Cups.
Bears veterans Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque – five Calder Cups between them – rank among the six highest-paid players in the American Hockey League, according to capgeek.com. Each of the six players earns $300,000 except for the one at the very top – former Bear Alexandre Giroux – at $325,000.
If Aucoin and Bourque get called up to the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals – the Bears’ parent team – they would earn prorated salaries of $525,000. However, given the Capitals’ talent-rich lineup, it’s unlikely that either one will get much more than a cursory look in Washington, if they get one at all.
Playing for the Bears, however, the two players provide scoring punch and leadership: this year, Aucoin is assistant captain, Bourque as the second assistant captain for road games.
Giroux and Pinizzotto
Giroux, who won two Calder Cups in parts of four seasons in Hershey, signed a one-year deal with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. He has one goal in four games with Columbus (his NHL salary is $825,000), and he has one goal and one assist in two games with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons.
The Top 10 salary list includes yet another former Bear, Steve Pinizzotto, who spent parts of five seasons in Hershey and won two Calder Cups. This summer, he signed a free-agent contract with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
Pinizzotto, who has not played a game this season because of a shoulder injury, has an AHL salary of $275,000. He earns $600,000 under his NHL contract.
Freelance hockey writer Matthew Wuest created Capgeek.com. The well-respected website is best known for tracking team payrolls in the NHL, which operates under a salary cap.
The 50 highest-paid players in the NHL each earn $6 million or more per season; the New York Rangers’ Brad Richards tops the list at $12 million.
Better with age
The AHL has no salary cap, and even the league’s top pay pales in comparison with the NHL. Of course, compensation has to be viewed relative to productivity, and Aucoin and Bourque seem to be getting better with age, at least at the AHL level.
Consider Aucoin, who turns 33 on Nov. 6. Undrafted out of Division III Norwich (Conn.) University, he is in his fourth season with Hershey. He won the AHL’s scoring title and most valuable player award in 2009-10. He was second in league scoring in 2006-07 (with the Albany River Rats) and 2008-09 (Hershey).
Aucoin earlier this season posted his 500th career AHL assist, to go along with more than 200 AHL goals. He has had some success in limited NHL stints: eight goals, 18 assists and 26 points in 75 games.
Bourque, 25, has borne the expectations that come with being the son of a Hockey Hall of Famer, Raymond Bourque, and from being the 33rd overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He has one goal and three assists in 33 NHL games with the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
But after spending last season in Russia and Switzerland, Bourque has returned to Hershey with a vengeance, including a five-point night Oct. 14 vs. Norfolk.
Through the Bears’ first seven games, Bourque leads the AHL in scoring with 13 points; Aucoin is tied for fourth with 11 points.
Top 10 AHL salaries (and NHL salary/team):
- Alexandre Giroux: $325,000/Springfield; ($825,000/Columbus)
- Keith Aucoin: $300,000/Hershey; ($525,000/Washington)
- Chris Minard: $300,000/Grand Rapids; ($525,000/Detroit)
- Clay Wilson: $300,000/Abbottsford; ($525,000/Calgary)
- Chris Bourque: $300,000/Hershey; ($525,000/Washington)
- Mike Zigomanis: $300,000/Toronto Marlies; ($650,000/Toronto Maple Leafs)
- Ben Walter: $275,000/Abbottsford; ($525,000/Calgary)
- Steve Pinizzotto: $275,000/Chicago; ($625,000/Vancouver)
- Martin St. Pierre: $275,000/Springfield; ($600,000 Columbus)
- Derek MacKenzie: $260,000/Springfield; ($600,000 Columbus)
To view the complete list of the top 25 AHL salaries, click here.