Last season, we saw that the Oklahoma City Barons were spending more on players than most of their peers. But with the departure of AHL hotshots like Alexandre Giroux and Brad Moran, this year's version of the team is going to be a cheaper, especially up front. But how do they compare to the other teams in the AHL? After the jump, we'll look at what all of the teams in the AHL are spending based on the players who were in the lineup in each club's first game of the season.
Before going further, a huge thanks to Capgeek is in order for all of the non-speculative salary numbers in this post. Without that fine resource, this analysis wouldn't have been possible. Unfortunately, even Capgeek has its limits. They don't have any of the contracts that don't have an NHL component, and to my knowledge, that information isn't publicly available anywhere else. As such, I've highlighted those players in yellow in the charts below and estimated their salaries, which means that most of the salary numbers in the forthcoming summary chart contain a few guesses on my part. Still, they should be a pretty good reflection of what teams are actually spending.
The first column in the chart is the full payroll for each club. The second is the payroll for each club if we assume a maximum salary of $500,000, which prevents guys like Wade Redden from completely screwing things up (the Rangers feel my pain here), and the chart has been organized by that column. The last column is the number of players on the team making at least $105,001 (since guys making $105,000 or less don't need to clear re-entry waivers, this is a convenient line in the sand):
As you can see, there's a very wide range here. Teams like Manchester, Bridgeport and Milwaukee are spending half as much as the Adirondack Phantoms, which is an enormous competitive disadvantage. Of course, payroll isn't the best measure of team quality in any league, and especially in the AHL where many of the best players are on entry-level contracts that are capped at under $70,000 per season (the maximum is $62,500, $65,000, or 67,500 depending on when the player was drafted). Nevertheless, all of these teams have AHL veterans as well, and as with any free market, you'd expect the folks with the most money to spend to attract the most quality (Side note: it's nice to see Springfield with five players making more than $105,000; that city has had to endure those awful Oiler teams a couple years back, so I find myself hoping that they do well).
The Barons have spent a lot. If we look at the "$500,000 Max" column (which knocks Gilbert Brule's $1,850,000 salary down to $500,000), the Barons are currently eighth in the AHL in spending, but in actual fact, they probably belong higher. One of the teams above them is Houston, and they got a $500,000 boost from having Eric Nystrom on the club, but he's since been traded to the Dallas Stars, which will knock them back to the middle of the pack. Syracuse is getting a similar boost from Kurtis Foster who played in the first game of the year on a conditioning stint. Furthermore, the Barons are likely going to add Corey Potter when Ryan Whitney gets healthy, and his $225,000 salary is a big one, at least by AHL standards. Add it all up and it seems likely that the Barons will be one of the five biggest spenders in the AHL. With that as backdrop, you'd have to think that a playoff spot is the absolute minimum standard.
And with that, it's data dump time. The following is each team's opening night roster, presented alphabetically by city name (and remember, salaries highlighted in yellow are estimates):