1 NBA coach might change how we think of NHL player and coach salaries

Eric Spoelstra's new deal with the Miami Heat has Paul Bissonette thinking of ways to increase NHL player salaries.
2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three
2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Miami Heat extended their head coach Eric Spoelstra to a new contract on Tuesday. Spoelstra’s new deal will keep him in South Florida for another eight years with a reported price tag of $120 million.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowkski, it’s the largest “committed coaching money in history”.

Former NHLer and current broadcaster Paul Bissonette decided to compare the new contract to that of the NHL’s best players. Comparing anything from hockey to basketball is an apples-to-oranges comparison at best.

It gets even less similar when it’s comparing players in one league and coaches in the other. Still, Bissonette had a unique idea.

The NHL has a lot of ways it can go about the salaries of players and coaches

Bissonette, known for his off-ice antics such as a feud with the Seattle Kraken’s loveable mascot more than his sports economics takes, suggested adding a “franchise tag” for certain payers to increase their salary.

Potential limitations included a five-year max and limiting it to one player, but it wouldn’t count against the cap.

While this is just Bissonette thinking out loud it’s sure to at least raise the eyebrows of some players, agents, and league personnel. Then again, anything that could alter the much-debated salary cap isn’t going to be taken lightly.

This “franchise tag” proposal isn’t the first idea we’ve heard about giving teams an exception to the cap.

The term “franchise tag” is a tool used by the NFL meant for players to, more or less, stay on their teams instead of heading to free agency.

Yes, there are exceptions and rules, but for the sake of clarity just know it’s essentially a guaranteed one-year contract almost forcing the player to stay with their team. It also differs from Bissonette’s proposal in the fact that it does count against the NFL salary cap.

Bissonette isn’t proposing the NHL use the same franchise tag system as the NFL as much as he’s using it as an interchangeable term in the circumstances of retaining certain players.

Since we’re on the subject of coaches’ salaries, let’s take a look at the NHL. As per CapFriendly, only 15 current head coaches have had their salaries disclosed.

While a team might disclose how long a coach is signed for, it’s rarer for them to announce how much the coach is getting paid. The current highest-paid coach is the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mike Sullivan, who will be paid $5.5 million starting in the 2024-2025 season.

His salary for 2023-2024 is not disclosed, but his $5.5 million salary is the highest listed among all “known” salaries currently on CapFriendly.

The highest “known” salary for the current season is Todd McClellan of the Los Angeles Kings. He’s due to make $5 million this season, with next season an undisclosed amount.

The most newsworthy NHL coaching contract in recent memory was Mike Babcock’s deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Before he was in the hockey news for perusing through player's phones, Babcock signed an eight-year deal worth $50 million during the 2015 offseason.

Even if comparing players between basketball and hockey is an “apples to oranges” comparison at best, we’re going to give it a try.

Spoelstra likely earned his deal because of both his longevity, being Miami’s head coach since 2008, and a consistent track record of success. Similar to that is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jon Cooper.

Cooper is the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach, becoming the Lightning’s bench boss in 2013, and leading them to become an NHL powerhouse in the past decade.

There are a million and one economic factors as to why salaries in the NBA exceed those in the NHL. That applies to both players and coaches. The NHL cares more about being on stable economic footing instead of keeping up with counterparts in other sports.

Next. The NHL is making big changes to the ASG. The NHL is making big changes to the ASG. dark