Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Payrolls of the Russian Super League teams

How We Rock
Spartak vs. Dynamo; #31 in goal for Dynamo is former Hartford Wolf Pack goalie Vitali Yeremeyev (sorry, Vitali!)

Yesterday, the Russian site Sport Express printed a couple of articles related to possible financial reforms within Russian hockey. To a lot of people, the finances of the Russian Super League has always been a somewhat hidden affair, with stories of players being paid "under the table" with envelopes stuffed with money and so forth. However, recent off-ice events, such as budget shuffles by team sponsors and the news of a potential "European NHL" (Russian Hockey Digest has a very informative look at the proposed new league), are leading some to demand that the league open its books and bring Russian hockey into a more modern era.

In one of yesterday's articles, a Sport Express writer took a stab, unofficially, at what the payroll budgets were of each of the Super League teams. If you click here you'll see the article, and if you scroll down you should be able to follow along with some of the numbers that are in the chart at the bottom of the article. The numbers in the chart are expressed as "u.e." ("y.e." in the Russian alphabet), which is the Unified European currency ("Euros"). Right now, the Euro dollar is worth about 18 cents more than the US dollar. (Russia is not a member of the European Union, but in this case, UE is a unit that represents the exchange rate between the ruble and the Euro dollar.)

Top five teams in -'05-'06 payroll (in millions), with their current won-lost-tied records and position in the Russian Super League standings:

30 - Ak Bars Kazan (15-9-4, sixth)
28 - Avangard Omsk (18-9-1, second)
26 - Metallurg Magnitogorsk (22-3-3, first)
24 - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (15-8-6, third)
22 - Dynamo Moscow (14-12-2, seventh)

The bottom three teams in payroll:

9 - Spartak Moscow (12-13-4, ninth)
7 - Lada Togliatti (16-10-2, fifth)
6 - Molot Perm (6-21-2, fifteenth)

As the chart in the original Russian article shows, Lada Togliatti actually began the season with a 19 million payroll, but budget cuts by the team sponsor (Lada, Russia's largest automaker) forced the team to get rid of a lot of players and bring the payroll down to 7 million. Lada was the team that current New York Ranger Maxim Kondratiev played for last season, when they lost to Dynamo in the finals. Molot ("The Hammer") seems to be the perennial doormat of the league, although oddly enough I own one of their jerseys (the current season's jerseys look a lot better than the Halloween-looking orange ones, though).

The third column from the left in the chart indicates each team's payroll, up or down, in relation to last season. The fourth column from the left lists each team's most expensive recent acquisition; for Ak Bars Kazan, unfortunately, it was Jeff Hamilton, who ended up posting no points in 8 games and was released. The highest-paid new player on Lokomotiv is former Hartford Wolf Pack goalie Steve Valiquette. Valiquette is listed as one of eight goalies in the Russian Super League with a salary of 500,000 or more, according to the next-to-last column on the chart. Also in that column are Metallurg's Travis Scott and Avangard's Norm Maracle.

As a side note to all of this-- I read last month on one of the Russian sites that the Russian league is thinking about eventually implementing a "wage ceiling" (i.e. salary cap).

By the way, the best sources that I know of for Russian hockey news in English are Russian Hockey Digest and Russian Prospects.