The Minnesota Wild signed both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter yesterday, and more power to them. Hockey's always better when a Minnesota team is good. The formerly thrifty Wild already have the second-highest payroll in the league, but their salary cap hits won't be nearly as brutal as they ought to be. That's because the Wild took advantage of one of the NHL's most glaring loopholes, and they did it just in time—contracts like this won't be legal in a few more months.
Parise and Suter signed identical 13-year, $98 million deals. Averaged, those are cap hits of $7.54 million—totally in line with their skills. But hidden within those numbers are the real contracts: a more lucrative $94 million over 10 years. The Wild frontloaded both deals, with each player receiving just $2M, $1M and $1M in the final three years. No one expects the player to play those seasons, when they're pushing 40 years old. They're just stuck on the end to lower the cap hit by nearly $2 million a season.
Yes, this is exactly the sort of frontloaded deal that stirred controversy when it was handed out to Ilya Kovalchuk. And Roberto Luongo, and Marian Hossa, and Brad Richards. But Kovalchuk's was the most blatant—his original deal with New Jersey would have run until he was 44 years old, and would have paid him less than a million dollars in each of the last six seasons. The NHL voided that contract, and forced the Devils to come up with one that was a little more realistic. Then they passed a pair of amendments to the CBA to stop this from ever happening again. Except, here we are.