Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Budget Cuts Don't Exactly Add Up on Blues' Payroll

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Budget Cuts Don't Exactly Add Up on Blues' Payroll

Article excerpt

For all the talk about the budget cuts put forth by the Kiel Center Partners and about popular players being shipped out to meet that budget, the Blues start the season with a payroll that isn't significantly lower than last season.

According to figures obtained by the Post-Dispatch, the Blues' payroll will be $23,144,000, in salaries and signing bonuses, for the 24 players still on the roster.

In addition, 11 players in the minors will earn $1,112,500, some of which will be offset by their minor-league clubs.

The Blues also will pay an additional $550,000 to help Hartford and San Jose defray the salaries of former Blues Brendan Shanahan and Craig Janney - $300,000 for Shanahan and $250,000 for Janney.

In all, one-third of the Blues' 24-man roster will earn more than two-thirds of the money, with Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Shayne Corson, Dale Hawerchuk, Geoff Courtnall, Chris Pronger, Jeff Norton and Grant Fuhr hauling in $16,070,000 among them.

Four more players - Brian Noonan, Esa Tikkanen, Adam Creighton and Murray Baron will earn more than $500,000 with a payout of $3,175,000 among them. That leaves $3,899,000 for everyone else.

Last season, the Blues ranked fifth in the National Hockey League with a payroll of $24 million. The average payroll in the NHL this season is expected to be $20 million, $500,000 less than the Kiel Center Partners' projected budget.

Down Time: Imagine Craig Johnson's surprise Saturday when Keenan called him in after the morning skate at the USAir Arena and told him he had been sent to Worcester of the American Hockey League.

"I was disappointed, but what do you do?" Johnson said with a shrug. "I'll just go and play. There's always something to work on, whether here or there."

That's exactly why he was sent.

Johnson, 23, would have been scratched for the opener, so Keenan decided to get him some ice time. He recalled him after the game.

"There's no sense for him standing here for three hours when you have a chance to play," Keenan said. "We decided he might as well play with Worcester and come back tomorrow."

Johnson will rejoin the Blues on Sunday.

Kids' R Us: With Johnson's demotion, winger Roman Vopat and defenseman Jamie Rivers were the only rookies on the Blues' opening roster.

But there's no guarantee that Vopat and Rivers will be here for the duration. If it becomes evident that they either a) will not play enough or b) aren't ready to play at this level, Keenan can ship them out and save money in the process.

Vopat would return to his junior team in Spokane, Wash., and earn $120,000 in salary and signing bonus instead of $375,000 with the Blues. Rivers' pay would drop to $67,500, a savings of $332,500.

Chicago Fire: The Chicago Blackhawks borrowed a page from the Blues' negotiating book when they gave winger Keith Tkachuk a four-year, free-agent offer sheet with a $6 million payout in the first year. …

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