If you are in leagues that use player salaries instead of cap hits, you surely know that the occasional extreme fluctuations in salary from one year to another plays a vital role in how people perceive players and operate their respective teams. Sometimes it can work to your advantage, for example in the latter years of a frontloaded contract which are minuscule compared to the first years. However, there are situations where a sudden hike in salary can adversely affect a player’s value to your team and also cripple your budget. This week we will examine players from the Western Conference whose cost will take an upward turn in the near future.

For last week’s article covering the Eastern conference, click here.

Alex Burrows – Vancouver

2012-13: $2,000,000
2013-14: $6,000,000
2014-15: $5,000,000

Alex Burrows has been a great fantasy bargain for years. Unfortunately, he is currently in the final year of a four-year, $8-million contract and has signed a big contract extension that kicks in next season. The deal is very front-loaded, starting at $6 million in 2013-14 and decreasing by a million each year after that. This is very troublesome for people in salary leagues because Burrows will not be worth the money for the foreseeable future.

Another thing to keep in mind is his production over the last two years which sits at an average of 27 goals and 50 points per campaign. This is down from the 35 goal and 67 points he obtained in 2009-10. His PIM are also down as he failed to reach 100 in each of the last two seasons after clearing 120 in each of the prior three. The bottom line is that Burrows is now 31 and his style of play may be catching up to him.

Mikko Koivu – Minnesota

2012-13: $5,400,000
2013-14: $7,290,000
2014-15: $5,400,000
2015-16: $7,290,000

Mikko Koivu owns one of the more bizarre contracts in the NHL. His salary flips from $5.4 million to $7.3 million and back each year due to a $1.9 million signing bonus every second year. If your league allows free drops of any player at any time, then you can simply add a short-term player when his salary is down and then drop that player the following offseason. If your league has stricter rules regarding drops, then owning he is a more complex situation because you have to be prepared for the higher cost.

Simply put, Koivu is a tough sell if you have to put aside that much budget space to own him from one year to the next. Despite being paid very handsomely, his career-high is just 71 points and he has been very prone to injury over the years. His name is popular right now because of the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in Minnesota so it would be a good idea to see if someone is willing to take on the potential headaches. His trade value should still be high.

Niklas Kronwall – Detroit

2012-13: $4,500,000
2013-14: $6,000,000
2014-15: $6,000,000

Niklas Kronwall is a risky player to own moving forward. He has only cleared 40 points once to date (51 in 2008-09) and his salary is about to take a jump to $6 million. Now that Nicklas Lidstrom is retired Kronwall is expected to get more opportunity to produce offensively. Unfortunately if he does not become a consistent 50-60-point defenseman he will simply not be worth the money in a points-only league. It is worth noting that just 15 defensemen currently hold a salary of $6 million or more.

If your roto league counts hits and blocked shots then Kronwall still holds good value. His all-around contributions are what earned him his big contract and the overall package ranks him as one of the best multi-category defensemen to own.

Kari Lehtonen – Dallas

2012-13: $4,250,000
2013-14: $6,250,000
2014-15: $6,250,000

Kari Lehtonen has made excellent strides the last two years after a disappointing stint in Atlanta. He is still not in the clear when it comes to being an injury concern but he has been durable since arriving in Dallas and has produced good numbers. He has signed a contract extension that begins in 2013-14 which will see him get paid top dollar. This is where his value takes a hit.

As of today only five goaltenders are paid more than the $6.225 million that Lehtonen is owed next season. That is too much for the goaltender ranked #22 on Dobber’s top goalie list. He carries more value in roto leagues but with a solid backup in Richard Bachman, a history of not playing elite-level minutes and a Dallas club that has question marks it is reasonable to say that Lehtonen is definitely outside of the top 10.

Josh Harding – Minnesota

2012-13: $1,500,000
2013-14: $2,100,000
2014-15: $2,100,000

Josh Harding has a contract similar to Anders Lindback who was profiled last week. He is a candidate to take over the #1 job in Minnesota after this season and if he can get the promotion while also staying healthy, which has been a question mark in the past, he could be a top fantasy bargain. However, if Niklas Backstrom is retained or another starter is signed, Harding’s value could be in trouble.

As mentioned, Harding has a long history of getting hurt and has missed significant time relative to the amount of starts he has received over the years. It is possible that with a combination of a strong starter in front of him and some injuries he could be left with only a few starts. There is nothing worse than a highly-paid backup sitting on your bench not even contributing occasionally.

On the flip side, if the stars align Harding is definitely talented enough to be a starting goaltender. His career save percentage Is .916 and with an improved team expect the goals-against average and win-loss record to be a strength as well.

Editors note - Eric wrote this piece before finding out about Harding's MS diagnosis.

Previous posts from Eric Daoust:

You can find Eric on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.

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ericdaoust said:

Harding The Harding news is sad from a personal standpoint but in fantasy hockey I cannot recommend owning him. Just terrible news.
November 29, 2012
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