The link between the draft, free agency
Early in the 2010 draft cycle, one of the hottest prospects was a Russian winger named Kirill Kabanov. He had high first-round skill and a move to the QMJHL from Russia should've improved his stock. But, as has been well documented, Kabanov self-destructed and plummeted on draft boards. He dropped to the third round, where the New York Islanders took a flyer on him. It's very possible that Kabanov will come back and have a productive NHL career. (In fact, there have been encouraging signs.)
But from a strictly financial perspective, the effect of such a fall is long-reaching. I won't even consider the fact that his struggles probably delayed his NHL debut. On an entry-level deal, draft slot is a huge factor.
The average entry-level first-rounder currently makes about $1.8 million a season, which is a contract some veterans would envy. But when you look at second-rounders with entry-level deals, that number falls to $975,000. It falls another $100k for third-rounders. But for players like Kabanov, draft slot shouldn't matter once they got on an NHL ice. If they perform well, they should be compensated thusly. But the numbers show that a player's draft position can affect how much he will earn well beyond his entry-level contract.
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