Bonus money adds incentive to NHL playoffs

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer gets a tap on the pads from Boston Bruins' Jaromir Jagr. (CP/Frank Gunn)

BOSTON — There is more than pride and glory on the line in the two Game 7s that will be held in the NHL playoffs on Monday night.

There is a little bit of money, too.

You just wouldn’t know it if you talked to most of the players involved in the games. Even though the playoff bonus pool is an area where the NHL Players’ Association made gains in the recent collective bargaining talks — the annual payout was doubled to $13 million for this season — it was next to impossible to find anyone who knew what kind of financial reward they were actually playing for.

“I don’t know,” Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk said Monday before a Game 7 with the Boston Bruins.

“At this time of the year, it’s about the team. You want to be playing for a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I think everyone dreams of that as a kid.”

The difference between a win and a loss in the first round works out to roughly $10,000 per player — with some variation depending on how a team chooses to divvy up its payout (roster sizes aren’t consistent and some teams give out partial shares to the Black Aces and scratches).

Each of the eight teams that lose in the first round will be given $250,000 to disperse among the players. By comparison, the Stanley Cup champion receives $3.75 million and the runner-up gets $2.25 million (the full breakdown is provided below).

Assuming 25 shares per team, a player would receive $10,000 for a first-round exit this spring, $20,000 for a second-round exit, $50,000 for a third-round exit, $90,000 for losing in the Stanley Cup final and $150,000 for winning a championship.

Those numbers will grow over the course of the CBA with the overall pool set to climb to $17 million for the 2020-21 season.

Under the terms of the collective agreement, players only receive their salary during the regular season. As a result, it has often been noted in the past that the quality of hockey is at its best once the money is taken off the table.

“I guess it’s what’s on the line,” said Leafs forward Jay McClement. “It’s the ultimate atmosphere. … Just to have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup elevates everything.

“I don’t know how to explain it but there’s just a lot on the line.”

That includes a little extra financial incentive this year — although there is no evidence yet that it has translated into extra motivation.

Essentially, when the puck drops for a pair of Game 7s on Monday, the Rangers and Capitals will be playing for an additional $250,000 while the Leafs and Bruins will be doing the same thing. That could cover more than a few team meals.

Even though the last NHL paycheques have been given out until October, players know that a value can be attached to performing well at this time of year.

It’s one of the reasons the NHLPA was reluctant to accept a realignment plan earlier this year that would have seen teams in two divisions have better odds of qualifying for the post-season than those in two others.

“You can look at it that (we’re not being paid now), but also you can look at it that if you have a good playoffs in a contract year it might help you for that,” said van Riemsdyk. “But at the same time this is the best time of the year to be playing hockey. Anyone who is not in the playoffs right now will tell you that.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re not getting paid.”

Here’s a breakdown of the NHL’s playoff bonus pool for this season:

President’s Trophy winner (Chicago) — $500,000

First round losers — $2 million ($250,000 each to eight teams)

Second round losers — $2 million ($500,000 each to four teams)

Third round losers — $2.5 million ($1.25-million each to two teams)

Stanley Cup finalist — $2.25 million

Stanley Cup champion — $3.75 million

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