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Lemieux heads NHL salary list

By United Press International

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Mario Lemieux tops the NHL salary list at $2 million per year, according to published reports of figures to be released next week.

The salary figures, to be officially released by the NHL Players' Association, also show the Los Angeles Kings' Wayne Gretzky in the No. 2 position at $1.72 million, according to the Montreal Gazette.

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The figure for Lemieux does not include an undisclosed sum in deferred payments, while there is speculation Gretzky's salary is a base sum that does not include bonuses for performance and attendance and possible payments from other companies owned by team owner Bruce McNall.

NHL players voted months ago to release the figures, with only those from the Montreal Canadiens narrowly voting against the plan. There was speculation the players felt that because they receive payment from both the team and Molson brewery, a part-owner of the team, that their salary figures would appear out of line with those of players on other teams.

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Players on Canadian-based teams are paid in Canadian dollars but those whose contracts were negotiated with U.S.-based teams are paid in the higher value U.S. dollars. Deferred payments were disclosed only for some players.

Rounding out the top ten list, combining salary and deferred payments, after Lemieux and Gretzky are: Dave Taylor, Los Angeles Kings, $950,000 ($500,000 salary plus $450,000 in deferred payments); Mark Messier, Edmonton Oilers, $869,820 ($990,700 salary, $42,500 deferred payments, both in Canadian funds); Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings, $700,000; Bernie Nicholls, New York Rangers, $700,000 ($400,000 salary plus $300,000 deferred); Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders, $575,000; Larry Robinson, Los Angeles Kings, $550,000; Denis Savard, Chicago Blackhawks, $525,000; Michel Goulet, Quebec Nordiques, $504,000 ($600,000 Canadian).

Bill Watters, Toronto-based agent for 30 NHL players, told United Press International the list appeared genuine.

'It's very, very accurate, but there are some mild distortions in there,' Watters said. 'This is not a startling revelation, but maybe it will force the lower end of the scale up a bit.'

Watters said salaries listed for his clients were correct, with only two small exceptions.

'I have two players whose salaries are listed accurately, but make at least $50,000 more simply as an addendum to the standard player contract.' Watters said that money is received 'just for showing up, just for being who they are.'

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The highest paid goaltender is Ron Hextall of Philadelphia at $500,000 per year.

Brett Hull, the NHL's top goal scorer this season with 45, makes $125,000 for the St. Louis Blues. Hull, in the option year of his contract, could demand the biggest salary hike in league history before next season begins.

Agents noted the figures don't include signing and performance bonuses, and don't include contracts renegotiated after Oct. 1.

Free-agent goaltender Curtis Joseph signed a three-year $1.2 million deal with St. Louis Blues last summer, but his salary is listed only at $125,000 because a large portion of the deal involved a signing bonus.

The NHLPA Tuesday refused to confirm the accuracy of the published list.

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