Wayne Gretzky of the Kings has staunchly denied that he will receive a three-year, $30-million contract.
But apparently he was not entirely correct Monday in saying that he will be making a salary in the $4-million range this season.
Suzan Waks, vice chairman and chief financial officer for McNall Sports and Entertainment, shed more light Tuesday on the complex Gretzky negotiations. She said that the new contract will be a three-year deal for $25.5 million, or an average of $8.5 million. But because a significant portion of the money will not be paid until after 1995, the real value of the contract, figuring in inflation, is closer to $18 million.
“There’s deferred money, but the value of the deferred money still has the present value in excess of $6 million per year,” said Waks, who has been negotiating the contract for King owner Bruce McNall.
More than $6 million per season would make Gretzky the highest-paid player in hockey. Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux currently has the richest contract in the sport, averaging about $6 million, including marketing provisions. Gretzky’s contract has no such provisions.
All involved in the negotiations have said they expect the deal to be finished this week. Gretzky also said on Monday that the contract is for two years, plus an option. McNall seemed to think the same thing, but Waks said it is a three-year agreement.
The deferred money kicks in after the final season of the contract, 1995-96, and those payments are spread over the next eight years. Waks said about half of the $25.5 million is deferred.
When Gretzky was speaking about his soon-to-be-announced contract on Monday, he apparently was not including the deferred payments.
“It’s gotten to be a complicated deal, and I’m the one negotiating it,” Waks said.
McNall and Waks reiterated that Gretzky did not approach them in search of a new deal.
“He didn’t come in here and say, ‘I want to make $7 million,’ ” Waks said.