We chose to examine these two contracts together because they both reveal something about the current state of the NHL. During free agency in a rising salary cap environment, one team is often capable of substantially outbidding the others - players certainly have taken less to go certain places (Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski, as two examples), but this tends to be the exception. In a falling salary cap environment, teams have to be warier about how they distribute their money, and the exceptional offer may never come along. It therefore falls to other preferences - do I want to take less money to be on a winning team? Do I want to play closer to home?
Marian Hossa's contract is an example of one signed by a player who wants to 'win'. He'll be playing for an exceptionally young team that went to the Conference Finals - Hossa signed a 12 year, 62.8 million dollar deal. While highly reputable hockey people such as sundstrom at njdevs.com contended that Hossa would get below 7.5 million/season in his contract, it is still surprising that Marian signed up for such a low figure - of course, it is not really a low figure at all, as Hossa will be paid 7.9 million over the first 8 seasons of the deal. It would be surprising if a team like the New York Rangers did not offer more. However, the Blackhawks are much closer to a Stanley Cup than the Rangers, and Hossa has gotten tantalizingly close to lifting Lord Stanley the last two years.
Jay Bouwmeester's contract is similar - there is no front-loading, but Bouwmeester will be playing in his home province of Alberta. He never made it to the market, but it is difficult to imagine that he would not have received offers higher than $6.6 million over five years. In taking a hometown discount, he gives the Flames a better chance at collecting the players they need to win.
There are lots of other contracts that appear to be of this sort - Saku Koivu and John Madden's come to mind - where players chose either comfort or winning over dollars. Expect more of these contracts in the coming weeks, as there are still some solid free agents lurking in the shadows. GMs around the league had best be aware of all these possible enticements - they can certainly be the difference between signing a player and watching him go elsewhere.