Few NHL fans can say with a straight face that a healthy Sidney Crosby is not the best player in hockey. He passes, he scores, he has captained a Stanley Cup-winning team, and he’s still young. Unfortunately for him, however, Crosby has picked up a pretty huge concussion problem. Ever since the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals more than 20 months ago, he has been one of the most fragile players in the NHL – he has returned multiple times but has still not found extended relief from his symptoms.
So when Crosby had his contract renewed by the Penguins this offseason, a few eyebrows might have been raised. He was given another 12 years, with about $8.7 million per, and the length of the contract was given some gruff. 12 years for a guy who could be one hit away from serious brain damage? But when one considers the importance of Sidney Crosby to the city of Pittsburgh and the game of hockey, it makes at least some sense to lock him up for a long time.
But not everybody is on board with the length of such a risky contract. You can add Jeremy Roenick to this bunch, who yesterday made a quote that re-sparked the debate:
I don’t mind the six-year deals. The five and six-year deals that’s OK. When you give [Ryan] Suter and [Zach] Parise those 10, 12, 13, 14-year deals that’s like… You’re committing contract suicide.
And then you have the Pittsburgh Penguins who give the guy who has the biggest concussion problems in all of hockey a ten-year deal… I think Sidney Crosby’s the best player in the game, don’t get me wrong, but when you have concussion problems the way that he has in the last year and a half and you give him a ten-year deal I just don’t… Is that smart business? I don’t think so.
Clearly J-Ro didn’t see the situation the way Penguins GM Ray Sheri did. But who’s right? Was this contract shirt-sighted or smart?
The only possible answer is that time will tell. Sidney Crosby could either come over his concussion problems or his career could end far too soon. The only factor rests on whether he can avoid being hit and exerting himself too much. Neither of those are totally up to Crosby, unfortunately, so his future in the as a hockey player remains little more than a coinflip. He could wind up sitting in a dark room for too much of his adult life or he could further enshrine himself as the best hockey player of his generation.
12 years is a long time to pay an $8.7 million cap hit, and Ray Shero knows it. He’s hoping he’s paying that money to keep the best player in hockey on the ice, and got to have him languishing on the injured reserve. That’s the gamble he’s taking, and Penguin fans know it’s a gamble worth taking.
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