Are Contracts Like Sidney Crosby’s Too Long?


As NHL free agency is about to officially begin this weekend, the devils advocate in me says the answer to this question is yes.  I’m not at all saying that Sidney Crosby isn’t worth the average annual cap hit of this deal….which by my math is close to $9 million per season.  My concern is the length of the contract, and whether or not he’ll actually be able to fulfill it without incurring a career ending injury.  As one of, if not the best player in the game today when healthy, Crosby appears to be worth every penny that’s thrown at him in this deal.  If he finishes the term then everybody wins.  Sid, the city of Pittsburgh, the Penguins franchise, and the NHL.

However, we all know that Crosby is one, or two Matt Cooke elbows to the head hits away from a career that could end prematurely, thus sticking ownership in Pittsburgh with a contract as heavy as a manhole cover.  The point being is that in a salary cap world which was intended to prevent skyrocketing salaries, it doesn’t appear to be working.  While the two sides, NHL and NHLPA need to reach an agreement on a new labor contract, the cap continues to rise, the players want more, and the owners continue to give more.  I imagine that if franchises can afford it, good for them.  Although, one of the original intentions of the CBA was to control salaries allowing teams such as Columbus, Phoenix, Atlanta, now Winnepeg, and even our Florida Panthers to compete since they may not have the funding to sign star players.

The issue with these long term deals is that they (owners) never seem to learn, and at some point fans end up paying for it.  When did it start?  Most likely around the time that Mike Milbury inked goaltender Rick DiPeitro with an albatross of a deal in 2006.  15 years at 4.5 million per season.  While that deal’s cap hit is relatively respectable, the length is atrocious.  Especially with the fact that the injury prone netminder has more than 25 games once in the past four seasons.

Another deal that was a head scratcher was the Blackhawks signing of Marian Hossa.  Again, not the amount, but the length.  A 12 year deal worth 63 million dollars, Hossa will be 42 years old by the time he reaches the end of the deal.  IN addition he’ll be paid only $1 million dollars over the last four seasons due to the structure of the contract, which was front end loaded.  While the NHL is looking to prevent those types of arrangments going forward since it potentially allows the player to walk away and retire if they don’t want to finish the term, the contract is still too long.  Hossa mond you is an extremely talented player, and an important part of the Chicago Blackhawks both offensively and defensively.  After taking that vicious hit from from public enemy Raffi Torres, the condition that Hossa will be in remains to be seen.

Finally, and I wouldn’t be worth my salt if I didn’t mention this one, is the deal for Roberto Luongo.  12 years at $64 million, the average cap hit is $5.3 million.  However, and pay attention Florida Panther fans, the actual salary over the next six years is $6.7 million!!!!!!!!!!!!!! While there are some “out” clauses in the deal at certain points, it’s still a contract that in about 3 years could strap the team that’s trying to unload it.  With the Vancouver Canucks agreeing in principle to a deal with Cory Schneider, it appears that Luongo could be on the move.  And of course as he usually is, he’s attempting to state his own terms with only one team on his wish list.  The Florida Panthers.

Again, I’m not at all saying that players like Crosby, or Jonathan Quick who signed a pretty decent deal himself yesterday aren’t worth the money.  With the way the game is played today, and with the potential of injury via concussions, I wonder how fiscally responsible it is for the owners to make these types of committments. In the end, the fans end up paying with higher ticket prices and $12 beers, to go with your $6 hot dog.

The solution, which could come with the next CBA is that a cap is put on the length of contracts.  Whether this gets any kind of traction or not remains to be seen, but I think it bears discussion.  Making money is not my isseu, although there are some dumb deals that have been made, and those will always exist.  Sometimes you have to overpay to get what you want, but is it necessary to give the length to get what you need?

Maybe size does matter.

Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.

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