Rest easy, Penguins’ Fans; Sid will sign a Long-Term, Team-Friendly Contract Extension

On Sunday June 10th, Puck Daddy put out an article over-viewing the NHL community’s expectations of what kind of Contract Extension Sid Crosby could be expected to sign with Pittsburgh. Assembled members of the hockey media, especially those without their finger firmly on the pulse of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have been Stirring the Pot and proposing scenarios in which Sid Crosby is going to do something aside from sign a Long-Term, Team-Friendly Contract Extension with the Penguins.

These fabricated scenarios range from the patently-absurd (such as the team not wanting to sign Sid because of the inability to get insurance coverage in the event of a career-ending injury) to the wildly off-base (such as Sid’s agent Pat Brisson insisting that Sid be paid the Cap Max over a 10-12 year deal). It seems everyone outside of a 20-mile radius of greater Pittsburgh wants to propose a bizarre situation in which Sid does something other than what he did during his last contract negotiation: simply a sign a long-term, team-friendly deal.

There have been rumblings from well-connected, well-respected media types like Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos suggesting that Sid could possibly hand-cuff the team by demanding a contract with a Cap Hit near the Cap Max (20% of the Cap Ceiling, which would be about $14 million per-season on a Cap near $70 million). This has the North-of-the-Border media creaming themselves, as they would like nothing better than to see the fruition of an Evil Secret Plan that knocks the Pens from atop the NHL’s relevance mountain and/or puts any combination of Sid, Geno, and Jordan Staal in a Maple Leafs or Oilers jersey.

My opinion is that this is simply conjecture from people who are paid to write provocative hockey commentary, or bad fan-fiction in which team homers depict the relationship between Sid and the Penguins as anything less than cordial. This speculation is done as a justification for him possibly spurning the Pens and signing with their preferred team.

I am not a Pittsburgh Penguins’ insider, but I am a lifelong follower, and I’d like to think I have good insight into the Character of both Sid Crosby and Mario Lemieux. Here is a Pens-centric rationale of why you, as a Penguins’ fan, have nothing to worry about in terms of Sid getting a very manageable Contract Extension completed:

The urgency to get Sid’s new deal done hinges on the fact that NHL General Managers do not know what the details of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement will be. For example, Owners may fight for a cap on Contract Length in order to prevent themselves from offering potential albatross contracts; to cite an example, in the recently-negotiated NBA agreement, there is a six-year cap on contract length (if a team is re-signing its own player). Owners may want to see a 5-7 year limit on contracts as a way to protect themselves from irresponsible spending.

The Penguins want to sign Sid to very long-term deal and see him retire as a Penguin. “Showtime” Ray Shero wants to get the jump out in front of this new CBA nonsense and get the Best Player in the World locked up to the same ten-year deal as Jeff Carter, Marian Hossa, Hank Zetterberg, Ilya Kovalchuk, et al. before a restriction is put on Contract Length as a condition of getting the CBA ratified.

Showtime is one of the best Managers in the League. When it comes to re-signing his own players, there is no other Manager who continually gets his guys to agree to take Team-Friendly deals while still appropriately compensating them. I remind you that this is the man who signed Kris Letang to a four-year deal for $3.5 million per season, among his more notable Contractual Coups.

But even if we were just talking about negotiations between a player happy with his situation and a team happy to have him aboard, NHL analysts like to pretend that Sid doesn’t still live at Mario’s house. No, really; Sid finally decided to move out a few years ago, but then changed his mind and went back to his guest room at Castle Lemieux while his new home was being built. The neighbors in Sewickley continue to gripe about the criminally-loud, all-night floor hockey games between Sid and Austin Lemieux.

These two obviously do not have a typical player-owner relationship; aside from having been teammates, Mario basically makes Sid baby-sit every time he wants to take the Missus to St. Thomas or Casino Windsor or the red-light district in Montreal, or wherever it is that out-of-control ballers like Mario like to take their wives. The guys working for TSN and CBC continually turn a blind-eye to the fact that Sid and Mario regularly get into scuffles at the breakfast table over who gets the last donut (Mario, obviously, but Sid’s a competitor). It just comes across as obtuse when national columnists make no mention of their personal relationship.

(UPDATE: 06.12.12 – 1:18 AM – I just read Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column, in which Elliotte overviews the potential problems with a deal getting done quickly between the Penguins and Sid. I greatly respect Elliotte as a journalist, but in his column he asks five unnamed NHL General Managers, all of whom comment on the situation without taking the personal relationship between Sid and Mario into account. Most of the GMs mention taking the situation to their respective owners, and several comparable Player Situations are cited by Elliotte, but Sid’s situation in Pittsburgh  is very unique; no other GM in the League works for the League’s former marquee player, who absolutely adores Sid.Once more with feeling: this will not be an acrimonious or drawn-out Contract Negotiation.

And even if we were discount the Sid-Mario relationship and Mario’s clear affinity for Sid, this quote at the end of Elliotte’s column really summarizes Sid well: I just can’t see him taking a deal that’s going to cripple the team or be overly ridiculous. It’s not him.”

Sid Crosby is driven by an absolute devotion to and obsession with hockey, not money; if he was permitted under CBA rules, he would donate his salary to the team so it could go get another scoring winger and a puck-moving defenseman. When learned people try to imply that he has even a little Alexei Yashin in him, it reads slightly-more far-fetched than the Twilight series.)

These are not the negotiations between an aged, hands-off owner and a money-grabbing, mercenary player. These are also not the frosty negotiations between Sergei Fedorov and the Detroit Red Wings. Sid and Mario are basically family members, which is fairly common knowledge among the Pens’ faithful. Of course Sid is re-signing. Pat Brisson and Showtime will get into a room and decide on a nice, round number that is not insultingly-low within the marketplace, have a few laughs, and then Artie Stevens and Billy Guerin will show up with a case of Sam Adams Boston Lager and chow from Burgatory. The whole event will have the formality of a family reunion or a graduation party.

My prediction? 10 years, $80 million. Yup, you heard me. Sid will take even less money on his next contract than the one he signed in 2007.

The rationale is that Sid is a hyper-competitive freak, and one who would rather have a front-running team surrounding him than be the gate attraction on a middle-of-the-pack club. He has already made more money than his great-great grandkids could spend, and he knows his legacy will be measured in Stanley Cups, not dollars. This line of thought doesn’t even take into account the money he makes from his various endorsement deals, All-Star bonuses, League Award bonuses, etc. Money is not an issue for Sid.

He also knows that he is essentially signing Geno Malkin’s contract as well, and while the two are not inseparable, Sid knows that he’d rather have Geno on his team than not.The team will be apt to use Sid’s contract as a starting (and likely ending) point in Geno’s negotiations in Summer 2014; everyone involved knows this. By leaving Cap money on the table, Sid is lobbying for Geno to do the same, all in the interest of Winning More Stanley Cups.

The forecast calls for Sid taking an $8 million-dollar per year Cap Hit on the longest contract negotiable. That figure is low without being guilty of Cap circumvention, and might not totally piss off the NHL Players’ Association (which wants him to take as much money as possible, and thus set the standard for Player Contracts).

For those that think he’s going to completely blow the bank, here are some Cap Hits for somewhat-comparable NHL stars:

Shea Weber, D – Nashville: $7.5 M

Ilya Kovalchuk, LW – New Jersey: $6.66 M

Anze Kopitar, C – Los Angeles: $6.8 M

Claude Giroux, C – Philadelphia: $3.75 M

Brad Richards, C – New York: $6.66 M

The Cap Hit varies wildly with the player, the situation, and the Manager who signed him. I also realize you have Cap Hits like Rick Nash ($7.8 M), Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 M), and Eric Staal ($8 M), but those are all considered marginal contracts; while the players are far from marginal, the 2012 Playoffs have evidenced that the NHL has become an 18-skater league; Depth and Contractual Value are taking precedence over Star Power. The 2011 Champion Boston Bruins are additional evidence of this.

I’m not suggesting that Sid should or will be low-balled, but I am saying that enough has to be left over in the kitty to fill out a competitive roster. Regardless, it’s a bit silly to think that Sid and the Pens won’t come up with some clever way to massage the Cap Hit down to a number well-below the $10 million-dollar range, because it will also be in Sid’s long-term financial and marketability interests to keep a dynamite team surrounding him.

Sid could take anywhere from $7.5 million to $10 million and I wouldn’t be at all surprised; again, it all depends on what contract is going to pass the smell-test of the NHLPA, as well as what Showtime believes the landscape will look like under the new CBA. If the new CBA mentions another Salary Rollback, Showtime will “pad” the contract accordingly so Sid gets a fair figure.

Lastly, I have to address this:

Former NHL goaltender and current CBC Glenn Healy believes that if Sid takes even a modest raise, it will mean the end of Jordan Staal in Pittsburgh. I think now is a great time to remind everyone that the 2012-13 Salary Cap is expected to rise by about $7 million, as the Cap number is directly tied to a percentage (57%) of League revenues meant to lavished on players. Even with a modest raise to $10 million per-season, Sid’s contract is not going to directly impact Jordan Staal’s; the factor effecting the Staal contract will be whether Jordan is going to be content to be on a team that has two All-World Centers in front of him on the depth chart.

Even if Sid takes a significant raise, I assure you efforts will be made to shoe-horn Staal onto the roster if he wants to be in Pittsburgh. The team did not just sign a back-up goaltender to a two-year, $4 million-dollar deal because they are in Salary Cap hell. There is more room for the Penguins to maneuver than analysts and experts would have you believe. Plus, the team hasn’t even gotten rid of Snake Martin yet!

(Note: I’m kidding, Paul. I no longer live in Pittsburgh, but every pseudo-fan I know is calling for your immediate trade to Minnesota or New Jersey, if not for your head. Just trying to bring some levity.)

Let’s hope Sid and the team wrap this up quickly so Showtime can turn his attention to the Jordan Staal situation…



About sfarrell11000
All over the place

One Response to Rest easy, Penguins’ Fans; Sid will sign a Long-Term, Team-Friendly Contract Extension

  1. Pingback: Finally, Some Optimism Pertaining to the NHL Lockout « Jack_Has_Spoken

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