August 24, 2012
Former NHL star Jeremy Roenick has rubbed quite a few people the wrong way over the years, both as a player and now as a color commentator for NBC. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks and even though you may not agree with him, it’s actually an admirable quality that he possesses. Roenick didn’t exactly shock the world recently when he said the Pittsburgh Penguins made a mistake by signing Sidney Crosby to a 12-year contract extension, but in many hockey fans’ eyes, he hit the nail right on the head.
Even though Crosby’s probably one of the best hockey players to ever lace up a pair of skates, the past couple of years have shown that he’s quite injury prone. Crosby has missed more games than he’s played over the past couple of seasons due to concussions and it seems to be a risk that didn’t need to be taken by the Penguins by locking him up to a long-term deal for a dozen years. In fact, even if he was healthy it isn’t really good business sense.
With the NHL on the verge of a lockout this season, the future looks quite hazy indeed. Nobody knows what the state of the league will be before Crosby’s new contract runs out. The NHL could see franchises, fold, relocated or even added if the league decides to expand. Also, a new collective bargaining agreement could see the financial structure of the game change dramatically and nobody can predict what’s going to happen with the salary cap over the next 12 years.
By signing players to long-term deals, you’re basically stuck with them for the life of the contract. It’s very hard to trade them since nobody else wants to take on the risk or financial responsibility. The Vancouver Canucks are finding that out this summer as they attempt to move 34-year-old goalie Roberto Luongo, who’s still under contract for 10 more years.
Roenick said he doesn’t mind contracts up to six years long, but it’s ridiculous when you reach 10 years or more. His prime examples were the 13-year contracts the Minnesota Wild signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to this off season, which were worth $98 million each. And of course, the Nashville Predators were basically forced to re-sign star defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year contract worth $110 million or lose him since the Philadelphia Flyers signed the free agent to an offer sheet.
Roenick was especially critical of Crosby’s new deal though, which will see the 25-year-old paid about $105 million until the end of the 2024-2025 NHL season. The former player said the Penguins have given a huge contract to the player who has the biggest concussion problem in the league and he could turn out to be another Eric Lindros, who eventually had to retire due to recurring head injuries. Roenick said he believes that Crosby’s the top player in the sport, but to sign him to a 12-year extension just doesn’t make much sense from a business standpoint.
It’s a little odd that NHL owners are signing players to these ridiculous long-term deals when they’re trying to see a new collective bargaining agreement put a five-year limit on contracts. They also want to get rid of signing bonuses and front-loaded contracts and make sure the salary remains at a consistent level for the length of the deal. The owners have basically created a mess for themselves and are now trying to change the rules to get out of it.
Most long-term contracts definitely show up in the NHL. You rarely see deals over 10 or 11 years in baseball and football, and of course some of the NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed. The NBA hasn’t really gotten into the habit of extreme long-term agreements either and the longest in soccer is generally about five years. In fact, the New Jersey Devils got so carried away back in 2010 that they tried to sign forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a 17-year deal, but the NHL ruled it illegal by saying it didn’t follow the rules of the CBA. He was then signed to a 15-year contract instead for $100 million.
This summer’s long-term singings could very well be the last in NHL history if the league gets its way. They’re bad business ventures to start with, and it’s hard to disagree with Roenick when he says they’re even worse when given to injury-prone players such as Crosby… no matter how good they are.