Sidney Crosby: “Never has a Man Signing a Nine Figure Contract Looked so Unselfish”

So by now I know for a fact that you know that Sidney Crosby and the Penguins have come to an agreement on a new contract that will presumably be signed in fact on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:00:01 PM. As you know, it’s 12 years with an annual cap hit of $8.7 million. Admittedly, the first seven years of the deal will be paying between 10 and 12 million while the rest will be a lot lower. Of course as a fan, this is quite literally biblical. There is so much to read into this, all of it is good, all of it is more than likely true.

First, to set the mood, some more gold from DK. Make no doubt about it, he’s writing for the Hall of Fame right now.

What does it tell us? That this is quite literally the face of an entire sport, and really all he wants to do is win. He wants to do whatever is necessary to make sure that he goes down as one of the winningest players of all time, possibly even more than he cares about achieving personal goals. It tells us as fans that we have really earned his adoration and respect and that we mean enough to him that he doesn’t care to ever see what the response would be in another city. It’s been all over the Twitters but there is no doubt in my mind that this has to set a new record for humility, even if he is still making nine figures over the course of the contract. Again we’re talking about the face of the LEAGUE, not just a team, not just over the course of a couple of years, we’re talking about the guy who has carried the mantle since day one and likely will do so until the day he retires, and he left approximately $5.5 million per season on the table, presumably without batting an eye.

For all we know, he walked into the negotiations, Shero threw him some number between $9 and $10 million a year, and Sid’s response was, “Eh, I came down in my Lambo, wearing my Olympic gold medal and my Cup ring, there are 10 chicks waiting at my palatial mansion right now, let’s just do the same number and call it a day.” And they did.

Some people are quick to say that this makes Sid a “Penguin for Life” and the best part is that they’re wrong. This not-yet-25-year-old is locked up until he turns 38. What’s to say that he won’t be a Penguin for another five years after that?

I mean yes there are some dour spots, Crosby hasn’t fully asserted himself as the best player in the world since 2010, and yes his next hit could be his last, but frankly the same could be said about any person doing any single thing in the world, so why not enjoy it? The Penguins have undoubtedly taken out some pretty solid insurance against that possibility and now its time for us as fans to celebrate 12 more years of Sidney Crosby. Get more below.

I do want to play devil’s advocate a little bit more though and look at the impact that this announcement will have in other places.

Let’s start with the pending free agents. Just yesterday I was beginning to compile my list on the alternatives in the pending UFA class, just in case the Penguins should be unable to sign either Parise or Suter. Well, I still plan to write a post on the others, and I do have a fairly pertinent point to make regarding the names that aren’t Parise or Suter. Still, I think this finally, once and for all, answers any questions about Sid’s desire to enable the team to build the talent around him. Further, it resolves any doubts about the Penguins being able to pursue one or both of the biggest names on the market. By going public with this arrangement, pending free agents know verbatim that there is no doubt about playing for a long time with Sidney Crosby, which again, as I’ve said many times in the last week, is a great selling point. So with that, even if there are a few teams (especially the Wings) who might be in a slightly more economical position than the Pens, there’s nobody that can make a more serious or attractive offer than the Pens.

Now I want to look a little bit at the NHLPA, Donald Fehr, and how their position has been changed as a result of this news. For them it is very simply, bad. Fehr is supposed to be this genius at securing better wages for professional athletes and is the primary man responsible for the current structuring of the MLB and why the highest paid athletes in that league are receiving contracts in excess of a quarter billion dollars. Now Sid has gone and basically shattered any expectations of getting “more” from the NHL owners. As I hinted at earlier, the maximum contract Crosby could have signed would have been approximately $14 million per season. The current CBA allows for a maximum contract of 20% of the salary cap in any one given year. If the world’s best player was unwilling to even come anywhere close to maxing out that number, what does that mean for the also rans in the NHL?

It doesn’t have to mean anything, in the seven years since the league last negotiated collective bargaining and installed the salary cap the average NHL salary has more than doubled, unless you want the Penguins to be dishing out $4 million per year for Deryk Engelland it is really doubtful to double again. If anything I really applaud Crosby and his agent for not waiting on the NHLPA to weigh in on the situation. He’s espousing the right values that we should all live by, and he’s avoiding the trap that even the Great One couldn’t avoid (ahem seeking more money in a new market), and he’s doing this before he can even rent a car.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the NHLPA is going to be up in arms, the whole situation might even cause Fehr, who is no spring chicken, to develop heart palpitations. But I feel like if there is one sport where a player has the right to simply say, “I don’t care about what I make, I care about making sure that my team wins,” it would be hockey. Over their history only hockey and soccer really have an established history of recognizing each team’s leader with an outwardly worn symbol of importance. Yes, I know that probably 31 of the 32 teams in the NFL do it now (excluding the Steelers who remember that they didn’t always do such a thing and that it’s a stupid, blatant, rip off of hockey), and yes, both MLB and NBA teams have sometimes given the “C” to their team leader, but the tradition, at least in North America, truly belongs to hockey. In this day and age, the hockey captain is as close as it comes to a player coach and that player really is the living-breathing embodiment of the franchise. Why shouldn’t the captain be allowed to say, I’m going to help this team win? Further, why shouldn’t we as fans rub it in the face of that crazy, conspiracy-theorist beat writer from Philly that his worst nightmares are coming true.

The last perspective I want to look at this contract from is that of the reigning MVP, Evgeni Malkin. Now of course, Geno has been off somewhere in the middle of the ocean (I think) wearing very European swim trunks with a codpiece to rest his fishing pole on, and he might not even know about the new deal, but I’ll say this, Crosby’s deal might affect him more than any other player in the NHL today. Most of the reporters around the Pens have been suggesting that whatever terms the Penguins would agree to with Crosby would represent the gold standard for contracts in Pittsburgh. I believe that was supposed to be an indicator to Zach Parise, that even though some teams might offer him more money, he was never going to come to Pittsburgh and make more than Sid. But what about Evgeni Malkin? What happens when Geno destroys the rest of the league in scoring again next year? Will you really open up contract negotiations by saying, “well you may be the twice reigning scoring champ and MVP, but we just can’t pay you more than this guy”? Even more awkwardly, what if Sid and Geno end up neck and neck down the stretch for scoring title and MVP honors? Going back to back on such a thing is really hard to do and I’ve already run to every wooden surface in my house and I now have some very swollen knuckles, but it’s hard to bet against Geno.

Let’s get one thing clear, Geno is just as happy in Pittsburgh as Sid is. He’s even asked for an even more expanded role moving forward. Still, does that mean that he will automatically take the same contract as Crosby in his biggest contract opportunity? I have my doubts, and I wouldn’t expect him to. Trust me July 1, 2013 is still a long ways away, and hopefully there will be a lot to write about before then. But I just hope that this rule isn’t as steadfast as it may seem.

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