Under Review: Contracts

This is the first “Under Review:” post (hopefully the get better over time) I’m going to be talking about contract (I bet you can guess what inspired this post.) Here are a few thoughts I’ve had on them and maybe a few ideas that will spark some debate (or resonate with you.)

Should the NHL put a “cap” on the number of years you can offer on long term deals?

When you look at a contract (usually there are a few years on it) that is front loaded, and fair, you can understand why teams and players do it. From the players stand point you make the big bucks up front, which everyone wants, and if you walk away at the end your not leaving (in the overall picture) that much money on the table. From the owners point you create a situation where you can create a manageable cap hit and flexibility (usually for an above average player, or expensive player) and you can build a team around that elite player(s) in a cap age.

But when you mix a front loaded contract with long term deals you can create a recipe for disaster (ex. See Kovalchuk.)

The Devils had a deal in place that would have 11.5million for 5years, but ended with them paying him 3.5million in the last 6years (allegedly done to circumvent the cap.)

While the jury is still out on that, and people on both sides of the fence, in my opinion something needs to be put in stone in the next CBA on contracts, and perhaps that is to put a limit on the number of years you can offer a player.

Maybe the simplest and most efficient way is just to say that you can offer any player a deal up to their 39th birthday.

(ex. A 26year old can sign up to a 13year deal)

No Contracts extending past a players 39th birthday

I’m not going to throw every player who signs a long deal under the bus (a lot of deals appear to be reasonably done) but over the past few seasons a group of players have signed questionable contracts extending past their 39th birthday. My list of questionable offenders include Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Chris Pronger, Roberto Luongo and potentially Ilay Kovalchuk.

There may only be a handful of contracts done in this fashion (right now), as we have seen with the Kovalchuk contract the CBA can be exploited and “if it can be done it will be done”.

So why sign a player to a long term contract?:

Players, generally, are signed to long term deals to keep a reasonable cap hit. Remember these are your elite players who are looking for excess of 50 or 60 million dollars (the big money guys.) If you signed that 30 year old 50million dollar player to a 7year deal your looking at a Cap hit of over 7million a season without front loading (which I will explain in a second). But if you extended that contract another 4years your only looking at a cap hit of 4.5million a season

So now that you only have to pay player X 4.5million a season, instead of the 7million a season you would have to pay if you signed him to a deal just 4years shorter, you can begin to front load and make changes to the amount player X will make each year he will likely play while keeping a manageable cap hit for the team.

But if these players (my list of questionable offenders) don’t play to the end of their contracts (for other reasons then career ending injuries) then the teams who signed them have effectively just circumvented the CBA, regardless if the player left 2.5million on the table (because if you just made 50million over the last 7years do you really want to stick around for another 4years to make 2.5?)

I’m not saying I’ am 100% that these players will retire before their contracts run out (we’ve seen players play into their 40’s) but you have to admit the odds they retire before their contract expires is greater then the odds the play it out.

So what I am suggesting is would it be in the interest of the NHL to institute a new rule in the next CBA saying that no player can be signed to a contract that extends past that players 39th birthday in that given year?

Now you may be wondering why 39?

While you can’t predict when a player will retire you can count the number of players who will be 39 or older next season on both hands. To offer contracts that go past a players 39th birthday (while possible for players to go that long) is improbable.

Maybe 39 is a high number still, maybe 35 is something that will make players think twice about long term deals (who wants to make peanuts when they still have years left to play) but the principle is the same.

(Just to make things clear I’m not saying everyone has to retire at 35, just they have to sign a new deal at 35 or 39 and maybe you even cap that two a maximum 2year deal or 3year deal.)

Max you must pay each year

Or what if you put a floor on the minimum a player can make each year when they sign their new contract. You couldn’t make it too high because of unexpected injuries that might occur and end a career (people still need to get paid) but maybe a 15% floor.

This might be the first one to be thrown out by the NHLPA, but maybe it deserves some consideration because something needs to be done. Whether the NHL is considering any of these possibilities (most likely not, they got a bunch of people smarter then I am) or some other options the one thing everyone agrees on is that this will be one of (if not, “the”) major issues when the league and players go to renew their contracts.

Feel free to leave a comment. OR! Let’s hear what you think at http://www.sportsjabber.net where the Jabber is always going on. Registration is free, and we offer tons of prizes throughout the year. So get in there 700+ members, 200k + posts, there is always room for more at Sports Jabber. Good forums, good friends it’s all going on at Sports Jabber!