Thursday was a big day for the NHL, as the two biggest contract extensions of the 2012 off-season were announced.
ESPN Los Angeles reported that Jonathan Quick, goaltender and Conn Smythe Trophy winner of the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings agreed to terms on a 10-year contract extension. The monetary value is still unknown as the contract can not be signed until July 1st, due to the new bargaining agreements.
There was also big news in Pittsburgh today, as ESPN also reported that Sidney Crosby was signed to a 12-year contract extension worth $104.4 million. The contract is front loaded, but he will average $8.7 million over the 12 years, which is the exact amount he makes per year on his current contract.
Both Quick and Crosby would have been unrestricted free agents for the 2013-14 season.
So which was contract was more important to their perspective franchises? Let's start with Jonathan Quick.
There is no doubt in anybody's mind that the Kings would not have come close to winning the Stanley Cup this year had Quick not been as brilliant as he was. There was no question that he was going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL Playoff's MVP, and many thought he was snubbed when Henrik Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy over him at the NHL Awards.
His regular season statistics last season were phenomenal. His .929 save % was 5th best in the NHL, 1.95 goals against average was 2nd best, and his 10 shutouts led the league. It is pretty amazing that he put up these statistics considering he did not have as much help on the back end of the ice as say the New York Rangers.
Quick hadn't really done anything notable in his career until this year; however, he was the third string goaltender for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He has been a solid goaltender for years, but everyone was waiting for him to have that breakout year, and this season he finally did.
Now on to Crosby.
What can you say about a guy that has already led his team to a Stanley Cup victory, scored perhaps the biggest goal in Canada's history in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and has been the face of the NHL ever since he entered the league.
Injuries have plagued him of course, but when he has been on the ice, he has been without a doubt one of the best players in the world. As a defender, getting the puck off of Crosby's stick in the corner is about as easy as peeling an orange with your knuckles.
After the Penguins traded away Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek to clear up some cap space, it was huge for them to get the Crosby deal negotiated and finalized so they can move on to bigger targets in the off-season.
It is hard to say that signing a nine-figure deal is unselfish, but it really was when you look at the contract that he could have asked for. Arguably the best player in the world settled for $8.7 million per year when he could have been asking for anywhere in the $10-12 million range and it would have been understandable.
So which of these contract extensions is more important to their respective franchises and the NHL?
In my opinion, the contract extension given to Jonathan Quick is more important to the Kings than Crosby's extension to the Penguins, and here is why:
Finding an elite goaltender is very difficult in the NHL, whereas there are breakout scorers every season, and the Penguins have proven that they can still be successful without Crosby in the lineup. They still have Malkin, Neal, Letang, Kunitz, Dupuis and many other guys that can create offense.
If Quick went down last season, the Kings would have had to rely on Jonathan Bernier, and it is pretty safe to assume that they would have missed the playoffs. Jonathan Quick is only 26 years old, and my guess at his contract is that it will be around $6.5 million per year, which would make him the second highest paid goaltender in the NHL behind Henrik Lundqvist.
This is a huge day for Kings fans, as finding someone to mend the pipes is what usually makes or breaks a franchise, and for the next decade L.A. has found their guy.
The most significant piece of Crosby's new contract is the fact that he definitely took a pay cut to make room for the Penguins to be able to sign more talent to surround him, which is a completely selfless move on his part. Mentor Mario Lemieux paved the way for this move back in 2005-06 when he signed for only $3 million, which at the time was a huge pay cut for one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair skates.
Crosby's contract is extremely top heavy, he will receive more than $10 million annually for the first nine years, and then $3-4 million for the remaining three years, according to TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie. It will be interesting to see what happens if Crosby finds a way to avoid serious injury for the next ten years and can get back to form as the best player in the world.
Will he be willing to only receive $3-4 million after earning more than $10 million for the previous nine years?
Only time will tell.