NHL: Why Contract Term Limits Are a Must in the Next CBA

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

Sidney Crosby's 12-year contract may not be good for him or his employer.
Sidney Crosby's 12-year contract may not be good for him or his employer.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While the biggest issue in the current collective bargaining agreement talks between the NHL and the Players' Association is about the slice of the financial pie the players will receive, it is not the only issue.

If and when the two sides can agree on what percentage the players should get, a CBA that gets both Gary Bettman's and Donald Fehr's signatures shouldn't be that hard.

The only other issue is contract term limits.

Contracts without term limits are both good and bad for players and owners. 

They may be quite good for fans, but could also cause problems as well.

Deals that go eight, 10 or 12 years are not good for the game overall. While any one contract may work out just as intended, nine will raise new questions.

While they don't all work out this way, it seems most of the deals that are longer than six years are front-loaded. This means players have the benefit of getting a lot of cash up front and teams get to reduce the cap hit.

That's the key benefit to the team. They rid themselves of salary-cap issues that would prevent them from making deals for other players.

But that's just a part of it. When a slew of players sign extra long-term contracts, it reduces overall player movement. When players can't move freely, than the free-market experience is impacted; players don't know their full worth when superstars are hooked to a team for years on end. As a result, the prices in the market place become artificial.

On the surface, if a team scouts, drafts and develops a player, it should be able to keep him for as long as possible if both parties agree it is in their best interest. But neither the player nor the team knows what his performance will be as the deal matures.

Performance cuts both ways. We are talking about the player's performance on the ice and the value of the contract over its term.

That's why it's difficult for fans to understand. While most of those who are paying for tickets and watching games on television can't relate to the vast amounts of money being paid to players, they certainly understand getting the most out a player is a valued commodity.

But what's difficult to see is the benefit for the team. Even if the player is superstar Sidney Crosby (who signed a 12-year contract this offseason), what is the benefit for the Penguins if the player has a history of debilitating injuries and may not be able to fulfill the terms of the deal?

If fans can't see that logic, than it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the team is trying to "pull something."

That bit of chicanery is salary-cap circumvention.

Former NHL start and current NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick believes long-term deals (longer than six years) have no place in the NHL.

"I don't mind the six-year deals, five to six-year deals, that's OK," Roenick told NBC sports (through Yahoo.com). "When you give [Ryan] Suter and [Zach] Parise those 10, 12-year, 13-year 14-year deals, you're committing contract suicide right here. Look what happened to [Alexei] Yashin, look what happened to [Rick] DiPietro, none of these guys have lived up to these long-term contracts because this game is so hard."

The subject of contract-term limitation is not the biggest issue the NHL faces these days, but it's one that should be addressed.