What does it mean to live up to a contract?
Does it vary by player? By team? By city? Or by a player's contract itself? While all those questions are relative, the closest answer would be to perform and produce at NHL standards for the type of salary you make.
With a new contract comes new expectations. These expectations are based off of the money a player makes and the production level of players making a similar salary.
The Winnipeg Jets' major move this offseason was re-signing top forward Evander Kane to a six-year contract worth a total of $31.5 million—that's a good $5.25 million per year. Compare that contract with other players of his caliber around the league and you will see that Kane is a very valued player.
The most critical element of a new contract is the price tag.
Kane is coming off of a solid 30-goal season and was due for a raise. Looking at the length and dollar amount of Kane's new contract, it's not far-fetched to give a player like Kane that type of deal.
The only thing that changes are revised expectations.
Kane is a solid goal scorer and can contribute in the assists and points categories, as well. His repertoire includes many different skills and abilities. He contributes in ways such as on ice leadership, a physically gifted ability to play tough, and an ability to play in all zones.
As you can see, Kane isn't all about the offense.
I established that Kane's contract was worth it at the initial signing, but now he has to live up to it. And the question remains, can he in fact live up to his contract? Without giving a distinct answer, I can say that he has more than enough talent to play even beyond his contract.
When a player, any player, is making over $5 million a year, then the most important aspect of their game has to be goals and points.
The criticism usually stems from how well a player is contributing to the offense. Let's face it, as important as role players are for a team, they probably make a quarter of what superstars make.
Kane is not a role player. He is the superstar of the Jets organization.
Kane will give the Jets energy; he'll make a few big hits and probably even drop the gloves a half dozen times a season. His blazing fast, breakaway speed will excite the fans every time he takes a shift. He'll do all that and more, but his contractual expectations won't recognize all that.
In order for Kane to live up to his contract, he would have to score about 30 goals each season at the very minimum, something he's more than capable of doing. And as for points, around 60—or higher—a season would seem more than acceptable.
Those are $5-million-per-year numbers.
Kane has the talent to produce like a $6-million-per-year-player and beyond, which would eventually prove to be a steal for the Jets. The 40-goal potential is there. Not only can Kane live up to his contract, he can surpass expectations and play beyond it.
Today, we over exaggerate the whole idea of a player "living up to his contract."
The base we go from is how other players of the same level are producing. We go into grave detail to try and find any minor blemish as to why a player is overpaid, overrated or simply not worth it.
Contract signings are all relative based on a franchise's state alone. One franchise may not have made the same signing as another. As far as the Jets signing Kane to his recent contract, it's perfectly fine and more than fair value.
It was well worth it for both parties.
Instead of nitpicking minor details and trying to be contract judges, just let Kane play. All he has to do is produce at a respectable level. Another 30-goal season would be just fine. That same pace for the next five years would have him in great standing with his contract.