Under Review: NHL Contracts

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IJuly 24, 2010

This is the first “Under Review:” post (hopefully they get better over time), where I’m going to be talking about contracts (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, 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, you're not leaving (in the overall picture) that much money on the table. From the owners perspective, 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 (See: Kovalchuk).

The Devils had a deal in place that pay out $11.5 million for five years, but ended with them paying him $3.5 million in the last six years (allegedly done to circumvent the cap).

While the jury is still out on that, with people on both sides of the fence, 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 26-year-old can sign up to a 13-year 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?

WestCoastExpress is a Jabberhead and an SJ contributing author. Read more of WestCoastExpress at Hockey Jabber Blog .

Join in the discussion on this and other topics in the NEW Sports Jabber Forums!