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Friedman: Ditching long-term contracts is a bad idea

Jul 8, 2012, 4:01 PM EDT

Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

There’s talk of shortening up contracts to help cut down on the salary cap circumventing deals as the players and NHL negotiate a new CBA. Elliotte Friedman of CBC postulates that cutting out the long-term deals would be a bad idea because they won’t benefit the players or the teams they’re meant to help out.

To set it up, Friedman hypothesizes what it would be like if the maximum length of a contract was five years.

Ryan Suter is 27. Zach Parise is weeks away from 28. Shea Weber will be just shy of 28 when he (tentatively) hits free agency next summer. Evgeni Malkin will be 26 when (under current rules) the Penguins can begin negotiating an extension with him.

All of those players will be in their primes, and in pro sports, your window for maximum earning is finite. With the current “super contracts,” you can take less money on the back end to help your team’s cap situation.

With a five-year maximum, you can’t. None of those guys is going down to $1 or $2 million at age 31 or 32 — nor should they. It’s completely unreasonable to expect the league’s best players to do that, especially in a sport where one big hit can ruin your career.

Making matters worse, deals with monster cap hits and big cash do damage to the smaller markets. If putting a cap on the number of years for a contract is something to be discussed between the Players’ Union and the owners, they should think long and hard about what that could do.

  1. Brian - Jul 8, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    It would make more sense to cap the number of long contracts am individual team could have at any given time, I.e. a team can only have, say, 2 or 3 contracts longer than 3 years on their roster at any given time. That would mean any sane GM would think twice before, say, signing Christian Ehrhoff for ten years, and potentially forces some teams into some real difficult choices, such as Pittsburgh being able to sign Crosby, Malkin and Neal to long term deals, but not being able to offer Kris Letang a long term deal too, or Edmonton having to choose between Hall, Eberle, RNH and Yakupov.

  2. ray2013 - Jul 8, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    From a player’s standpoint, these long-term deals are a no-brainer. Guaranteed cheddar that they will get paid.

    But from a team’s standpoint, exhibit A is always Rick DiPietro. He’s played roughly 47 games in the past four years, and is signed until the 2020-2021 season. That’s a lot of risk the teams are taking on that players will be healthy for the duration of their contracts. The Penguins took a $100 million+ gamble that Crosby will make it to the end of his contract.

  3. scotloucks - Jul 8, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    “None of these guys are going down to 1 or 2 or 3 million at age 32”.
    That is the point. Limit the term to 5 years, let the player decide where he wants to be after 4 years.
    The limit gets rid of the cap circumvention and (as per usual) protects the GM”s from themselves.
    As of this year, I have only seen one of these long term, cap circumventing contracts pay off … that would be Alfredson in Ottawa (and the deal wan’t that long).
    Where is the line up for the Luongo contract? How about DiPietro? The whole point of free agency is to “spread the wealth” …. it doesn’t work when players are signing 13 year deals, with no intention of playing the last 3 years.

  4. realtalkmedia2k - Jul 8, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Friedman, I think this is definitely necessary to have a limit on contract lengths, these 13 year contracts are just ridic! Not a huge fan of Gary, but I do love the parity of the league, and adding a cap limit on contract length will further provide the league with a more even playing field, example if the wild sign both Suter and Parise to 5 year deals with cap hits of 9 million each, that would screw them this summer as they still have a ton of unsigned players left. a few NHL teams have taken advantage of cap circumvention and its now time to stop this nonsense.

  5. atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 8, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    So what exactly is Friedman arguing? That it’s bad to get rid of long contracts because it would hurt teams ability to circumvent the cap? Well last I heard the NHL doesn’t want teams circumventing the cap, also saying that these contracts are okay because these players wouldn’t go down to $1 million after 5 years kind of makes the argument for the contract limit doesn’t it?

    I still believe the NHL should allow long term contracts but make a rule that any contract over 7 years will stay on the signing team’s cap for every year after year 7 no matter what happens to the player. You want to sign that contract? Go ahead but there’s no get out of jail free card.

  6. stakex - Jul 8, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    Agree with the current CBA and the way contracts are handled or not, you have to admit the point Friedman is making is laughable.

    The whole point is that you shouldn’t be able to have a bunch of throw away years on your contract to keep the cap hit down. If a team wants to have a super star, and the league still has a cap, then they should have a huge cap penelty from that super star. The way the current system works allows teams to avoid that, which is why some people argue for a limit to the length of contracts. Friedman is pretty much saying that it shouldn’t be done because it would actually work…. and thats a horrible argument.

    With that said, I can think of dozens of other ways to take care of these BS contracts. Cap hits could simply be what ever a player makes each year, there could be limits placed on how much the salary of a player can drop from the peak of the contract (for example the lowest year can’t be less then 30% of the highest year), cap hits for all contracts stay on the books even if a player retires (like +35 contracts do now), or a variety of more complex ideas could be used. Its not really rocket science, its just a matter of getting everyone to agree on something.

  7. flyerscup2010 - Jul 9, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Friedman is missing the point though. By capping years on contracts, the league is cracking down on attempts to circumvent the cap. Malkin won’t be making $1 mill in year 5 of his contract because the Pens won’t be able to to mitigate his cap hit, thus making his salary and cap hit more reflective of each other. Same would go for the Flyers and Red Wings in their attempts to sign Suter and Parise or Kovalchuk’s contract with the Devils where he’s making 8 figures with a sub-$7 mill cap hit but will likely retire before he’s making $1 mill on his sub-$7 mill cap hit. The status quo is untenable and unfair to teams like the Maple Leafs among others who seem committed to avoiding contracts like that and therefore cannot be major players for max salary free agents (although it could be said that they aren’t anyway for various reasons…but that’s besides the point).

  8. hockeyflow33 - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    He loses all credibility for not using “are”

    “None of those guys is going down”

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