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Sidney Crosby's new contract includes $36 million over first three years

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby smiles from the bench in Pittsburgh in this March 25, 2012 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Gene J. Puskar

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Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby smiles from the bench in Pittsburgh in this March 25, 2012 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Gene J. Puskar

Sidney Crosby's new contract will make him the NHL's highest-paid player. At least if you average the first nine years of the deal.

The Pittsburgh Penguins captain officially signed a massive US$104.4-million, 12-year extension on Sunday that is heavily front-loaded.

Crosby will receive $95.4 million of that over the first nine years, including an annual salary of $12 million for three seasons starting in 2013-'14.

With the final three years due to pay just $9 million total, it's the type of contract widely expected to be eliminated in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Determining the best breakdown was one of the toughest aspects of negotiations.

"We talked over the last couple months about structure, things like that," Penguins GM Ray Shero said earlier this week. "As we got down to it and I sat down with Sid and talked to him, I think the balance was to try and find a contract—in his third contract—where we could pay Sidney Crosby accordingly.

"But as Sid always says to me ... `OK, that's fine, but how can I help the team? How does that help the team?' "

Crosby received some criticism when the deal was announced on Thursday because it carries the same $8.7-million cap hit as his current deal. That leaves him second on the NHL's list behind Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and the $9.53 million he earns each year.

However, a closer examination of the contract shows Crosby will earn an average of $10.6 million over the first nine years—taking him until his 35th birthday.

By tacking on three seasons at a much lower salary after that, Crosby lowered the overall cap hit of his deal and left the Penguins well positioned to sign other impact players. The native of Cole Harbour, N.S., wanted to commit to Pittsburgh for the rest of his career while making sure the team will remain a Stanley Cup contender.

"When you're negotiating a contract of this magnitude, as a player it's important to understand what you want and where you want to be," agent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports said earlier this week. "Sidney understood that from Day 1."

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Here is the year-by-year breakdown of Sidney Crosby's contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins:

2013-14—$12 million

2014-15—$12 million

2015-16—$12 million

2016-17—$10.9 million

2017-18—$10.9 million

2018-19—$10 million

2019-20—$9 million

2020-21—$9.6 million

2021-22—$9 million

2022-23—$3 million

2023-24—$3 million

2024-25—$3 million

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