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The reality of long-term contracts

Jonathan Quick got big money - and term - after leading the Kings to the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Jonathan Quick got big money - and term - after leading the Kings to the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Greetings and salutations. On second thought, no, just greetings. It’s time for another THN mailbag. Thanks for your submissions.

Adam, love your work. Gotta ask you a question. With the news of the Wild signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts and Sidney Crosby signing a 10-year contract even though he is a concussion away from retirement, why are these long-term deals OK with the league, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s wasn’t? They all have the same cap-circumventing purpose. Don’t they?
Aharon Goldwasser, New Jersey


Aharon,

Thanks very much for the kind words. While many agree with you regarding the continued use of long-term contracts with significant drop-off in payment in the final years, the fact is the contracts signed by Suter, Parise and Crosby all meet the new requirements established in the wake of Kovalchuk’s initial rejected deal with the New Jersey Devils.

Remember, the league and NHLPA went to arbitration over this issue. They came away with the following adjusted rules:

1. Players may still negotiate long-term deals that extend to the point a player turns 40 years old, but for salary cap calculation purposes, the contract will end the year the player turns 41 and his real salary at that point will stand up as his cap hit.

2. Any contract paying an NHLer an average of more than $5.75 million for the three highest-paid seasons of the deal will result in a minimum cap hit of $1 million for each season the player is between 36 and 39 years old.

Now, that leaves a lot of room for, um, creative contract structuring, which is what we’ve continued to see in deals signed after Kovalchuk’s revised pact with New Jersey. But the fact remains that NHL owners consented to this system in the last collective bargaining agreement – which they won handily, as everyone knows – which means they have to live with the loopholes, grey areas and consequences of the arrangement.

In short, you can’t rewrite the CBA on the fly to keep people happy (owners or players). So if the league really wants to cut down on these types of contracts – and there’s no doubt it does – it’s incumbent on them to make it a priority in negotiations with NHLPA boss Donald Fehr.

Adam, with Bobby Ryan wanting to leave the Ducks, do you think the Sharks will be in the mix? If not, will they continue to pursue Rick Nash? And which one do you think would help the Sharks out the most?
James Lawson, Fresno, Calif.


James,

I sincerely doubt Anaheim GM Bob Murray is in any mood to deal one of his biggest assets to a divisional rival, let alone one conducting business in the same state. So, no, the Sharks have next to no chance on Ryan.

Nash, however, is a different story. If San Jose GM Doug Wilson intends to augment or shake up his veteran core, he could do a lot worse than the Jackets right winger. The only real question is whether Wilson can meet the significant demands of Columbus GM Scott Howson. Wilson won’t trade Logan Couture, but if Howson can accept a package of draft picks, prospects and perhaps a Ryane Clowe or a Joe Pavelski, there’s a deal there to be made.

Adam, is Jay Bouwmeester going to be traded?
James Israelson, Hartland, N.B.


James,

For the sake of Flames fans who’ve watched Bouwmeester underachieve relative to his $6.7-million cap hit, I hope he’ll be moved (maybe to Detroit or St. Louis). Calgary now has eight blueliners signed and is virtually capped out (just $3.5 million in space) and GM Jay Feaster could give himself instant flexibility by moving the team’s second-highest-paid employee (behind Jarome Iginla’s $7 million).

Will he, though? If he did move Bouwmeester, Calgary’s top two blueliners would be newly signed free agent acquisition Dennis Wideman and Mark Giordano. I don’t know I’d prefer that to bringing Bouwmeester back for the final two years of his contract. But then again, I’ve disagreed strongly with the direction of the Flames for years and thought they’d have no alternative but to trade Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff and begin a full-on rebuild. Obviously, that’s not the route they’ve chosen, so a Bouwmeester trade isn’t out of the question at all.

Adam, what do you think the Blackhawks would have to give the Bruins for Patrice Bergeron? Or is there someone else you think they can get for the second line center?
Jeff McKinley, Chicago


Jeff,

Let’s nip this in the bud right now. There is no way Boston trades Bergeron. No way whatsoever. The concept is taking up valuable space in your head you could be using on something meaningful.

As I’m sure you’re aware, there aren’t many first- and second-line centers available and if a team is lucky enough to have found a difference-maker at that position they’re loath to give up that player. Toronto’s Tyler Bozak is believed to be on the market and he symbolizes the kind of second-tier talent Hawks GM Stan Bowman might have no choice but to take a chance on.

Dear Adam, recently Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Quick were signed to decade-plus contracts. Do you agree with the long-term contract in the NHL?
Ryan Robineau, Ottawa


Dear Ryan,

Depends on the player and your definition of long-term. I’d give a 10-year-contract to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or, when he was still active, Nicklas Lidstrom, without batting a lash. For just about everybody else, I doubt I’d go any higher than six or seven years – and if you believe the behind-the-scenes whispers, that’s what NHL owners are looking to cap the length of any contract term at in the next labor deal.

Why? Just look at the misery Roberto Luongo is going through in Vancouver. One year you’re the toast of the city and the next you’re seen as a near-unmovable cap albatross. It’s a lesson Quick should pay close attention to (not that I fault any player offered that kind of term) and a phenomenon that should be a thing of the past by next summer.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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