Last season, Sidney Crosby was the best player in the NHL. That is a simple fact. Anybody who disagrees can take it up with his newly acquired Art Ross, Hart and Lester B. Pearson Trophies. So why shouldn't he be paid as though he just completed a clean sweep of the three hardest to win individual trophies the league offers? I see no reason.
Some will argue that at the age of 20 (which Crosby won't be until August) you just should not be getting paid $8.7 million per season. But Sid the Kid is not your typical 19 year old hockey player. And I cannot even imagine how good this guy is going to be by the end of his newly signed contract that is going to keep him in Pittsburgh until 2013. He has just barely started what is going to be a phenomenal career. So assuming that the league's salary cap and player max numbers either stay the same or increase (almost guaranteed to increase significantly) Sid will definitely be worth every penny of his $8.7 million per, and more than likely a huge bargain.
Does he know this? Absolutely he does. He is full aware of the fact that he should probably be the highest paid player in the league next season, rather than waiting until 2008-09. But he hasn’t let that go to his head, or become greedy like so many others before him who have held out for gigantic contracts. Sid could have waited until after this coming season, and became an RFA where he more than likely would have been tendered offer sheets by all 29 other teams for the league max, whatever it will be. Or he could have opted to sign 1-2 year deals, earning a raise each time, and ending up much above his $8.7 million average. But instead, Crosby showed everyone his loyalty to the team that drafted him, signing on long term for what will be proved to be a major discount by the time the term is over (see Ek's blog for the details of the discount, guessing about $22 million over the 5 years). Why? Because he wants to win, and he wants to win in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have a solid young core, and if they can keep it together for a couple more seasons, they could make some serious noise. And to Crosby that is worth the loss of cash to have that shot at a cup run. Admirable.
And the thing is, he may have taken even less money, if it weren’t for a few factors beyond his control. There is pressure for superstars to take superstar pay, because everyone’s salaries affect everyone else’s salaries. That is, if Crosby had accepted say $7 million per season for the next 5 years, how could anybody else heading into a negotiation during that time even ask for a dime over that? They couldn’t. Crosby is the best player in the league and so if he only makes $7 million, how could anybody else deserve more (guys such as Dany Heatley and Marion Hossa who are UFA's after this season). So if that were to happen it would have a major impact on the entire economic system, salaries would be driven down, and that would not sit well at all with the NHLPA. Crosby, his agent, and the Penguins organization did a good job of finding a balance in the numbers that would be for the good of the team, the league, and of course the kid himself.
The NHL needs more players like Crosby who play the game for the pride, the passion, and the desire to win that he displays every shift. The NHL needs more players that would give up potentially over $20 million for just a possibility of a run for Lord Stanley’s mug. The NHL needs more Sidney Crosby’s. But unfortunately that is what makes the players, and people like Sidney Crosby special, the fact that there aren’t many of them out there.
It is comforting to see that the new face of the NHL is doing what is best not just for himself, but the league in general. Two thumbs way up, to Sidney Crosby.