Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Future of Youth and Cash

It looks like the Rangers have finally locked up their young goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a long-term deal that reflects the new breed of contracts in the NHL. TSN is reporting that the deal is worth around $6.5 million per year for 6 years. In terms of money, this makes him a top-tier goaltender. I'm not convinced his played well enough to deserve it as of late, but he's certainly a great goaltender.

It's natural to immediately react to the length and size of that deal, but it's important to remember something about these types of contracts. In four years, Lundqvist could be considered a bargain. If profits continue to rise, so shall the salary cap dragging the big contracts along with it. Currently, the maximum a player can be paid is 20% of his team's salary cap. Lundqvist is actually nowhere near this max, though Ovechkin is and deserves to be. Currently, this deal makes Lundqvist a very well paid goalie in the NHL, but what about in four years when salaries have gone up? If you look at Ovechkin, in 8 years he may be grossly underpaid considering his value to the team. What happens if a player who doesn't produce as well as Ovechkin comes along and gets paid more due to a higher salary cap at the time of his contract? Will we see NFL situations where players hold out?

Regardless, these new deals are a way for teams to pay players handsomely up front in hopes that in a few years those players will actually be considered cheap when compared to other similar players. For the player, they get the security and confidence of a long-term deal that assures their place. Does this mean it's a win-win for everyone? It can be, but I'm guessing not forever. The team is certainly taking a risk as a lot can change in a few years. An effective goalie can lose his edge and a scoring forward can struggle to find the net but with guys like Ovechkin and Crosby it's a no-brainer. A guy like Mike Richards, however, who signed a 12 year $69 million deal about mid-way through his breakout and first successful best season I can't help but feel like the contract is more favorable to Richards than Philly. I do, however, like the idea of teams looking into the future and trying to lock-up their young talent in a way that will allow them to compete not only now but in later years as the contract numbers shift. But when you're dealing with a player's association, one player's deal sets a precedence for another and that Richards deal sets a bit of a scary one for me. So if Lundqvist gets that deal, what is Kiprusoff, a playoff-tested veteran, worth?

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