I am actually glad to see that the NHL stepped up and put the breaks on the 17-year, $102 million contract that New Jersey signed superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk to. This was starting to get out of hand with the amount of long term-front loaded contracts we have seen signed since the 2005 CBA was created.
I first remember when goalie Rick DiPietro signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract with New York in 2006. I thought this was a joke, because of several factors including A) Not many players last in the league for 15 years, B) What happens if DiPietro completely stinks in years 5-6 of the contract and the Islanders cannot trade him for a pizza? Looks like I have been right as in the last two seasons, DiPietro has been hampered by knee injuries and have played a grand total of 13 games with a 3-8 record. Contrary to popular belief, this was not a Mike Milbury signing as Milbury resigned as Islanders GM three months prior to the contract signing. But he’s not out of the water as he tried to sign DiPietro for 15 years in 2005 but the league discouraged it. Leave it up to owner Charles Wang to make the signing just after he hired Garth Snow as GM and Snow made moves to clear cap space to add more talent.
Other long-term/front loaded contracts that the league approved were when the Red Wings signed Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, but those didn’t raise as many eyebrows as when Chicago signed Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal.
According to Chris’ post that can be read here, a player’s “cap hit” is the average of the contract over the number of years. Sounds good and fair doesn’t it? Not really when you see the front loaded deals such as Kovi’s would been a $6 million cap hit in early years despite him making $11 million for said season.
A way the league can solve this developing issue is to create a “contract limit” that could be created to have a maximum number of years a team can sign a player to. This could be adjusted to a players age/number of seasons in the league. You can have one set of regulations for players under 30 and one for 30 and over. The players age at the time he signs the contract will dictate which set of rules he will fall into.
For example, if you have a young player like Patrick Kane who will come off his current contract in 2015, he will be 26 years old. The U30 max contract could be 13 years, meaning that Chicago can keep Kane until he is 39. The Over-30 Max contract could be 10 years, putting players like Hossa under contract until he is 40 because he signed the Chicago deal last year when he was 30. If this was the rule for Ilya Kovalchuk, he would be under contract until he is 40. This would be a way to prevent contracts similar to the DiPietro signing. Also it would be a fair age for players who are in the twilight of their playing careers to either leave to win a Stanley Cup somewhere else or re-sign with their current team for less money when they are much older.
Most players, especially ones who have been in the league for anywhere between 17-20 years, retire between the ages of 38-40. Top players who retired in the last two seasons and their ages at retirement are Rob Blake (40), Rod Brind’Amour (39), Keith Tkachuk (38), Joe Sakic (40), and Jeremy Roenick (39).