Parise/Suter fallout: How long is too long?
Job security. What is job security worth to you? I know that I value job security very high when looking for a new job. Company stability, the face value of the company, and things people say about the company both in person and on the internet. I pay attention to all of this to assure a happy stay and to enjoy my day-to-day 40 plus hour work week. So in that sense I am like most people. In general, people tend to stay at a job that they enjoy with a good boss even for slightly less pay, because it is a lot easier to show up for work every day when the environment is one that you enjoy. However there are others who want to take on the responsibility and the humongous pressure that comes with a higher paycheck. Those people are sometimes rewarded and sometimes those people become Patrick Bateman.
The NHL offseason presents us with a good view on what path individual NHL players would like to choose. There have been many stories of players taking less money, staying put, and helping the team pick up another key player to help a franchise win it all. Those players, and Nicklas Lidstrom is a good example, could have received ridiculous sums of money to play for another team hungry for a franchise player. Those big signings though, with added pressure on the player, hardly ever a create success. Think about the NY Rangers and Glen Sather’s career behind the helm. He, unlike most GM’s in the NHL, has a checkbook with endless zeros attached to it. Yet he has yielded no championships to show for it, while owning the rights to one of the best goalies to lace up since the lockout – Henrik Lundqvist.
This brings me of course to Parise and Suter signings in Minnesota with contracts scheduled to be worth around 196 million dollars combined after all said and done. The 13 year deals for each player seem like a good idea for hockey crazy Minnesota and their long time – starving for a superstar – franchise. Will Suter and Parise deliver where Gaborik, Heatley and Havlat failed? No one knows. Both players are top-tier talent and are just hitting their prime (both are 27 and very good friends from the reports of how this signing went down), but Suter will have to prove he can perform being separated from Weber and Parise’s numbers have tailed off a bit following his injury in 2010-11. The internet is divided on this issue as well. The main cause of criticism of rouse is not their talent, but the contracts that Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher decided to dish out.
These contracts are nothing new to NHL. In fact, according to capgeek.com we have over 21 players in NHL right now with contracts eight years or longer. In comparison among the top 25 highest cap hit players in the NHL, only seven belong to players whose contracts go eight or more years. This means that under current CBA, teams have found a loophole. Front load the players contracts so that they are worth huge money in the first few years of the deal and in later years reduce their salary to only a few million and hope they retire, taking the cap hit off the books. Here is the full breakdown of Parise/Suter contract details, and you can see how the structure creates big pay outs up front, and low payouts at the end to lower the average annual value (or cap hit) associated with the contract.
This is a good thing for the players, they get job security and huge amount of cash to bling out their cribs, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth as a fan. I just cannot see what good can come out of such long-term marriages. What do you do with players when they do turn 33/34 years old and have a CAP hit of 7.5 million while making only two or three. Trade them to the Islanders?
There is a lot of good that came out of the salary CAP era post lock-out in the NHL. We had 7 different Stanley Cup winners and four of them were not original six franchises. Teams are being competitive, fans are excited, and winners are unpredictable. What I fear, and am maybe a bit bitter about the Parise/Suter deal too, is the long-term deals will make NHL stale and player movement, among big superstars goes extinct. Ten year deals should be allowed only to the franchise caliber player. Maybe a new CBA can limit teams to a franchise tag of one or two players so that teams have to build around that player. You still get the risk, but you will not be able to hoard these types of players and contracts.
Think about it. If Suter/Parise and the long-term deals before them, instead were forced to 7 year terms? The impact of a 9.5 million cap hit compared to 7.5 million? The structure of teams would change drastically. Would Malkin and Crosby be able to play together? This constraint creates more dynamic off-season and puts more value on to a balanced team with good young cheap talent. I am all for job security, but at the end of it all NHL is a spectator sport. It loses its value when the fans get bored. Think about it…You have heard the last word on Crosby, Parise, Suter, Quick, Kovalchuk, Ovie, Keith, Zetterberg, Richards, Hossa, Carter, and Doughty and will likely not see them on the FA market again.
… and that is the Last Word.