All this talk about which team Cliff Lee is going to sign with has gotten me all worked up again about long-term deals. The talk is that he wants more than six years and the Yankees are offering him
six seven. The Rangers don’t want to offer even that much, but it’s still all up in the air.
Ever since Rick DiPietro signed his 15-year contract with the New York Islanders, I’ve wondered what in the world a player would want with a contract that long, let alone the team.
The list of cons from the team’s point of view is already much longer than the pros. The pro is that you don’t lose a guy that you feel is a great player. The con is that when you inevitably want to lose him, you can’t. Either his contract is still so young that nobody wants to take on all those years of the cap hit, or the player is in his last throes and is not good enough for someone else to take over the cap hit.
In my opinion, though, the player should be even less interested in a deal like that. I guess the thing they want is to be guaranteed a paycheck for 12 years, but it seems risky.
Maybe DiPietro knew that he’d spend most of his career on the IR. Otherwise I haven’t been able to explain why he’d chain himself to the Islanders.
The current trick is to pay the player almost all of his money in the first half of the contract and only owe him a few hundred thousand at the end of it. But the cap hit is averaged out over the life of the contract. Sure, a $5-million cap hit seems like a steal in the first 2 years, but when the team is struggling in the 10th year and you’re playing on the 4th line, or you’re in the pressbox, it’s not going to seem like a steal anymore.
No team spends 12 years at the top. Certainly not in a cap league. And certainly not if they give players those crazy deals. If you’re a player and you sign a sweet 12-year, high-dollar deal when things are going great, you should brace yourself for some awful years, because you’re sticking around no matter what.
Conversely, plenty of teams could spend 12 years at the bottom.
If you sign a deal with a team that seems destined for greatness (or just achieved some), things might be good for a year or two.
But what if the team starts to struggle and they can’t rebuild because your contract is hanging around their neck for the next 8 years? Fans will hate you. Media will hound and criticize you. Your GM will shop you every year, hoping for a team for whom you’ll waive your no-trade clause, just to get you, the anchor, off their books.
What if the team starts to struggle and they fire the coach you love and hire, say, Ken Hitchcock? Or Marc Crawford? You just have to take it.
What if the team signs some idiot that you can’t stand being around?
What if the GM makes bad deal after bad deal and even though you’ve given up on ever winning anything with your God-forsaken team, your stats suffer because you’re dragging AHLers and slackers up and down the ice?
What if ownership changes and they stop doing anything?
Too bad. You’re stuck. Nice contract you got there. I guess the money is worth the risk of never winning anything.
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