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Q: After seeing Rick DiPietro the other day, my friend and I were wondering if it might be a good idea to sign Sidney Crosby to a similar deal. Maybe like a 15-year deal that would keep him here for most of his career. Do you think that is a good idea, and would the Pens organization consider this?
Rob van Disseldorp, Raamsdonk, the Netherlands
MOLINARI: DiPietro, the New York Islanders goalie who signed a 15-year, $67.5 million deal back in 2006, might offer the best case for not making that kind of long-term commitment to a player. Not because the quality of his work has slipped, but because he's been injured so much of the time.
DiPietro is a world-class talent when he's healthy, but he's spent a lot more time in the training room than on the ice during the past couple of seasons. He appeared in just five games last season, and only recently made his 2009-10 debut.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero tends to be conservative when it comes to handing out contracts that cover more than a couple of seasons -- he's allowed a number of free agents, including Jarkko Ruutu, to move on because he didn't want to offer them more than two years, while other clubs had no such reservations -- but has proven quite willing to give a significant number of years to guys who are part of the team's core. And no one, of course, is more a part of that than Crosby.
If, as his current contract is winding down in 2013, Crosby would approach the Penguins and let them know he'd like to work out an agreement that would lock him up for the balance of his playing days, you can reasonably assume that Shero would not balk at taking him up on it.
Not so much because he's concerned that Crosby might look to change teams via free agency -- Crosby has never said or done anything to suggest that he would even contemplate such a move -- but because of the cost-certainty that would come from having his top player under contract.
Crosby already has earned enough money to allow him (and several generations of his descendants) to live out life in comfort, and seems genuinely unfazed that a few players around the league are paid more than he is. Seems he's figured out how to get by on an average of $8.7 million per season.
Nonetheless, there really is no major incentive for him to sign off on a deal that would tie him to the Penguins for another decade or so. The current collective bargaining agreement prohibits players from earning more than 20 percent of their team's salary-cap maximum, which means Crosby could cost himself a lot of money if he accepts a contract that would run, say, a dozen years. After all, 20 percent of the cap ceiling in 2013 might be a sum that equals about 10 percent of the maximum seven or eight years later.
Also, while Crosby certainly doesn't have to worry about security -- don't look for the Penguins to auction him off anytime soon -- if the franchise would suddenly be run aground by inept management, he would have more power to bring about positive changes if he had the hammer of potential free agency in his arsenal. Is that a major concern at this point? Hardly, but it's something Crosby and his advisers have to consider.
The bottom line, really, is that Crosby has been everything the Penguins hoped he would when they won the draft lottery in 2005, and Crosby seems quite content playing here. There's every reason to believe that, barring something dramatic, he eventually will join that exclusive club of players who spend their entire career with one organization, regardless of whether he ever accepts a contract longer than the five-year deal he's working under now.