Gene Collier: Crosby's extension is 'tres bien' for both sides
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During a conference call with North American journalists that lasted fewer than 18 minutes yesterday, Sidney Crosby spoke French for fewer than 60 seconds, during which I was able to translate fewer than three words.
To be exact, two.
Here is that translation, from the French.
Yes, tres bien, but when you think about it, even though Sid was answering a question about the prospect of visiting Calgary at some point on the NHL schedule that will be announced today, the entirety of everything he and Penguins general manager Ray Shero said could effectively have been distilled into two words without in any way misrepresenting the news.
It is indeed tres bien that the Penguins and hockey's best player are contractually wed for the next six years, and for reasons far beyond the consistent numerology of the burgeoning phenomenon that is Sidney Crosby:
Born -- 8.7.87
Uniform No. -- 87.
Salary cap figure -- $8.7 million.
A player agent for seven years of a previous life, a front-office troubleshooter for twice as long, Shero went into the Crosby negotiations virtually immune to sticker shock, even the kind that manifests in digital symmetry.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Shero said. "But having six years to maintain our flexibility and see how our team develops is certainly important. By having Sidney signed and Ryan Whitney signed, we have the table set."
Crosby helped set the table as if he were back at one of those Penguins at-your-service charity soirees, leaving enough potential cash in Shero's operating budget to make Sid's so-called "hometown discount" a lot more substantial that it appears at first blush.
Like the mere mortals who skate with him in the modern NHL, Crosby was entitled to a maximum salary equal to 20 percent of the salary cap, or $10.06 million. That he settled for $1,360,000 less per season might not look like much of a break to fans who note that Howard Baldwin used to spend more on lunch for the second unit of "Sudden Death."
But the hometown discount on the five-year deal that takes effect for the 2008-09 season represents a highly palatable midpoint between what the Penguins might have psychotically hoped for and what the National Hockey League Players Association might have preferred. It was not in the union's best interest to have the game's best player take less than the game's best salary, but neither was it in Crosby's.
That the final figure came in a $8.7 million ($43.5 million over five years) evidences the mature big-picture approach taken by a kid who won't turn 20 until, well, 8-7.
"It was important to do what was right for everyone," Crosby said. "We really tried to find that balance. A lot went into it, but I think it's fair for everyone."
Without putting too fine a point on it, had the salary cap jumped another $6.3 million before each of the five years in the new Crosby contract, the difference between Sid's maximum allowable pay and his actual take home would be $25.7 million. Certainly that assumes too much about what will happen to Crosby and the Penguins and the NHL between now and 2012-13, but even in its preposterous surface dimensions, it's a better representation of the hometown discount that we see in the near term.
No one knows that better than Shero, who said flatly yesterday that he always projected Sid's salary as the maximum allowable under the league's two-year-old collective bargaining agreement. Considering that no renegotiations are permitted under the new CBA, Sid will look like a bargain in five years, projecting his production at anything close to what it has been.
Before we approve funding for the Crosby statue (it's apparently already too late in Nova Scotia), it's reasonable to point out that the concessions made by a young man who will soon enough go from making $16,346.15 per week to making $167,307.69 per week are not exactly sacrifices in the traditional sense. Still, the fact that Sid took so much more than his personal portfolio into consideration in these negotiations isn't easily dismissed.
"It really wasn't that difficult," Shero said without implying much surprise. "When you're dealing with the best player in hockey, and everything is amicable and cordial, it just that it's a lot due to Sidney's attitude and desire to stay in Pittsburgh."
First Published July 10, 2007 11:23 pm