Crosby's negotiations will be complex
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Sidney Crosby is not simply the finest player in the NHL; he might be the consummate team guy.
He views everything he does, everything he says, through the prism of how it affects his club, and what is in the team's best interest.
That's a big part of the reason the Penguins have made him the youngest captain in league history.
And it might just create the most compelling aspect of the contract negotiations that his agent, Pat Brisson, and Penguins general manager Ray Shero plan to begin sometime in the next few days.
There are some issues to be worked out before a deal is struck -- it has yet to be determined precisely how much Crosby will be paid, or how long the contract will last -- but the plain truth is that Crosby can pretty much dictate terms to the team if he so chooses.
If he wants the maximum salary allowed by the NHL's collective bargaining agreement -- 20 percent of the current salary-cap ceiling of $50.3 million, which comes to $10.06 million -- for four years, well, Shero won't have much leverage to alter those terms.
And if Crosby asks for less money and fewer -- or more -- years, he probably won't meet much resistance there, either.
That's what happens when a guy produces so much for a franchise and means so much to it. Frankly, if the Penguins would not be inclined to accept whatever contract terms Crosby seeks, 29 other clubs would be delighted to when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.
It is not necessarily as simple as it sounds, however, because Crosby faces a formidable adversary in these negotiations: A young man named Sidney Crosby.
He is, after all, a team guy, and has strong connections to both sides in the negotiations.
"It's kind of like that," Crosby said yesterday, laughing. "At the same time, it's not a bad problem to have."
On one hand, he is a member of the NHL Players' Association. One who can set salary standards for players around the league. On the other, there is his loyalty to the Penguins, the team he joined in 2005 and which, he said, he hopes to be part of for many more years .
"I love Pittsburgh," Crosby said. "I'd love to play there for a very long time. If you can get security -- you see a guy like [Ryan Whitney] sign a long-term deal -- it looks like there are some guys who, we can be together there for a long time. That would be nice."
The catch is that keeping the Penguins' core of exceptional young talent together over the long term could be difficult, if not impossible, for financial reasons. That is part of the reason Crosby will not reflexively request the maximum to which he is entitled -- and which the Penguins readily acknowledge he has earned. He does not automatically accept that, as the best player in the NHL, he should be the highest-paid, too.
"I don't think that's necessarily true, to say that it has to be exactly like that," he said. "It has to be right. [The salary] will have a lot to do with the [duration of the contract]."
At this point, Crosby said, "there's not really a magic number" of years that he wants. What cannot be forgotten, though, is that while Crosby is a member of the Penguins, he also is affiliated with the NHLPA, and thus linked to the hundreds of players who belong to it. If he were to accept a contract deemed to be worth less than his market value, he could be working against the interests of colleagues who will be seeking contracts in coming seasons. His deal could create an artificial ceiling and suppress salaries, because what player wants to have to make the case that he is worth more than Sidney Crosby?
"[The NHLPA] is a group," Crosby said. "We're in that group. So, yes, for sure, it's important. But, at the same time, I have to do what's right."
He allows that it is "a possibility" that he'll seek the maximum salary allowed by the CBA, but stressed that other variables will influence that decision. In light of that, it is no surprise that Crosby plans to be more than an interested observer.
"I'll try to be a little bit involved," he said. "I think it's important to be aware of the conversations and things like that. I'm not the agent, but I want to be involved. It's a learning process. I want to educate myself. I'm sure there will be some interesting conversations and I'd like to be aware of them, for sure.
"Both sides want to do what's right," he said. "That's the important thing. It has to be fair, obviously. At the end of the day, it's still a contract, and both sides have to be happy. But for that, I definitely think we're just going to listen and try to do what's right. That's the most important thing."Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Sidney Crosby can pretty much dictate terms to the team during contract negotiations if he so chooses.
Click photo for larger image.
First Published July 4, 2007 10:33 pm