COCHRANE: Crosby is the $104.4-million man
WHEN I PONDER the amount of money the Pittsburgh Penguins are willing to pay Sidney Crosby in a contract extension — $104.4
million over 12 years — I find it simply beyond comprehension.
Can anyone, maybe aside from Curt Schilling, the pitcher turned financially inept investor, actually find a way to spend $104 million?
I’ve always spoken out against the excesses and entitlements that pro athletes and
celebrities enjoy in our North American society. Why, simply because someone has an athletic skill, should he or she be paid a salary that would belittle the take-home pay of a skilled surgeon who might someday save the life of someone in your family? But that’s an argument for another day.
The reality is that we’ve put that high value on the work of our entertainers. Clearly, society must agree or it wouldn’t continue to pay the inflated costs of keeping the giant pro sports machine afloat. And there’s really no going back at this point.
So, to judge this Crosby contract, it has to be put in context of what the best pro athletes are receiving today.
And in that context, the Penguins are getting one great deal.
There’s no question that the pride of Cole Harbour is the most valuable player in the NHL, not only for his on-ice skills but also for what he represents in selling the game to the public. He has the history of winning, the talent and the personality that demand attention from sponsors, the media and fans.
The one flaw in the Crosby package is his recent history of concussions, and how that issue was handled in this contract extension isn’t yet known. No doubt there is insurance coverage for at least the early part of the deal, and probably there are clauses that limit the buyout if Crosby is unable to play due to more concussions.
It’s obvious that among all NHL players, Crosby is the one who deserves to be making the highest salary. He’s the face of the league and will remain so until another young superstar with all the same qualities comes along.
But his negotiators clearly didn’t push for him to be the highest-paid player in the NHL.
Of course, determining where star hockey players stand on the salary ladder is difficult. Since so many long-term deals have convoluted clauses in this salary cap era, it’s difficult to know who is on the top rung. The Crosby deal may not be the most lucrative, but it’s near the top.
Had he really wanted to push for it, there’s no doubt Crosby could easily have been the highest-paid NHL player ever. Perhaps he could even have demanded something along the lines of what baseball, basketball and football superstars make these days, and it’s a reasonable assumption that the Penguins’ rich ownership would have been obliged to pay it.
You simply can’t allow the guy who saved your franchise and remains the hottest property in your sport to walk away, possibly even before he’s reached his prime.
But what are a few million dollars between a superstar player and his first, and probably last, professional hockey home?
The bottom line is that Crosby is getting a boatload of bucks to stay in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career, and the Penguins wrap up their star for good.
It sounds like that’s what both sides wanted all along, so it’s a good deal for everyone.
Chris Cochrane is a sports columnist with The Chronicle Herald and the author of Inside the Game.