Getting married young is a hell of a thing. There’s some evidence suggesting that divorce rates for those who marry young are higher. You can, of course, get out of a bad marriage. Short of death or a buyout though, you can’t get out of a contract that you regret signing as a player.
One wonders if today marks the end of the long tail contracts for young players. Pursuant to the NHL CBA works, guys who aren’t yet of UFA age can’t have no-trade clauses. They can be included in the contract but they won’t kick in until the guy is of UFA age. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards both signed long-term deals at a young age that had no-trade clauses like this. They both also agreed to tag some years on to the back end of the contract that reduced the value of the deal. In Carter’s case, if his deal was calculated on the first eight years only, it would have a cap hit of $6.375MM. He agreed to tag three more years, when he’ll be 35-37, at $3MM, $2MM and $2MM. This reduced the cap hit to $5.273MM. Richards gave up a little less – if his cap hit was calculated on the first ten years of his deal, his cap hit would be $6.3MM. Two years (age 34 and 35) were tagged on at $3MM per, dropping the cost to $5.75MM.
Both Carter and Richards ended up getting burned. In Richards’ case, the landing is soft – he ends up in Los Angeles on a good team. In Carter’s case…ouch. He’s now a Columbus Blue Jacket. They own his rights for the next eleven years. His best case scenario is probably that the franchise folds and his contract is nullified. Otherwise, barring a trade that he has little leverage to force, he spends his career in a non-hockey market that can’t afford to be a cap team. It must seem like a nightmare to him and understandably so.
I assume that Carter and Richards made these deals in the first place because they could see themselves spending their careers in Philadelphia. Things soured and they now have no control over where they spend their careers. The net effect of Carter and Richards signing long-term cap friendly deals was to make them more valuable in a trade – Carter at a $5.273MM cap hit beats Carter at a $6.375MM cap hit.
I don’t know how an agent can ever recommend that one of his clients sign one of these deals. It is, ultimately, the player’s decision, but I’ve got a hard time seeing how it makes sense for the player unless he refuses to carry any risk of injury (which can be mitigated through insurance) or a downturn in play and wants to be certain that he can afford to someday retire to a castle on a moon. In Carter’s case, he’d already made close to $18MM in his career when he signed that contract. He is, presumably, set for life financially. I don’t know what the Flyers would have done on a three year deal but presumably they would have given him at least $15.75MM. By agreeing to this long term deal, he collects an extra $3MM in the next three years, money which probably has little marginal utility to him. He also took on the risk of being traded to somewhere that he’d rather not be and being stuck there forever.
There’s some payoff for the agent of course. As I understand things, the agent generally collects his 3% or so over the life of the contract. There’s a heck of a lot less work involved in doing one contract than in doing four and that way, as the agent, you don’t carry any risk of the player getting injured or suffering a downturn in play. The $1.74MM (assuming a 3% rate) that Rick Curran and The Orr Group collect is locked in.
If you’re a young star watching this unfold, you’d be foolish not to wonder if it could happen to you if you signed a sweetheart deal and things soured. All you do by giving the team concessions that lower the cap is make yourself more valuable in a trade, with zero protection against being traded somewhere you don’t want to be. What was once an abstract risk is now a reality. “Don’t drink and drive” has become “Don’t drink and drive or you might die like your good friend Jeff.” It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of these types of deal – I wouldn’t have the stomach for this risk if I was a 24 year old hockey player.
The desire to shower wealth on Ilya Bryzgalov that prompted this decision seems pretty crazy to me. He’s got some track record as a pretty good goalie but he’s not transcendentally good or anything. I’m not wild about these trades because I’m not convinced that Philadelphia got any better and it seems to me that they took on a lot of risk, with little in the way of upside.
Before today, by my count, there were six teams without someone who they clearly intended to play as a number one goalie signed (Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tampa). Chicago, Philadelphia and Phoenix all had a Plan “B” of sorts – Philly could run with Sergei Bobrovsky, Phoenix has the great Jason LaBarbera under contract and Chicago has Corey Crawford as an RFA, as well as some cap troubles that probably preclude them from blowing their brains out on a goalie. The Blackhawks are probably also a little gunshy when it comes to throwing big money on goalies. Colorado, Florida, Phoenix and Tampa are all, to a degree, budget outfits. The list of UFA goalies included Jose Theodore, Josh Harding, Dwayne Roloson, Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov and Mathieu Garon. I’ve got a hard time believing that the Flyers couldn’t have come up with one of Vokoun, Bryzgalov or Roloson, the “proven” options, with a lesser financial commitment than they did for Bryzgalov. Strange times.