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Too Much Too Soon & Other Signs The End Is Nigh

(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner)

These dern kids nowadays don’t know how good they got it.  That is, essentially, what Drew Remenda had to say in his blog about the big money contract Drew Doughty is likely to get when all is said and done. Also cast as horsemen of the NHL contract apocalypse are Steven Stamkos and possibly our very own Logan Couture.

Yes, 5 to 7 million dollars is a whopping big load of money to get in a year.  Yes, it is a pretty large chunk of a team’s salary cap space.  Yes, players used to not get so much on their first post-EL contract, not even the up and coming superstars.  Oh the horror, the horror!

 “Years ago, Joe Sakic had played 655 games, notched 307 goals and 820 points before he was offered a three-year, $21 million contract from the New York Rangers.” -Remenda’s Blog

Even more years ago, my grandfather had to walk to school in the Utah winter without socks, and if he didn’t shoot a rabbit on the way home he’d go hungry.  Bet Joe Sakic didn’t have to shoot a rabbit for dinner on his way home from practice with the Avalanche.  I’ll bet he had some nice socks.  More to the point, you could argue that Sakic should have been better paid sooner.  Maybe he was ripped off.

“…in years past, seniority was rewarded with lucrative contracts. A player had to prove himself to be a game-breaker, a star and a winner before he became rich. ” -Remenda’s Blog

Things change, and when they change for the better, they get more expensive.  If the sport is growing in popularity, despite all kinds of obstacles (like most of the planet being broke), then your stars shine brighter and keeping them in your orbit costs more.

Another point Remenda brought up is that paying players “too much too soon” will adversely affect their future performance.  My father, who is not a sports fan, laughed at this.  I bet I could look up some study or another, but I’ll just take Dad’s word for it: competitive people don’t care how much they got paid yesterday, they still want to win today.  Makes sense to me.

These young stars didn’t get where they are by sitting back waiting to be paid more, only motivated by a desire to “make it” and quit.  They always want to make it, to win, whatever challenge is put in front of them.  They are greedy for success in a way that might, in some circles, be called crazy.  They want to win, every day, every time.  Paying them 2 million or 7 million will not change that.

Inversely, no amount of money will make a competitor out of an unambitious person.  It just won’t happen.

The fact is, these players need to “make it” as soon as possible. There is no guarantee they will get another contract.  The chance of injury and an end to their career is very high every time they step onto the ice for a game.  Do they need to finish their careers being paid 6 million instead of 3?  No, but each and every negotiated contract should stand alone, not as some promise of future reward.  The future is completely uncertain, no matter the state of CBA negotiations.  You get what you can, now.

Is a GM taking a gamble on a player when he is still young?  No d’uh.  But there’s a reason that a select few are sought after by so many.  It is pretty clear when a player is turning into a world-beater.  You can’t often predict who will become one at the draft, but you certainly know him when you see him play for a couple of seasons in the NHL.

So sorry, Drew, my Dad says you’re wrong.  I agree with him: Doughty, Stamkos, Couture and company have every right and reason to ask for it all, ASAP, not some time down the road when they have proven that they “deserve it.”  So don’t be a dufus and argue that we need to go back to the good old days of shooting rabbits for dinner and only paying your stars after you get a few more good seasons out of them.

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