Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Price Of Commitment

You want a player to commit to a long-term deal? Show him the money.

That's exactly what greenhorned GM Marc Bergevin did most recently with the Carey price contract. 6 years at $6.5 million a season makes Carey the most expensive contract ever tendered by the Montreal Canadiens and the third highest paid goaltender in the NHL.

If you want a stable piece in the corner of your team that you don't need to worry about for a number of consecutive summers, that is what you have to do: just ask the Rangers.

What else can we say about this contract?

Carey Price has not yet earned the right to be paid more than Jonathan Quick or Ryan Miller, but contracts are not made that way are they? Players are paid their most lucrative salaries based on the faith and speculation of the GM that faces them in negotiations at exactly Carey's age.

Such is the fear of free agency on a team that has neglected to draft a goaltender in years and has been trading back-ups away as if they were discontinued bank notes.

What's more, there's an element of Montreal-premium in a long-term salary like this. Carey's take home pay is more reflective of his standing in the league than his over-the-counter price. A funny thing in a province where 6 million taxpayers would gladly pay for a free agent instead of a university professor.

The niggling issue, of course is that the long-time coming of Carey Price is still happening. For the impatient Montrealers, the 5 years of ups and downs since those 2008 starts have been a long run. 5 more Cupless years, some more painful than others. Now, Bergevin is paying Price top dollar on the back of a solid, but not top-notch season in the continued hope that the pinnacles of form represent the future, rather than the average form. I suspect there are a couple of learning years to remain, and wonder if the burden of the Gomez number which will now hang on every 4-goal game will take its toll.

There's a positive also in the contract at $6.5 million. Currently that stands at about 9% of the team salary load. Although, I'd be happier if Carey was paid at closer to what I believe to be the market value for a goaltender in the second tier of the top 20 keepers of the league; I'm accepting of paying that allocation for what amounts to 400 full games of service.

Anyway, on balance, we have to be content. We did not lose the only goalie our team has to an offer, and though we likely spent $2 million more in the doing, it's $2 million less to give to Clarke MacArthur or whichever other Leafs retread is next on the list. Plus, it's $2 million of $70 million, not $48 million. On a team of third liners, Carey like his coach will have to ride a few frustrating seasons anyway, so his proving ground will be a few years off. By that time, who knows how many goalies will be paid at higher rate than him.

The price of commitment is steep. But without commitment, the cycle of mediocrity cannot stop. Let's hope that this commitment, like the other 4 year pay bundles handed out look like good sense in time and become recognized as the steps that put the Habs back on a track they once had proprietary rights over.

Happy free agent hunting.