For Penguins GM Ray Shero, there was never a doubt that the deal would get done.
“In my dealings with Sidney, I always felt that he loved playing in Pittsburgh,” Shero said. “He loved our fans; he loved our ownership in terms of how committed they are. I’ve got thank our ownership, Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, for stepping up and securing Sidney for basically the rest of his career here. It’s a good day for all of us.”
It’s an especially good day for Sidney Crosby, who cemented his future and his legacy in Pittsburgh by agreeing to a 12-year, $104.4-million contract extension that will kick in after next season and run through 2024-25.
“The longer term, we thought, was better for both the player and the team,” Shero said. “This is his third NHL contract with the Penguins, and it just felt appropriate that it would take him to a certain level in his career, to the end of his career. I said halfway through the season that our goal this summer was to try to sign Sidney Crosby and make him a member of the Penguins for life. Hopefully, it’s going to do that.”
Crosby’s deal carries a cap hit of $8.7 million per year, the same as his current deal. That’s a friendly number for the Penguins captain – one of hockey’s most superstitious players who, of course, was born on 8/7/87 and wears the number 87 on his sweater. More importantly, perhaps, it’s also a friendly number for his team.
“Sid always says to me, ‘That’s fine, but how can I help the team?’” Shero said. “So he came back near the end here and just said, ‘This AAV [average annual value] is really what I wanted to help out the team.’ We certainly appreciate it and ownership appreciates that. It’s very beneficial and says a lot about Crosby.”
After trading center Jordan Staal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek at the NHL Entry Draft last week, the Penguins find themselves with a surplus of room under the salary cap and can proceed into free agency and contract extension talks with other core players – like Evgeni Malkin, who has two years remaining on his current deal – without being handcuffed by Crosby’s cap hit.
“We’re in a different spot than we were a week ago in terms of our salary-cap situation,” Shero said. “We’ll see what’s available and if there are players out there that fit what we’re looking for, and if we can fit what they’re looking for.
“The thing with Geno, the reigning MVP of the league, it’s almost like having two kids that you’re equally fond of. When the time comes, whatever the rules are going to be [under the new collective bargaining agreement], we’re going to try to make Geno happy as well and keep him a Penguin for a long time. It’s good to have these franchise players signed up. It’s good for the franchise, no matter what happens.”
The Penguins had no reservations about committing to such a long-term deal, despite Crosby’s struggles with concussion symptoms over the past two seasons, and his agent, Pat Bisson, said they shouldn’t.
“The way he came back [last season] and finished up for us, he obviously did very well on a points-per-game basis,” Shero said, referring to Crosby’s 37 points in 22 regular-season games played, and eight points in six playoff games. “He’s playing at that level despite not having training camp, not really being able to get into the routine he needs to be in. So we believe the best days are going to be ahead with a full summer of training. To come back and play and produce how he did certainly bodes well for the future.”
“I’ve been with Sidney; he’s been training hard [in Los Angeles] and feeling really well,” Brisson said. “Compared to last summer, it’s been night and day and very encouraging. He’s looking ahead to a great season.”
Crosby can’t comment on the deal until Sunday, when he’s officially permitted to sign it. Brisson, however, spoke about how much the Penguins’ commitment meant to his 24-year-old client.
“He went to this franchise when it was literally at the bottom and was part of the build-up of this franchise. He’s won a Cup in Pittsburgh. So, he’s emotionally extremely attached to the fans and the city and the organization.
“When you’re negotiating a contract of this magnitude as a player, it’s important to understand what you want and where you want to be first. Sidney understood that from day one. Regardless of what he’s been through, the good and the bad, he was able to realize where he wanted to be – and he wanted to be in Pittsburgh.”