Those 'lifetime' contracts aren't as fool-proof as they seem

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dipietro.jpgWho can forget the howls of derision from just about every corner of the hockey globe when people got wind of the 15-year, $67.5 million contract the New York Islanders handed to then-franchise goalie Rick Dipietro? Surely, much of that mockery came because of their history of dumb deals (just look at Alexei Yashin’s still-ridiculous buyout) and the fact that – while he helped the team limp its way into the playoffs – Dipietro fell short of the upper crust of NHL goalies. Even at that moment of time.

Still, it’s clear to me that GM Garth Snow was a trailblazer that day. While he might not have “invented” the lifetime deal, his signing has become the template for many deals since that time. From Nicklas Backstrom to the rumored 17-year, $100 million deal some are saying the Devils signed Kovalchuk for, the common loophole is to fudge cap hits with unrealistically long contract terms.

Have we not learned anything from the disaster that was Vince McMahon’s 20-year contract with Brett “The Hitman” Hart? (Note: referencing professional wrestling is always appropriate in big picture discussions, especially on subjects of metaphysics, the meaning of life and the figure-four leglock.)

Anyway, all joking aside, these lifetime deals aren’t quite as fool-proof as they might seem. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to reduce the cap impact of a star player – after all, a lower cap hit means that you can improve their chances of success by surrounding them with more talent.

The problem lies in two areas, one tangible and one that’s difficult to measure.

When you sign a guy for that many years, injuries are an enormous risk. Even if you consider moderate loopholes like the injured reserve and the fact that retirement can help a team avoid a cap hit (if the player didn’t sign a contract at 35 or older), not all injuries are severe enough to force a quick retirement decision. Perhaps a knee injury might not keep a guy off the ice, but instead slow him and bump that player out of “elite” status. Old age and concussions can also greatly reduce a player’s effectiveness. Case in point: Dipietro

Health isn’t the only worry, though. I’m a big believer in the natural inspirational effects of a contract year and a 10+ year contract is the antithesis of that mojo. You can’t even really beat up a player for slowing down ever-so-slowly without that monetary carrot dangling. After all, it’s human nature; you’re much less likely to put your body on the line when you won’t see one extra zero in your pay check either way. Maybe it’s coincidence, maybe not, but there are only a handful of players who were successful once they signed big deals. Case in point: Roberto Luongo’s first year as the Canucks captain, Albert Haynesworth in the NFL, every Khabibulin/Huet/Theodore season that wasn’t a contract year.

Now, it’s far from official that Kovalchuk signed a 17-year deal. It is, after all, a rumor. Still, it wouldn’t be that surprising; it’s obvious that NHL general managers are milking that cap hit loophole for all its worth.

My question is: will they end up looking smart 10 years into such deals? I have some serious doubts about that.

Report: Flyers, Schenn disagree on money, term with arbitration looming

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It sounds like the Philadelphia Flyers have some work to do if they hope to avoid an arbitration hearing with Brayden Schenn.

The session would take place on Monday, so the clock is ticking.

While the differences in opinion aren’t outright enormous, the Flyers still need to clean up their cap situation, so every $1 million counts. That – plus the length of a deal – seem to be the issue for the 24-year-old forward and the Flyers, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

With the Flyers aiming for a two-year agreement while Schenn just wants one, it’s not quite as simple as merely saying “split the difference.”

Then again, that general logic could prove helpful. Perhaps the best path to a deal would be for the Flyers to edge closer to $5.5 million while convincing Schenn to sign for two years rather than one?

Of course, the Flyers could also offer Schenn more security in exchange for giving up some UFA years:

The physical forward really started to show why he was the fifth pick of the 2009 NHL Draft last season, setting career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59).

He’s coming off of a two-year, $5 million contract, so Schenn can take heart in realizing he’s heading toward a healthy raise even if he doesn’t get everything he’s asking for.

Wild, Schroeder settle on two-way deal

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 24: Jordan Schroeder #10 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 24, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Wild defeated teh Islanders 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jordan Schroeder might be a depth player for the Minnesota Wild – at least when he’s with the big club – yet his situation provided a decent dollop of drama.

The two sides avoided salary arbitration by settling on a deal on Saturday, but not before the Wild “sent a message” by putting him on waivers.

That message was received, as Schroeder’s one-year contract is a two-way deal.

CBC’s Tim Wharnsby has the details regarding how the salary works out:

Schroeder has 107 regular season games under his belt, yet he’s played more games with the Iowa Wild than the Minnesota Wild since joining the organization.

He might not like it, but a two-way deal makes sense considering his standing with the team.

Granted, there’s the outside chance he’ll flourish under Bruce Boudreau; Schroeder is still just 25 and was the 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft.

If he unexpectedly blossoms, he’d have a lot more leverage next time around.

McDavid says Lucic gives Oilers ‘that swagger’

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 09:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on during the second period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on February 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Sure, being close to home doesn’t hurt, but Milan Lucic cited Connor McDavid‘s presence in Edmonton as a big reason why he signed with the Oilers.

” … To have that opportunity to play with a player like that doesn’t come around so often,” Lucic said of McDavid.

It’s to the point where Lucic almost looked like a run-of-the-mill fan himself:

The good news for Lucic and the Oilers: the feeling seems mutual.

McDavid expressed his excitement to NHL.com that Edmonton added a big, intimidating presence earlier this week.

“It means so much,” McDavid said. “It kind of gives us that swagger, that meanness that we have been looking for …”

The towering winger does tend to make an impression. Just consider what happened in his first game with the Los Angeles Kings:

He also gave Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse something of a welcome to the NHL, as this was the blueliner’s first fight:

Look, in a brutal sport like hockey, just about everyone wants to be feared. Just look at the Montreal Canadiens’ polarizing off-season direction.

When the adrenaline wears off after a big hit or violent fight, fans will want to see results on the scoreboard and in the standings. It remains to be seen if the Oilers truly made strides in that regard during a summer of change.

On the bright side, their wunderkind star and expensive new addition are at least on the same page.

Report: Las Vegas NHL team asked permission to speak with Capitals assistant GM

NEW YORK - APRIL 20: George McPhee, VP and GM of the Washington Capitals speaks with reporters following the National Hockey League Board of Governors meeting at the Westin New York Hotel on April 20, 2005 in New York City. Representatives from all 30 NHL teams met in New York for the second time in seven weeks. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s been 10 days since George McPhee was officially announced as general manager of the expansion Las Vegas franchise.

Based on a report Friday, it appears he’s looking to possibly add a familiar face from the Washington Capitals to his staff.

Building a front office beyond his position is among the top priorities on his list of things to get done, as that franchise prepares for key dates like next year’s expansion draft.

There is a long history between McPhee and Mahoney from their days with Washington.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

Ross Mahoney was hired by McPhee to be the director of amateur scouting for the Caps which he did for 16 seasons before becoming assistant general manager. If you thought the team drafted well during McPhee’s tenure, Mahoney is a major reason why.

The Caps are in a tricky position here. Denying employees the chance to seek other opportunities looks bad, but then again the Capitals don’t want to see their entire office raided by Vegas.

Related: McPhee wants Las Vegas team to compete right away; history says it won’t be easy