A word, if I might, about bad contracts.
First, let’s start with the mother of them all.
The Scott Gomez contract isn’t a catastrophic error by Montreal Canadiens’ GM Pierre Gauthier just because Gomez hasn’t scored in 362 days, which, you know is getting pretty close to a year.
The Gomez contract is financial strychnine because Scott Gomez will make $7.3 million when he is 33 and 34 years old.
Gomez is going to retire after his contract ends. He can’t score which is an impediment and I’m pretty sure he is willing to let the Gomez calendar click into eternity while he winters in Monte Carlo.
Because Scott Gomez is not a goalie (that would put him the proximity of the net, after all) he is not aiming for 20 or more years in the NHL. As a North American player he is very unlikely to play to 35.
If you audit NHL rosters you will find 750 players. Of those, 49 players are 35 or over.
There are some big time names: Teemu Selanne (41), Niklas Lidstrom (41) and domestic classics such as Todd Bertuzzi (37) and 39-year-old Martin Brodeur. But if you are looking at North American players over 35 you are mostly in the domain of the Sean O’Donnells, the John Maddens, the Jay Pandolfos and the Adrian Aucoins. Today’s player quits a little earlier and enjoys his money full-time a little longer.
Tease out the 10 goalies and nine Euros and you have 30 North American position players 35 or over playing for 30 teams. That’s one per team for those of you who did not go to Lambton College.
So what have we learned? There is virtually no chance that premium North American position players with contracts into their late 30s will be doing anything resembling exercise when their deal expires.
So whoever ends up hiring Jeff Carter isn’t getting a player who will earn paying a cap of $ 5.2 million until Carter is 37. Instead, he will be the happy owner of Jeff Carter who will likely pack it in around 35 at $5.2 million per.
Think about that. Carter is averaging 31 goals and 60 points per 82 games. Barring injury (in which case Carter comes off the cap), he should have comparable numbers for another five years.
In the last three years of his deal his salary falls to $3 million, $2 million and $2 million. Is Jeff Carter going to schlep his six-foot-four frame around the NHL for beer money at the age of 35 when he has already made more than $66 million?
If the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk is truly available, his next team will inherit a deal that delivers a 22-year-old potential top three power forward for $4.25 million until he is 28. Will he be a dominant player? He might. If he is, van Riemsdyk represents a spectacular windfall.
But van Riemsdyk doesn’t have to be a dominant figure to justify his contract.
Consider that since it was instituted the NHL salary cap has ricocheted from $39 million to the present $64 million. That’s $25 million over seven years.
When James van Riemsdyk hits free agency at 28, the salary cap, again based on historic escalation, will be $90 million, give or take. At that point, assuming the team spends to the cap, van Riemsdyk will consume, say six per cent of the team’s payroll.
If you don’t think the salary cap will crest over $100 million, you haven’t been paying attention the last seven years. Remember, when the current deal was signed, most thought the owners had routed the players.
Put another way, Mike Komisarek makes 6.8 per cent of the Leaf salary cap. A 35-year-old Jeff Carter, likely to have given you a handful of 30-goal years at your most important skating position for an economical price, would head off into the sunset for somewhere around 5.5 per cent of a maximum payroll.
When you consider the market for premier forwards – 32-year-old Brad Richards will make $6.6 million for what should be six years of sub-prime and declining production - you see that Carter’s contract isn’t bad at all.