Jordan Staal signed a 10-year contract with Carolina on July 1
July 1 is viewed by many as the best day of the hockey year.
It’s the beginning of free agency. You know, that time when teams are awarded the Stanley Cup based on the money they’ve spent to bring in, and likely overpay, players. However, this year was much different. On a day dubbed “Free Agent Frenzy”, July 1 was more lull and dull than any other in recent history.
While a large part of it has to do with teams waiting to see what Zach Parise and Ryan Suter do, it’s mostly due to the fact that this year’s free agent crop is thinner than a fishing line.
With so many long-term contracts being given out, it causes the free agent pool to be shallower than an empty swimming pool year after year. It really takes away the excitement of the day for many, but it also creates problems for many of the teams in the NHL. Something has to change.
Look at the number of players who are going to sign or have recently signed contracts that are 10 years long:
Sidney Crosby (12 years), Jordan Staal (10 years), Christian Ehrhoff (10 years), Johnathan Quick (10 years), Zach Parise (rumored to be 10-12 years), and Ryan Suter (rumored to be 10 years). And that doesn’t even count the number of players who are signed for 6-plus years.
It’s about time the NHL starts limiting the length of new contracts. Take the NBA for example, they limit the length that a contract can be signed to five years. It’s perfect. It keeps the league and free agent market fresh.
Now, people may think that a five year limit is too short, but it makes sense for various reasons.
It allows the players to have the opportunity to play for more and bigger contracts than if they sign a 7-10 year deal. It keeps the free agent market afloat with top name talent. Most importantly however, it gives teams that missed out previously to have another shot at a top name.
There is no reason to not have a term limit on contracts, and with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there’s no better time to implement one then now.
There is a major detraction to limiting the length of Free Agent contracts — a fan’s ability to latch on to a player.
Fans for every team in every sport want to be able to have that player on their team that will be there for years on end that they can support from start to finish. It’s a typical fan mindset that if you don’t sign a player long-term then they’re just going to leave to greener pastures of a different city. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
There’s no certainty that a player will leave once their 3 or 4 year contract expires. Maybe they love the city, the organization, the fans. That could be a big enough reason to stay. But the most important reason is still to win a championship.
If after a contract a player doesn’t feel like the team is committed to winning then he can leave if he so chooses. No matter what, length of contract or not, a player will stay or go if he wants. It kind of kills the “fanhood” argument.
To see all these decade long contracts being handed out kills one of the most thrilling parts of the season. No one wants to have to constantly give up players to add to their team. They want to sign new ones to go with the current roster. That’s what makes free agency great.
If there isn’t a limit on the length of a contract that is signed, then what will it look like four, five, or even six years from now when absolutely no prime talent is available on the free agent market.
It has to change, or the league is in trouble.
Now if only they could limit the amount of money a player can be paid too.