There really was no question about whether or not Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins would come to a long-term contract extension. The only question was when it would be agreed upon.
So as news came out Thursday afternoon that Crosby had agreed to a 12-year, $104.4 million extension, it affirmed the Penguins captain's commitment to the organization and city. And despite coming off of two seasons where Crosby missed 101 games dealing with concussion issues, both the Penguins and Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, were aiming toward a longer deal.
"We felt that [the longer term] was better for both the player and the team," said Penguins GM Ray Shero during a conference call with reporters.
"This is his third NHL contract with the Penguins and just felt appropriate that it would take him to a certain level in his career and to the end of this career. My goal was to try and sign Sidney Crosby and make him a member of the Penguins for life. I hope that's going to do that."
Shero wouldn't discuss any insurance policy on the contract, a definite concern for a player with a concussion history like Crosby's, but Brisson said his client has been training in Los Angeles and his health is "night and day" compared to where he was a year ago. Of course, one moment can change all that, but that's the game of hockey and the risk the Penguins are willing to take. For every Eric Lindros and Marc Savard, there's a Patrice Bergeron and David Perron.
Crosby's cap hit of $8.7 million is the same that he had on his last contract. Not asking for more than that -- something he could easily get under the current CBA rules and on the open market -- allows Shero to build a perennial contender, something he said Crosby said was important to him.
"Once the landscape was in place we were talking and it was important to Sidney to have a friendly AAV [average annual value] and to be in that ballpark was very important to him," said Brisson.
"When we started the discussion, Sidney wanted to be a Penguin forever."
Primed to be big spenders in the free-agent market opening on Sunday, the Crosby deal and the trading of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek last weekend during the NHL draft will help the Penguins not just this summer, but over the next several years as they have core pieces such as Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury due new contracts.
As the rules and regulations of the current collective bargaining agreement are set to be hammered out this summer, keeping reigning MVP Malkin will be atop Shero's list, something he hopes can get done as easily as Crosby's deal.
"It's almost like having two kids that you're equally fond of," said Shero. "When the time comes we're going to try and make Geno happy as well and keep him a Penguin for a long time."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy