Becoming the best hockey player you can be takes a lot of commitment when the cameras aren't running.
During the summer months, you don't actually have to be anywhere or do anything. Nobody will know if you skip a day in the gym or on the ice. You won't look any physically different. And of course, some guys cash in on those facts.
But if those instances start to pile up during a particular year, you won't make the offseason gains most players make, and you fall behind. You have to stay motivated.
And that's just one of the reasons long-term contracts are stupid.
When the desire to earn more money is taken out of the equation, things inevitably change, if only a little bit. It's only human. Even worse in the motivation department, is that none of the long-term contracts guys sign these days are performance related, and most go to the end of guy's careers. Why not spend another day on the lake?
Before everyone starts getting mad, I should acknowledge that the majority of players on deals like this will be able to self-motivate. But that doesn't mean everyone will.
Ten years, over the course of the life of a human, is a huge chunk of time. I can't even fathom how my life and interests have changed since I was 18. A guy may go through a divorce, win the lottery, lose a family member, lose interest in the sport, start having his body break down…who the hell knows?
We don't know who's going to be the best guy on the ice during the next shift, let alone in six years, yet teams are okay with decade-long commitments to just "good" personnel? In what other business would that be considered an acceptable financial deal?
I understand that, under the current CBA, the long-term deal loophole has made it so GMs think this is a no-brainer. I understand not everyone will play out the duration of their silly deal. But someone like Christian Ehrhoff(notes) (whose deal takes him to 39 with the Buffalo Sabres) is sure as heck going to play out the majority of those years. It seems kinda likely that a four million dollar cap hit for an aging Ehrhoff may be considered burdensome not too far down the road.
It seems that when these deals have been doled out, there has been no thought as to what type of person the GM is signing, and that should be a major factor.
Hate him or love him, you can't deny that Sidney seems to only want two things: To be the best ever in the history of always, and Stanley Cups. He doesn't do squats in the summer trying to get a bigger deal, more ice time, or any of the other motivational factors so many hockey players use to push them through one more rep in the gym. It's about something else for him. That's the type of guy you can sign to a deal like this.
You probably think you're pretty good at your job and take it pretty seriously. But you can't honestly say that if you knew you physically couldn't stop the paychecks from coming for ten years that you wouldn't take slightly longer lunch breaks on occasion. It's the same thing.
We've already seen GMs have to start burying guys in the minors. I can't imagine how many more players that'll happen to six or seven years from now.
Rick DiPietro(notes) of the New York Islanders is the perfect example of what can go wrong — he's never had the chance to live up to his contract because of his injuries. People think, "Well if (insert long-term contract guy) is hurt, LTIR will pay him, so no worries." Rick proves it's not always that way. He wants to play, he's trying to play, but nagging injuries have him just hurt enough to never put together any substantial time in the net, yet not hurt enough to write him off entirely. And now he's untradeable.
You just never know what can happen.
These guys are professionals, I understand that. They should be able to self-motivate. But they're human, too.
Long-term loophole contracts are like credit cards. Everything is great at first — after all, how sweet are those new golf clubs you just bought? — but eventually, things start to break down, and you realize that at some point, you're going to have to pay the piper.