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There’s One Certainty About Sidney Crosby’s Next Contract

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Penguins playoff race, Sidney Crosby celebrates comeback win

It’s a pretty simple question, really: Just what is Sidney Crosby’s value to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Settling on an accurate answer is the complicated part.

Contracts in pro sports are supposed to reflect expectations for the life of the agreement, not what the player has accomplished previously, but it’s pretty tough to pretend that Crosby has been just another athlete, to ignore his contributions to — and impact on — the franchise.

Start with three Stanley Cups on the ice and, off it, the incalculable good will generated among a fan base that was revived and invigorated by his arrival in 2005. And go from there.

Where would the Penguins be if they hadn’t won the lottery in 2005 that allowed them to end up with Crosby’s rights? Less successful, at best. In Kansas City, at worst.

Per CapFriendly.com, Crosby’s three contracts with the Penguins to date have been worth a total of $159 million. That’s a hefty sum, obviously, but the Penguins’ return on their investment has been many times greater than anything they could have attained in the stock market.

As discussed on this site Wednesday, in the wake of Auston Matthews agreeing to a four-year, $53 million deal with Toronto, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Crosby are expected to begin discussions next summer on a contract to replace the one that will expire in 2025. (Negotiations are not allowed to begin until a year before a contract is due to be up.)

Neither side has publicly committed to those talks, but ownerships have made it clear that they want Crosby to spend his entire career here. Crosby, for his part, has expressed a similar desire, and even though he turned 36 a few weeks ago, has done nothing to suggest that retirement is in his short-term plans.

Since he remains one of the NHL’s finest two-way centers and is coming off a season in which he dressed for 82 games for just the second time in his career, there’s no reason to think that all concerned won’t be eager to keep him on active duty.

While precisely how many seasons Crosby’s next contract will cover is hard to say, there’s not much mystery about the money that will be involved. It’s pretty much a lock to be based on some permutation of “87,” whether it’s the third in a series of contracts with an $8.7 million salary-cap hit, a deal that pays him $87 an hour or one that’s worth 87 cents per second.

Suffice to say, it will be less than his value on the open market. It’s reasonable to believe though, that the NHL Players Association will stress to him the importance of not accepting too little, for the sake of peers who will be working out their own deals in the future.

Crosby’s attachment to “8” and “7,” of course, stems from him being born on Aug. 7, 1987. (That’s 8/7/87 for the numerologically challenged.)

Come to think of it, the Penguins’ already challenging salary-cap situation would have been more daunting had Crosby’s birthdate been, say, Sept. 9, 1999. Then again, if his parents had held off on starting a family until Jan. 1, 2011, Crosby might have been undisputed as the biggest bargain in hockey history.

It’s noteworthy that most of Matthews’ money in his new deal¬† — $49,650,000 of $53 million — will be paid in signing bonuses, a strategy that has become popular among highly paid players concerned about losing income if the league were to be shut down by a labor dispute. (The collective bargaining agreement is scheduled to expire in 2026.)

Indeed, the five-year deal under which Auston Matthews currently is working calls for an annual “base salary” ranging from $700,000 to $775,000, but also a total of $54,520,000 in signing bonuses.

Crosby, however, has received just $255,000 in signing bonuses from his three NHL contracts. That money came in $85,000 increments in each season of his three-year, entry-level agreement.

(His original deal, by the way, was scheduled to pay Crosby a $62,500 salary if he’d been assigned to the American Hockey League, which was slightly less likely than it would have been for him to be elected mayor of Philadelphia.)

How his next contract — and whether it will be the final one of his Hall of Fame career — will be structured is impossible to predict at this point. This much seems apparent, though: No matter what the numbers are, it should be a bargain for the Pittsburgh Penguins.