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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson / USA TODAY Sports

In every way, shape, and form, Connor McDavid’s extension is a win

The final step of the process was perhaps the most important one. The paycut. That last ounce of selflessness, spread to the masses as they awaited the press conference, and confirmed at the podium. After a week or so of the entire hockey world flailing its arms at the gossip that Connor McDavid was about to sign an eight-year contract that made him the highest-paid player in the league by nearly $3 million for the next eight years. Yesterday, the pen finally hit paper and came out to about $750,000 less a year, a total of $100 million over the same term with a $12.5 million cap hit. Still the steepest contract in the league, but not to the same degree.

It’s enough to make you wonder how real that original number was, to begin with. $13.25 million didn’t seem like a number of particular significance, nor did the total of $106 million. It wasn’t a jersey number deal, it wasn’t a record smasher, it was simply a large sum of money. Part of me makes me wonder if was a contract leaked out with intent, to make teams have to re-approach their conversations with their upcoming free agents (looking at you, Carey Price), and more importantly, to dial back the panic.

Just look at the tone right now. It’s no longer “a guy with 127 games played is now the highest paid player per year in history”, it’s no longer “how do the Oilers cope with an investment like this”, it’s “Connor cares about his team enough to shave some money off” and “who else will take one for the team?”, possibly setting up a slightly better deal when the focus shifts to Leon Draisaitl. It’s a significantly more positive tone than it would’ve been without the initial scoop. If this was in any intentional, it’s an incredibly savvy move by Edmonton’s front office at a time where Chiarelli’s regime is in one of it’s rockiest stretches of approval rating.

Make no mistake, it’s still a lot of money. Focusing only on the cap era (I don’t care about an owner’s pocketbook, just the team’s theoretical flexibility), McDavid’s 16.6% cap percentage trails Sidney Crosby’s 17.3% when he signed his second contract, and both trail Brad Richards, who got the league’s only-ever 20% max contract in May 2006.

But there are some differences. Firstly, Richards and Crosby both signed five-year deals, while Connor gets three years of extra commitment at that percentage. The growth of the salary cap matters too; the cap saw 52.3% growth in Richards’ 5-year term and 39.6% growth under Crosby’s. From 2014/15 to this year, however, it’s only gone up by 8.7%, and even that’s largely thanks to the NHLPA taking an escrow hit and activating their optional escalator. The league isn’t growing fast enough to support the commitments that its teams are making to its players; unless the Canadian Dollar shoots up or the Leafs win the next four Stanley Cups and milk their fans for every penny (sorry, sorry, I’m trying to delete it), it’s almost assured that the contact that McDavid just signed will make the single biggest dent on a team’s roster flexiblity of any contract in NHL history. But you know what?

It’s worth it. Comparing McDavid’s deal to Crosby’s like the above only matters if you believe that Crosby was making fair value when we all know what he was easily worth the league max, be it if he signed a year in advance ($10.06M) or when the next cap was announced ($11.34M). Superstar players, on the whole, tend to be criminally undervalued by the market; the idea that middle six forwards and the second pair get 50-75% of the pay of top-end talent while the bottom lines and pairs are lucky to get a third of what the guys slightly better than them are getting is hilariously skewed. Teams should be paying the players that are irreplaceable in the lineup like they’re irreplaceable, while the others compete for what money and security are left.

To say that McDavid is a superstar, or irreplacable is probably an understatement.

These are the best Age 19+20 performances that the NHL has seen, adjusted for goal scoring in respective eras. Pulling out Ovechkin, because he leaped straight in at 20, and the competition here is pretty clear. It’s Gretzky, it’s Lemieux, its Lindros, it’s Crosby. Unsurprising, really; we’re talking about the other four players who came into the league with the hype of potentially being the next saviour of hockey. When you say that McDavid is making a lot and compare him to his peers in the NHL today, it seems lopsided, but his peers are the history books and his target is no longer being one of the best in the league, it’s being one of the best of all time.

With that in mind, and an opportunity to lock him up from now until the edge of his prime years, you don’t even blink. Even if nobody’s paycheque comes close for another five years. You just do it. You can’t just replace a Connor McDavid type of player; there’s nobody to replace him with. Maybe Crosby for another year or two, but he’s turning 30 in four weeks. McDavid led the league in scoring by 12% as a 20-year-old and is following the pathway that those who have watched him since he was younger knew he was capable of taking.

Now, from Connor’s perspective, many are curious about the term; for a variety of reasons, ranging from maximizing value to dreams he’d chase a childhood dream and everything in between, there was a lot of thought for a while that we’d see him take a four or five year deal to get himself to unrestricted free agency as soon as possible.

But he didn’t, and I think that makes sense on a lot of levels.

Financially, he gets immense security here. Who knows where his head or his body is at in eight years; we can only assume the best, and hope for the best, but sports are cruel and unpredictable and anything can happen to anyone. Look at where the above names stood at the 11-year mark in their careers; Lemieux, Lindros, and Crosby all had years where they missed significant time between Years 4 and 11 where their careers appeared to be in some form of jeopardy due to injury. Especially with how slow the cap is growing right now, why not secure the next nine seasons now?

More importantly, though, Edmonton is the place to stay and be if he wants to cement his legacy. The story arc is just too perfect; the next one who comes in to replace the Great One at a time where it’s least expected, and when hope, while still immortal, was starting to fade in its strength. He’s brought a buzz back to an iconic post-expansion market in pursuit of a revival of its glory days, a buzz so big that he’d helped revitalize not just the team, not just the fanbase, but the city itself. Sure, the easy way out would’ve been to go home in a few years, join a team projected to be loaded, and cash in his endorsement deals, but that’s not as romantic, is it?

It’s better this way. The shy suburban kid with a team, a city, and a dream on his back, a weight he and only he can lift as an individual. It’s what’s best for him at this stage of his career, it’s what’s best for this city, it’s what’s best for the hockey world as we watch yet another highlight reel play coming from an otherwise unassuming kid in an unassuming venue. Sure, the team hasn’t done itself too many favours on other parts of the balance sheet in the past year or two, and it’s going to take some creative accounting and hockey manoeuvring to make it work. But no matter what the price, there’s not going to be a better player to be on the front lines of battle for this team or any other team for a very long time. To lock him in as long as possible in a way that keeps him happy, presented in a way that keeps the fans happy, is a win on all fronts.

  • Serious Gord

    In dollar terms it’s the richest. But where it matters – cap space – is it even in the top ten?

    It is a massive underpay.

    BTW – has elliotte Friedman been suitably roasted for screwing up not once but twice in one week on contract/trade rumours (he announced that duschene had been traded) he should be.

    • Redbird62

      Based on what Capfriendly has, McDavid’s cap looks to be the 6th highest %, with Richards, LeCavalier, Iginla, Crosby and Ovechkin all signing contracts above McDavid’s. Only Crosby and Ovechkin are really comparable though as this was their first contract after ELC, whereas the other were already in the mid to late 20’s. People keep saying Crosby took a big discount. He has been getting paid 12, 12, 12 & 10.9 MM the last 3 seasons. The only reason the cap hit is low is he signed a 12 year deal in 2012 out to the age of 38 and only makes 3 MM the last 3 years. If he could have only signed for 8 years, with the same annual salaries, his cap hit would have been 18%. Not fair to compare Connor’s second contract to Sid’s third. If Connor’s salary is $12.5 each year, in his first year of that contract, he will still make less than Jamie Benn and only $500,000 more than Kopitar, Kane and Toews. That will be a bargain. Again, their cap hits are lower because their 8 year deals go past their prime. The Oilers should be very happy with the deal they have with Connor. The fans should be happy they get to watch him for at least the next 9 years.

      • LordVallko

        With the exception of OV, all the players you mention won a Stanley cup prior to their big payday. I like Connor but I would like Edmonton to win a Stanley cup more. I don’t feel Chicago will be able to compete again and last years Stanley with a tried depleted Pitts team was there for the taking and the Oil failed. Now we have less money moving forward. I hope we are not following a Chicago example. How many coaching changes has Pitts gone through, hmmm

        • the reasonable person

          They should have went for it this year I agree. Should have tried for Boyle at the deadline, maybe kept Davidson for the run, etc… The Cup was there for the taking this year and the Oilers did blow it in my view too. Heck even with what they had they should have beaten Anaheim and then they might have made the finals.

          The problem with the rest of your post is that Chicago and Pittsburgh have each won multiple Stanley Cups recently.

          • LordVallko

            Not Chicago, and that is the model we seem to be following 20 mill for two players, we may be doomed next year and I don’t feel Todd can take us there this last cheaper year, he didn’t do well in San Jose with a great team that did better when he left.

        • gr8haluschak

          You are probably the same idiot that would call in and cry about the Chris Pronger contract when he signed with the Oilers after the trade or were you fine at that point paying him 6.25 mil in a 39 mil cap

          • LordVallko

            Pronger was an awesome signing, PP quarterback, exactly what the oilers were missing this year in the playoffs. I was on the board saying trade ebs + a/o nugent + a/o klefbom + a/o nurse for barrie and iggy. That may have been the magic team to get by Anaheim, but I have concerns with Todd and any team unfortunately.

        • Redbird62

          Sid’s second contract, which took up 17.3% of the cap, was signed on July 7, 2007, which was after his second season. He had just won the Ross, Hart and Pearson, but Pittsburgh lost in the first round that year. He wouldn’t hoist the cup for 2 more years. Malkin was signed to his big second contract one year later with same cap hit as Sid, but the cap had gone up, so his percent was only 15.3% and it didn’t kick in until after they won the cup.

    • Derian Hatcher

      As Ed from Edm suggests below….Wonder where Elliotte got the $13.25 number from? Is it possible that it came from the agent ? Is it possible that Jeff Jackson was the puppeteer in this whole scenario? If so, it’s very smart business? Elliotte is no rookie…he is very plugged in. If the media was “used” to leak out informations that was a little off base, it wouldn’t be the first time. Very smart negotiations from Connor’s camp IMO. He comes off looking classy as ever (which he is). The Oilers win, the fans win, Connor wins, and everyone goes home happy, except the bitter trolls.

      I am just happy Connor wants to play here for 9 more years minimum. He is a special, special player.

  • Randaman

    Our GM is at his rockiest time when it comes to approval rating?? Where did you come up with that? Was that poll taken in Toronto? I think you overstated that by a long shot. Other than that, right on the money! See what I did there.

  • Spydyr

    The best player in the World is going to get paid like the best player and the World and he is now an Oiler for the next nine years. If you are an Oiler fan and are not ecstatic today you are a fool.

  • ed from edmonton

    Who is Jeff Veilette? Based on this article has he been observing the Oil for more than 2 minutes? PC having a rocky time? “The team hasn’t done itself too many favours on other parts of the balance sheet in the past year or two”. Considering the the mess left by the previous management PC’s “balance sheet ” management has been good (eg. Hall, Ebs trade freeing up space, getting out of Albatross contracts like Pou ). If this joker is going to make outlandish statements like this he should back them up with some evidence.

  • Spydyr

    Stole this :

    CONNOR MCDAVID PAY DAY BREAKDOWN:

    12.5 MILLION PER SEASON – PLAYERS ARE ONLY PAID DURING THE REGULAR SEASON AND NOT PLAYOFFS. OCT 4TH TO APRIL 7TH. ROUGHLY 6 MONTHS. AVERAGING THE TAXES PER STATE AND PROVINCE OVER THE COURSE OF THE SEASON, 50% IS AN EASY NUMBER TO GUESSTIMATE.

    DURING THE SEASON, CONNOR WILL FETCH:

    $2,083,333.33 PER MONTH OR $1,041,666.66 AFTER TAX
    $520,833.33 PER WEEK OR $260,416.66 AFTER TAXES
    $74,404.76 PER DAY OR $37,202.38 AFTER TAXES
    $3,100 PER HOUR OR $1,550 AFTER TAXES
    $51 PER MINUTE OR $25.50 AFTER TAXES
    ASSUMING CONNOR PLAYS ALL 82 GAMES IN AN NHL SEASON, HE WILL BE MAKING:

    $152,439.02 PER GAME OR $76,219.51 AFTER TAXES

    CONNOR AVERAGES 26 SHIFTS PER GAME, THUS:

    $5,863 PER SHIFT OR $2,931.50 AFTER TAXES

    CONNOR AVERAGES 23 MINUTES OF ICE TIME PER GAME, THUS:

    $6,627.78 PER MIN ON ICE OR $3,313.89 AFTER TAXES

    CONNOR AVERAGES 221 SHOTS ON NET THROUGHOUT THE SEASON, THUS:

    $56,561.08 PER SHOT OR $28,280.54 AFTER TAXES

    CONNOR AVERAGES 93 POINTS PER SEASON (ASSUMING HE WOULD PLAY A FULL SEASON)

    $134,408.60 PER POINT OR $67,204.30
    $446,428.57 PER GOAL OR $223,214.29
    $186,901.91 PER ASSIST OR $93,450

    AT THE CURRENT SAVINGS ACCOUNT INTEREST RATE AT 0.05%, IF CONNOR WAS TO LEAVE HIS ENTIRE SHARE OF THE $12,500,000 (*HALF), IN THE BANK FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR, HE WOULD MAKE $156,250 EVEN AFTER THE 50% TAX WAS TAKEN OFF.

  • Connor'sGotHart,Ross,Lindsay!

    It just shows that everyone in Toronto and Calgary were wrong about McDavid ‘s feelings towards Edmonton.
    Not even Crosby, Toews, or Ovechkin has shown a commitment to their team by signing an eight year deal.

  • Druds

    So after 10 years we get to the second round of the playoffs and somehow its the rockiest time for Chia? WTF? this blog is attracting all types of crap writers these days

  • Heschultzhescores

    How lucky are we…Gretz, the greatest player in the world, Mess the greatest player and leader in the world…and now Connor, the Greatest player and leader in the world. Of course I’m not even mentioning the numerous top 10 players in the world. Lots of teams in the NHL, I think we’ve had the lion’s share of great players. Edmonton is the greatest hockey city, bar none!

  • Chainsawz

    There’s just too much wrong in this blog post to leave a fair sized comment opposed to it. Is McDavid worth the money? Yes. Is the contract a “win” for the Oilers? No.

  • Tombstone

    Austin Matthews should leave TOR. He will forever be playing in McDavid’s shadow. TOR is so pathetic and so jealous of EDM that they can’t stop comparing the two teams and players. It has been over 2 years since McDavid got drafted and they still can’t get over it.

  • Freddie the fog

    So 9 cracks at the Cup with Mcdavid inked to the extension. If im Bob Nicholson its time, if it hasnt happened already , to turn to Peter Chiarelli and ask that he assemble a team to win a championship in a 4 or 5 year window. If Chia doesn’t make that happen …then it’s time to find another GM to make it happen. And i like Chia. But as were often reminded , hockey clubs are in a results driven business. And now u have the assurance that the ( soon, if not already) best player on the planet has commited the next 9 years of his carrer to b in Edmonton. It’s time to deliver. It’s unimaginable a player with Mcdavids skill set NEVER wins a cup. History has shown us the greatest players ever have all won Cups. Only question is will it b on Chiarellis watch or someone elses

  • madjam

    So what does this contract buy ? 9 years of Edmonton having the premier hockey player in NHL to entertain the fans . It probably means a full building and big money in Katz’s pocket among others for next 9 years . Happy fans , pride and an ambassador for Edmonton .