Crosby’s Big Contract Is a Real Bargain Now

After months of uncertainty, the Toronto Maple Leafs locked down their superstar Auston Matthews to a four-year, $53 million contract. As a result, he is now the highest-paid player in the NHL, overtaking Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan McKinnon and Edmonton Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid. Having put pen to paper, the rumors of Matthews electing to move elsewhere during free agency have been dispelled. His new deal has caused some to reflect on the nature of big-money contracts and how they’ve changed in recent years.

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Back in 2012 for example, Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby signed a 12-year, $104.4 million deal with an appropriate $8.7 million average annual value (AAV). Given what his contract has resulted in, his current deal, thought at the time to be excessive, is one of the biggest bargains in recent NHL history. Crosby put together one of his best seasons in 2022-23, which only adds to the value of his contract.

Crosby Helped Launch a Dynasty

When he signed his current deal, the Penguins were already one of the best teams in the league, having won the Stanley Cup in 2009. As a result of the subsequent signing, they were able to lock down the best player in the league (at that time) and further develop his chemistry with other franchise icons Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Overcoming various injuries that sidelined him for parts of three seasons, he won his second Ted Lindsay Award and finished runner-up for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He led the team to 16 consecutive playoff berths, a streak only snapped this past season.

Pittsburgh Penguins pose for a group photo with the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

His most impressive accomplishment during this tenure, though, is no doubt the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017. He posted six goals and 13 assists in 24 playoff games in the 2016 Playoffs en route to a title win over the San Jose Sharks and won his first Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He became a legend during that particular playoff run, becoming an even better version of the player who saved the Penguins franchise from the brink of bankruptcy in 2005.

“Early in his career, he went out and got points and did everything, but that didn’t make him satisfied. He had to go out and lead through example, and became a better player. Offense, defense, he goes out with nine seconds left, takes a faceoff for our team. He’s the all-encompassing guy, one of the greatest players to ever play the game because of how he can adapt to the game and how hard he works at everything.”

Former Penguins’ forward Chris Kunitz on Crosby’s development from his first championship in 2009 to his second in 2016.

He wasn’t finished after that title, he and the Penguins defended their title with another six-game victory, this time over the Nashville Predators. Crosby again led the way, posting eight goals and 19 assists, and won his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy. As anticipated, he only further entrenched himself as one of the greatest players of all time – as voted by the league on its 100th anniversary – and solidified his legacy.

Crosby’s Contract Is a Comparative Bargain

At the time, Crosby’s current deal was the longest in recent memory and currently registers as one of the longest in league history, only behind Ilya Kovalchuk’s massive 17-year, $102 million contract inked in 2010 (for which he and the New Jersey Devils were accused of cap circumvention), Shea Weber’s 14-year deal signed in 2010, and Alex Ovechkin’s 13-year contract signed in 2008. In terms of AAV, Crosby’s contract is not only favorable to the deals signed in the 2000s and 2010s, but it’s one of the bigger bargains around when compared to some of the contracts in the league today.

David Pastrnak Boston Bruins 2023 Winter Classic
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins 2023 Winter Classic (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak, for example, signed an eight-year, $90 million extension in early 2023, giving his deal an AAV of just over $11 million. Similarly, McDavid’s four-year, $100 million contract results in an AAV of $12.5 million. It’s fair to say that both of these players are similar to Crosby when he signed his contract all the way back in 2013, as they are considered the faces of their respective franchises and have put together remarkable careers thus far. Crosby, Pastrnak, and McDavid have all won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s top scorer and have been selected to multiple All-Star Games.

Related: Crosby Is a Role Model for Pittsburgh & Beyond

However, only Crosby’s contract has resulted in a championship. Given how much success the Penguins have had since he signed that massive deal, especially when compared to some of the other players on Crosby’s level, to keep a player of his calibre at the price they currently pay is arguably one of the greatest contract coups in recent memory.