Please refer to Part I of Long-Term Contracts motivations, before continuing this read.
There are several legitimate motivations for General Manager, Kevin Lowe to extend goaltender Mathieu Garon this summer. These are outlined and briefly discussed below:
MOTIVE #1 – RISK & REWARDS OF CONTRACT TERMS ARE EQUITABLY DISTRIBUTED
Presumably, the contract terms, from the organization's standpoint present at least a moderate possibility that the benefits of the Garon's services will exceed the value of the cumulative paycheques. The Oilers would be seeking player overperformance of the contract. Garon, meanwhile, would be seeking the security of the paycheques that will allow him, his immediate family, and grandchildren a life of sailing on yachts, eating bonbons, sipping refreshing drinks in tropical climates subsequent to retirement. In short, financial security.
MOTIVE #2 – LACK OF SUITABLE ALTERNATIVES
General Manager Kevin Lowe would sign Garon to a long term extension if he reasonably feels there are:
- No internal replacements in the system, or at least not so over the life of the extension
- No legitimate replacements via the foreseeable 2009 UFA class
- No legitimate replacements via the trade route at reasonable cost
This motivation presents profound leverage to the player in contract negotiation
MOTIVE #3 – CONTRACT STRUCTURE PRESENT UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES
General Manager Kevin Lowe would sign Garon to a long term extension if the contract can be structured in a manner that provides the Oilers with unique opportunities, in the case of significant underperformance, such as:
- Frontloading the contract and buying him out in later years, and
- Back-loaded salary gives rise to the consideration to retirement
- Burying the contract in the minors
Of course with this option to be viable, strong ownership commitment would need to be prevalent. Given Garon is still relatively young, option (b) is unlikely if such an extension is equal or less than 5 years.
DEMOTIVATION #1 – INHERENT RISK
On a collective basis long-term contracts to goaltenders carry more inherent risk than do long-term contracts to defensemen and forwards.
In other words, there are greater potential adverse consequences as a result of subsequent poor performance by a goaltender than of other roster players!
Why? By virtue of the number of designated roster spots for a specified position. There is only one starting goaltender per team, while six starting defensemen, and a whopping twelve starting forwards every game.
Case in point: Sheldon Souray, who is paid like a top pairing defenseman. Despite the fact that he won't ever live up to his paycheques in his present contract, the damages can still be mitigated by playing him in a role in which he can still help the team win hockey games [i.e. bottom pairing, penalty kill, and arguably the powerplay]. With a goaltender like Mikka Kiprusoff, the opportunity for mitigating damages is narrow, given the inherent risk present. Continuing playing him, in the event of poor performance, leads to poor results on the ice; relegating him to backup duty represents a significant waste of otherwise available cap space. In other words, consistently poor performance generated by a goaltender with a long-term contract is filth; and filth carries limited to negligible value around the league.
FINDING THE BALANCE
The key here is balance. Extending Garon to a long term contract is fine, if at inception of contract, the presumable benefits exceed the costs. That is, the strength of the motivations exceed the strength of the demotivations. If I am Kevin Lowe, I have assessed risk for Garon at moderate. The exhibit below represents my comfortable contract offers (please note 1 and 2 year contracts are not classified as long-term contracts):
Number of Years
NHL Salary Cap Hit (USD)
Does that get it done? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The key is assessing the risks, and accordingly acting upon them. Kevin Lowe likely has the hammer [leverage] right now, given Garon's presumable desire for security. It would make good sense to utilize and derive benefit from this very hammer.
What do you offer, if you are Kevin Lowe?