Sidney Crosby wants to be a Pittsburgh Penguin ”forever.”
For the moment he’ll have to settle for the next 13 years.
The Penguins and their superstar center agreed to a 12-year, $104.4 million contract Thursday that leaves will keep Sid the Kid in a black sweater until he’s Sid the Old Man.
The deal keeps the 24-year-old Crosby in Pittsburgh through 2025 and gives the team some room to play in the free-agent market. The new deal will go into effect after the current one expires next summer and will average around $8.7 million a season. Crosby will officially sign the extension on Sunday.
”Sidney was emotionally attached to the fans,” agent Pat Brisson said. ”He realized what he wanted and where he wanted to be and he wanted to be in Pittsburgh.”
And the Penguins certainly wanted to keep the player who almost single-handedly saved the franchise after being taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft. All he’s done in the last seven years is win a Stanley Cup, an MVP, a scoring title and become arguably the best player of his generation.
”We are grateful for all that Sidney Crosby has done for our franchise since coming to Pittsburgh in 2005, both on and off the ice, and we look forward to having him in a Penguins uniform for the rest of his career,” owner Mario Lemieux said in a statement.
The contract also puts to rest any speculation the Penguins have about Crosby’s health. The 2009 MVP has been limited to just 28 games in the last 18 months after sustaining a concussion in the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals in January, 2011. Crosby finished with eight goals and 29 assists last season and added three goals in a first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia.
Brisson called Crosby’s summer workouts ”night and day” compared to 2011, when the symptoms lingered and forced him to scale back his rehab while general manager Ray Shero believes Crosby’s ”best hockey is ahead of him.”
Crosby stressed throughout the playoffs he had every intention of remaining in Pittsburgh, where he became the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup when he led the Penguins to the title in 2009.
And Crosby’s contract is proof he doesn’t want to be a one-man team. Crosby opted not to take a raise over his current contract despite the prospect of the salary cap rising over the course of the next decade. The deal gives the Penguins leeway when free agency begins on July 1.
Pittsburgh is targeting at least one high-profile forward after trading Jordan Staal to Carolina last week. Crosby is good friends with New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise and the cap room cleared by the Staal trade and the trade of defenseman Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix puts Pittsburgh around $15 million under the expected $70 million cap for the 2012-13 season.
”We’re in a different spot than we were a week ago,” Shero said.
It also gives Crosby and the Penguins peace of mind heading into the future. The team stuck by Crosby during his lengthy battle with concussions despite rumblings about his commitment as his absence stretched from weeks to months. At one point the players all donned ”C”s on their practice jerseys as a sign of solidarity. The new deal means Crosby will be a part of the team’s core until he’s at least 37.
”In an era when players often move from team to team, it’s gratifying to see a young man who is so committed to one city and one franchise,” Penguins president and David Morehouse said. ”He’s meant so much to the Penguins, to the growth of youth hockey in Pittsburgh, and to the NHL and the game of hockey in general. It’s a tremendous feeling to know he’ll be here through 2025.”
Crosby was the best player in the world before taking head shots in consecutive games in January 2011 that forced him to sit out the rest of the 2010-11 season and an additional 60 games last winter.
Center Evgeni Malkin blossomed in Crosby’s absence, winning the MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer in 2011-12. While the sublimely talented Malkin gives the Penguins one of the league’s best one-two punches, there’s no issue over who will have the final say in the dressing room.
Crosby has 223 goals and 386 assists in his seven seasons, leading the NHL with 120 points in 2006-07 and 51 goals in 2009-10. He has added 90 points in 68 playoff games, including a league-high 15 goals during Pittsburgh’s run to the 2009 Cup.