I heard the news earlier Wednesday about R.J. Umberger’s contract extension.
I just shook my head. Twenty-three million dollars! R.J. probably thought he won the Ohio State Lottery.
There are those around the team who insist that Umberger’s leadership and versatility are being rewarded. Both the manager, Scott Howson, and the agent, Mike Liut, told me the same thing:
Said Scott: “Durable player, plays with courage, intensity and passion.
We both wanted to get something done this summer. It was not our preference to wait.”
Liut agreed: “It was mutual interest. R.J. is an OSU grad so ties to community are beyond hockey.”
I was actually going to say that he was grossly overpaid for a 57-point man. So I looked at last year’s stats.
He was one of 11 players with 57 points last season, and the salaries of those players are, to say the least, interesting:
And then I asked a few guys around the league, if I had averaged 24 goals for the last three seasons, was a plus player and a good leader, would that make me a $4-million-plus player. The answer from someone who deals in comparables surprised me.
“I would say yes, you certainly are. Depending on age/experience/position, etc., take a look at Van Riemsdyk, Backes, Roy, Booth, Bouchard, Lucic, many of which didn’t have that many goals at the time of signing and are in that average salary range.”
But what came back more and more was not the money ($4.6-million cap hit when the new deal hits next season), it was the shock of the term.
The annual salary is only $100,000 more per year than he is getting this year, in the last year of his old contract, but to saddle yourself to any player for five more years, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming in a year is curious to me.
Two GMs, independently, used the same words to describe the shock,
“It’s nuts!” They didn’t mind the dollar figure. They hated the term.
And it’s the length of contracts that is becoming more and more contentious every day. Just this summer it was a talking point in Brad Marchand’s deal (two years) and in Luke Schenn’s new five-year Maple Leaf contract.
And while every team deals with this issue differently, you know the agents and players are always looking for added ammunition in contract negotiations.
So in the Umberger/Blue Jacket deal it’s a win/win for the team and the player. But not so much of a win for those teams who will be trying to sign players of similar style and ability to new deals.
And it won’t be money that is the issue. It will be the term. And there are many predicting that a portion of next summer’s CBA discussion will, in fact, deal with limiting the term of these contracts.