We here at MYFO aren’t ones to shy away from making a joke at Commissioner Gary Bettman’s expense (or even giving him his own tag, or taking a gratuitous cheap shot). But when I saw the news that Martin Erat had signed a 7-year, $31.5 million deal with Nashville, I got to thinking. What if he’s not such a moronic douchenozzle after all?
Erat is a moderately talented Czech winger, who averages a respectable-but-unspectacular 50 points a season or so. He had a career high with 23 goals last season. But at 26, he probably still has a bit of upside (25 goals?), and several seasons worth of this “peak” production. Initially, the reaction might be outrage: “Where do the Predators get off giving this slightly-above-average doink a 7-year deal?” That, however, would be asking the wrong question.
Seven years isn’t that long, these days. Mike Richards signed a 12-year deal; OVIE TIME!!! got a 13-year deal; Rick DiPietro got 15. The better question is, how many of these super-long contracts did we see pre-lockout? I can only recall one, the disastrous Alexei Yashin 10-year deal with the Islanders. So the question (I think) is: why are NHL owners suddenly willing to sign players to humongous, long-term deals? (The answer to why players would want to sign such deals, I would think, doesn’t bear much reflection–Erat can buy half of his native Trebic with $31.5 million, even at today’s crappy exchange rates.)
The answer(s) to my own rephrased question would seem to be that: 1) NHL owners’ finances are, for the most part, stable. Business people generally don’t make long-term investments on spec; and 2) NHL owners foresee solid revenue growth over the next decade. Both of those are excellent news for owners, players and fans. In other words, despite the ill will, the canceled season, the relegation to Versus, and all other manner of fallout…the lockout worked. It worked for owners, and it worked for players, too–was even a supreme talent like Ovie going to get a 13-year, $124 million contract in the pre-lockout financial system (from anyone other than the Islanders)?
Don’t worry–I’ll still take cheap shots. He may not be quite so moronic as he appeared, but he’s still a douchenozzle. And now, to un-glaze your eyes, and in honor of Martin Erat, here’s a pic of Czech model Zdenka Micka: