Sidney Crosby wanted to be a Penguin for life. Now he's got the contract that should get him closer to his goal.
Crosby and the Penguins have agreed to terms on a 12-year contract extension worth $104.4 million. The contract, which will go into effect starting with the 2013-14 season and will last until Crosby is 37 years old, comes with an average annual value of $8.7 million. That's the same AAV that Crosby has in his current contract, which expires after the 2012-13 season.
According to the collective bargaining agreement, Crosby, 24, can't sign his extension until the free agency period opens at noon ET on July 1 because he already is under contract for the 2012-13 season.
Crosby, of course, wears No. 87 and was born on Aug. 7, 1987.
"I said it a few months ago that our goal was to sign Sidney Crosby to make him a member of the Penguins for life," Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero said Thursday during a conference call. "I hope this is going to do that."
Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, said his client long ago identified Pittsburgh as the place he wanted to be for his entire career.
"When we started the discussions Sidney wanted to be a Penguin forever," Brisson said. "When this contract starts he'll be 26. He's been there seven years and he understands the structure. He knows how committed this organization is and it made sense to him to explore a long-term deal immediately."
Brisson added that it isn't just the franchise that attracts Crosby to Pittsburgh; it's the fans and the city itself.
"He went to this franchise when this franchise was literally at the bottom and was part of the buildup of this franchise, so he's emotionally attached to the fans and the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "When you are negotiating a contract of this magnitude as a player, it's important to understand what you want and where you want to be first and foremost -- and Sidney understood that. In a vacuum he was able to realize where he wanted to be and he wanted to be in Pittsburgh, so this contract means a lot to him."
It means a great deal to the Penguins as well -- and not just because it appears now that Crosby will be a Penguin for life. The fact that Crosby took the exact same average annual value of $8.7 million means the Penguins don't have to change anything about their salary structure going forward.
That's important because Shero not only plans to be busy on Sunday, when the free-agent market opens, but he hopes to negotiate a contract extension for Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin next summer and for top defenseman Kris Letang shortly after. Malkin and Letang each have two years left on their current contracts.
"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." -- Penguins' CEO David Morehouse on Sidney Crosby
"I think the balance here was to try to find a contract in his third contract that could pay Sidney Crosby accordingly, but as Sid always says to me and said again, 'OK that is fine, but how can I help the team?' " Shero said. "He came back after he talked to Pat and said this AAV is really what I want to help the team. He's never been reluctant to help the team and we certainly appreciate that. It says a lot about Crosby."
According to Capgeek, the Penguins are roughly $14.5 million under the new 2012-13 salary cap of $70.2 million. Since they offered Jordan Staal a 10-year contract prior to trading him to Carolina, clearly the Penguins have the means to be active in pursuit of some of the top free agents that could be on the market -- including Zach Parise, a close friend of Crosby's.
"We're in a different spot than we were maybe a week ago in terms of our salary cap situation," Shero said. "It's good to have Sidney signed back up and Geno under contract for two more years. To have these franchise players signed up, it's good for the franchise no matter what happens."
Also important to the Penguins was to have Crosby's extension done and announced prior to July 1, because now it can also serve as another selling point to players on the free agent market. Shero told NHL.com via a text message that it was a priority to get it done by July 1.
"As for UFAs, they will see it and know it either way when we send it in the morning of July 1," Shero wrote in his text message. "We always felt we would have it done by then."
Of course, the pressing questions about Crosby still all relate to his health due to his concussion history and the fact that he was limited to only 28 games, playoffs included, during the 2011-12 season. Brisson tried to put any concerns about Crosby's health to bed.
"He's been training in L.A. and he's feeling great," Brisson said. "Since he came back at the end of the season and in the playoffs he felt really good. He's been training hard and feeling really well. Compared to last summer it's been night and day. He's looking very well and he's feeling well based on what he tells us. He's looking ahead to a great season."
Crosby didn't make his 2011-12 debut until Nov. 21. He played eight games before symptoms returned and didn't play again until March 15. However, he played the final 14 games of the regular season and all six games in the playoffs, putting up a total of 33 points in those 20 games.
"Playing at that level despite not having training camp, not really being able to get into the routine that he needs to be in, this is an important summer for him," Shero said. "We feel confident as to where he is and how he finished up, so yeah we believe the best days are going to be ahead after a full summer of training."
So far under his current contract, which Crosby signed in July 2007, the Penguins have won the Eastern Conference in 2008 and the Stanley Cup in 2009 with Crosby, then 21, becoming the youngest captain to lead his team to the championship. Crosby also scored the overtime goal for Canada in the gold-medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In addition to the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold, Crosby has already won the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Rocket Richard Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. He has 223 goals and 386 assists for 609 points in 434 career regular-season games, as well as 33 goals and 57 assists for 90 points in 68 career playoff games.
"In my dealings with Sidney, I always felt that he loved playing in Pittsburgh, he loved our fans, he loved our ownership in terms of how committed as they are," Shero said. "Based upon Sid's willingness and what he's told over the last six years I've been with him, and especially this past year and over the last month in my meetings with him, I never doubted it would get done. And, certainly knowing the commitment from our ownership group and how they feel about Sid as a player and a person I was pretty certain this would be taken care of. But until it's done you're never certain, so it's a good day for all of us."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl