Why NHL Teams Can’t Offer Older Players Shorter Contract Deals?

Professional hockey often sees teams signing aging players to long-term contracts. It makes you wonder, why don’t they go for shorter-term deals for older players more often?

Fans and analysts alike question the reasoning behind these decisions. This article will explore different perspectives to shed light on this phenomenon.

The Risk vs. Benefit Dilemma

Imagine you have a favorite player on your team. Let’s call him John Tavares. He used to be excellent on the ice, but as time passes, he’s not playing as well as he used to.

Now, the team still decides to pay him a lot of money, like $7 million every year, and they promise to keep paying him until he’s 39 years old. That’s a pretty big commitment.

So, why do teams do this? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, they might be sentimental. They remember all the great things that players did for the team in the past, and they want to show loyalty by keeping him around, even if he’s not as good as he once was.

Second, they might hope that the player will have a comeback and start playing well again. It’s like betting on the player’s potential to get better. If that happens, the team looks smart for keeping him.

But here’s the catch: sometimes it doesn’t work out, and the team spends a lot of money on a player who can’t perform at their best anymore.

Fans get frustrated because they want their team to do well, and these long-term contracts can tie up a lot of money that could be used for other players who might help the team more.

Teams make these long and expensive contracts for sentimental reasons and the hope that the player will improve. But it’s a risky move that can sometimes backfire and leave fans scratching their heads.

The Players’ Perspective

Let’s see the above example from a player’s perspective.

Imagine you’re a hockey player, and you’ve been in the game for a while. You’ve shown that you’re good at what you do and built a reputation as a top player.

Now, when it comes to getting a new contract, you want it to be long-term. You know why? Because it gives you stability.

So, older players, like those in their 30s, push for these long contracts because it means they’ll have a job in the NHL for several more years and get some hefty paychecks along the way.

It’s like having a secure job with good money, even when you’re not as young as the new, up-and-coming players.

Plus, they have some bargaining power because they’ve been around the block and have a track record of playing well. Teams know they can still contribute and are willing to make those long deals.

It’s like a reward for all the hard work and skill they’ve shown over the years.

So, for older players, getting those extended contracts is like a win-win. They get financial security, and teams get their valuable experience. It’s a cool part of how contracts work in hockey.

The Business Side of Hockey

Hockey isn’t just about playing the game; it’s also a big business. Teams have to think about how older players, who might not be at their best on the ice anymore, can still help the team make money.

NHL Contract
(Photo credit: @FlaPanthers/ Twitter)

Let me break it down for you.

Think about a player like Milan Lucic. He’s been around the league for a while, and while he might not score as many goals as he used to, fans still love him.

They wear jerseys with his name on them, buy posters, and show up to games just to see him play. Why? Because he’s a fan favorite.

Now, from a business perspective, having a player like Lucic on the team can be a goldmine. Even if he’s not the top scorer, he draws fans to the arena.

People want to watch him play, and that means more ticket sales, more merchandise sold (like jerseys and hats with his name), and even more people watching the games on TV, which can attract advertisers who pay big money.

So, even if Lucic isn’t the superstar he once was on the ice, he’s still incredibly valuable to the team’s profitability. The team makes money not just from winning games but also from having popular players who fans adore.

That’s why they might offer him a long-term contract, even if he’s past his prime as a player.

Why Short-Term Deals Aren’t More Prevalent

Now, here’s why shorter deals aren’t always the go-to option.

Players’ Perspective

  • Prefer longer contracts for stability and job security.
  • Longer contracts (e.g., 5 or 7 years) provide assurance of a steady job.
  • Players want to know they have a place on the team even if their performance fluctuates.

Teams’ Perspective

  • Benefit from longer contracts by locking in a player’s salary.
  • Keeping a player’s salary consistent is advantageous if they perform exceptionally well.
  • Risk potential financial burden if a player’s performance declines during the contract.

Market Forces

  • Teams may offer longer contracts to compete with other teams for a player’s talents.
  • Short-term contracts might make players consider better deals elsewhere.
  • Contract negotiations involve finding a balance between player security, team financial strategy, and competition from other teams.

The Future of Player Contract

You might have heard about a player named Jake Sanderson, who signed an eight-year, $64.4 million contract with the Ottawa Senators.

What’s interesting about this is that it shows a shift in how teams are approaching contracts. In the past, contracts were often based on a player’s past achievements – like how many goals they scored or how many assists they had. 

But now, teams are looking more at a player’s potential for the future.

So, in Sanderson’s case, the Senators are saying, “Hey, you’re a young and talented player, and we believe you’re going to get even better.”

They’re willing to invest in his potential, even though he might not have a long track record of accomplishments in the NHL yet.

This change in trend is partly because teams want to secure talented players early in their careers before they become superstars, and their price goes way up.

It’s like buying a stock when it’s low in cost and hoping it’ll grow in value.

But there’s a risk in this approach, too. Sometimes, young players might not live up to their potential, and the team could pay a lot for a player who doesn’t perform as expected.


The thing about long-term contracts for aging NHL players is that it’s a complex issue. Both players and teams have their reasons for going after these deals, you know?

Fans might argue for shorter-term contracts, but it’s evident that the NHL player market is changing. It’ll be interesting to see how these trends shape the league.

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