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August 22, 2012 | 10:50pm ET
Show me the money
Long-term contracts seem to be the trend lately, despite the NHL's desire to limit them to five-years.

CHICAGO, IL -- This summer has been an intriguing one in many ways in the NHL.

The CBA negotiations have moved into the social media world, where agents, media and both the NHL and NHLPA are trying to stir the passions of fans for one side of the argument or the other.

Small market teams in Minnesota and Carolina have thrown around a lot of money -- and years -- to get the players they feel will make them a Cup contender. Meanwhile, many "destination" teams like Detroit haven't been able to sign anyone.

When the owners made their initial proposal to the Players' Association in CBA talks, one of the items on their agenda was contract length limits. The owners proposed a five-year maximum on any contract under a new CBA.

Now step back and look at some of the deals handed out this summer.

Before this summer's spending began, there were 13 contracts in the entire NHL that were at least 10 years in length. This summer, general managers have handed out five deals of at least a full decade in length: Shea Weber, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby (Staal and Crosby signed extensions that begin in 2013-14).

Add to those deals the six-year deals that have been given to Carolina's Jeff Skinner and both Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell in Philadelphia, the seven-year contracts the Ottawa Senators gave Erik Karlsson and the Edmonton Oilers gave Taylor Hall, and a five-year maximum appears to be something many GMs are betting on happening... and those that can are spending money now to avoid dealing with in the future.

The owners want the five-year contract cap, but they also want to win. Clearly some GMs have been given the green light to hedge their bets.

What's more telling, however, is the amount of money being spent.

If we look at cap hits (as calculated under the soon-to-be old CBA), big-time money is being thrown around, as well. Including the extension Nashville gave Pekka Rinne (a seven-year, $49M deal that begins this coming season), the one-year deal Carolina gave Alex Semin, as well as Crosby's future extension, there have been seven deals handed out with a cap hit of more than $6M this summer; that total doesn't include Jordan Staal and Hall's $6M cap hit.

There are only 48 players in the NHL that currently have a cap hit of more than $6M. Eight of those 48 contracts were signed from this summer's free agent class: Weber, Suter, Parise, Rinne, Karlsson, Hall, Semin ($7M for one year) and Mike Green with Washington ($6.083M for three years).

Out of those eight deals, four were signed by Nashville and Minnesota.

Carolina has signed two long-term extensions, Skinner and Jordan Staal, that are set to begin with the 2013-14 season.

And we still don't know what the final cap number will be when Shane Doan signs somewhere.

The progression of intrigue will become watching how some major market teams react to not only the CBA negotiations, but also the big spending of smaller market teams.

So far this summer, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto haven't made much noise in free agency, while the New York Rangers have only consummated one major deal (the trade for Rick Nash). Indeed, the Original Six have accepted a back seat in this year's free agent spending spree.

Not surprisingly, Philly is getting a lot of attention for their summer activity. It was pointed out on Twitter that the Flyers now have nine players signed through the 2015-16 season, while the Ducks have zero. The Flyers might only be ahead of the trend, though.

As we creep closer to the CBA deadline, GMs around the NHL have to be considering their current restricted free agents, including the likes of P.K. Subban and Evander Kane, as well as any players with one-year remaining on their existing contracts.

A five-year cap on new contracts could lead to a flurry of movement before, and after, the ink is dry on a new CBA.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.



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