Sid The Kid: Penguins Take Big Risk on Star’s Future

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Updated: July 31, 2012

Fifth in the league in scoring as a rookie, NHL scoring champion by year two, billed “The Next One,” Sidney Crosby was perhaps the most anticipated player to be drafted since Lemieux and Gretzky.

From there he’s won a gold medal and a Stanley Cup, becoming the youngest person with the “Captain” designation to ever do so.

Unfortunately, a kid who rose above his peers to an even greater level is now a huge risk.

Back in the 2010-11 season, Crosby suffered a concussion as the result of multiple shots to the head in back-to-back games, sidelining him for over 10 months. He was able to return for eight games during the 2011-2012 season before taking a step back because symptoms returned. Once they subsided, he was able to return to action in March.

When healthy, there isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind (even the haters) that he is everything people said he was: A superstar with no equal. The game comes to him with ease; he refines his play and strives to be the best at it.

People said he wasn’t a goal scorer like Gretzky, so he went out the next year and scored 51 to lead the league. He is the ideal team player that makes everyone around him better, yet also continually improves his own play. It’s no wonder the Penguins wanted to lock up their franchise star with an enormous 12-year, $104 million dollar extension. Like many other hockey contracts this deal is front loaded and likely won’t be allowed once the new CBA is drafted.

But are the Penguins making a mistake? Locking up an extremely talented player who could be one hit away from press box for the rest of his career?

That’s a tough debate, and it only becomes more difficult in a day and age where a team’s star players can be taken away via an offer sheet. Pittsburgh had to make a move, and they ultimately chose to support their guy. Over the next nine years he will be the highest paid player in the game, and at 100%, even 85%, he deserves it. But what if it all changes with one hit?

What if he tries to play and never quite gets back to that elite level again? Aside from Sid retiring early due to injury, nothing can get the Penguins out of paying his terms, which will end in 2024 when he is 38.

The way I look at it, there is no one else in the game that is worth one of these monster deals and yet he’s perhaps the biggest risk. But then again, if he should have to retire early the Penguins won’t have to worry about paying the rest of his contract. And more importantly, if he stays healthy there will be plenty more Stanley Cups coming to Pittsburgh.

It’s a gamble, but one the Penguins and anyone else served a Sidney Crosby on a silver platter has to take. Who knows what Crosby would have done the year, after all he went down after game 41 with 66 points tallied. If we’re lucky, he’s got another string of elite years left in him.

We may witness a great career end short; then again, perhaps Sid’s recent head injuries are a mere hiccup, a footnote in the career of one of the greatest hockey players ever. That’s a risk the Penguins were willing to take.

How could you not?

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