Every year, I pay casual attention to college basketball during the Men's NCAA Tournament. There are always some pretty incredible moments, and the emotion displayed by the players is often incredible. This weekend, that was most definitely the case in Butler's victory over Pittsburgh in what was one of the craziest finishes I've ever seen. The best part about it was everyone's reaction after the game. Pretty much everyone I heard on both sides, whether joyous or devastated, answered humbly and not a soul blamed the refs. Refreshing.
But the one thing this tournament reminds me of every year is how much I love tournaments. They're just so much fun. As such, I decided to run a tournament of my own, the "Not-So-Sweet" Sixteen, in which we'll decide on which player has the worst contract going forward in the entire NHL with the winner decided by fan voting. There will be a new vote every day until we've crowned a winner, and to keep up some of the suspense, I'll be introducing two new players each day for the first eight days. Today's match-up is top seed Rick DiPietro taking on sixteenth seed Ilya Kovalchuk. The rationale for each man after the jump.
That's an awful lot of money for an awful lot of years for a player who can't stay healthy. To make matters worse, when he's healthy enough to play, he can't play well. Over the last three seasons, DiPietro's faced 788 shots at even strength, and has stopped just 707 for an even strength save percentage of .897. DiPietro's $4.5M contract isn't just not providing value; it's giving off negative value. It's like spending money on an expensive roast, only to forget it on the counter before leaving for a month-long vacation. Sure, you wasted the money, but when you get home, that's not going to be the worst part.
This contract doesn't look too bad today, but the downside is the gargantuan risk going forward, and given all the hoopla in the summer, the man needed to be included in the tournament. Ilya Kovalchuk might - and only might - be worth his cap number right now, but he's already twenty-seven years old. He'll be paid $11.8 million dollars for his thirty-three year-old season, and another $10 million at age thirty-four. The cap number is flat through age forty-one. And the risk isn't just in the form of the player's ability. This contract could last through several collective bargaining agreements, and a whole lot could change between now and then, including a revision of the rules governing burying a player in the minors. Unlike DiPietro, this contract isn't awful right now, but there's a lot more risk.