Crosby takes big-picture approach with Pens


So, do the Pittsburgh Penguins think captain Sidney Crosby is over his concussion problems?

Turns out, that is the $104.4 million question.

The club announced it has agreed to terms on a 12-year contract extension with captain Sidney Crosby that will pay him $104.4 million which, conveniently, works out to a cap hit of $8.7 million a year.

Crosby, of course, was born on 8/7/87 and wears number 87.

The deal cannot be officially signed until Sunday.

The extension is a significant compromise between the Penguins and their franchise player. It gives them a little more flexibility when it comes to the salary cap -- which we all know could be a moving target over the next few months, so every little bit helps, right? -- as Crosby's hit remains the same as it was over the life of his last deal, a five-year, $43.5 million contract that still has a year to run.

Crosby agreeing to the deal -- not that it was unexpected -- also gives the Penguins another selling point when free agency opens Sunday. Knowing Crosby is signed through 2025 can't be a bad thing to a free agent (hello, Zach Parise) who is interested in winning and thinking about signing with the Pens.

Given his status as arguably the game's best player, Crosby likely could have commanded more money had he chosen to become a free agent a year from now.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who was clearly in the finishing stages of his negotiation with Crosby at the draft last weekend, said then that Crosby has always had a big-picture mentality in his salary demands, balancing his salary against leaving some flexibility for Shero to add to the supporting cast.

"That's part of the conversation," Shero said. "That's what Sidney did last time. Let's be honest. He's a great hockey player and these players need to be paid. What he's always been willing to do is to try and help the team out so we can continue to surround these players with good players. It's a conversation I've engaged with him already. We'll continue to talk. He's never been reluctant to help the team out."

Shero followed that up in a statement announcing Thursday's extension.

"He's a very special player and knowing that he will be here long-term is outstanding news for our players, coaches, staff and fans," Shero said. "Sidney also brings those extra dimensions as our captain, with his leadership in the room and on the ice. We're all very excited to reach this agreement on an extension."

But the deal is also a leap of faith for the Penguins, given Crosby's health issues over the last couple of years. Crosby has played only 63 games over the last two years -- only 22 regular-season games since January 2011 -- because of concussion issues. He was originally diagnosed with a "mild" concussion after a hit by former Washington Capitals forward David Steckel in the 2011 Winter Classic and a follow-up shot from Tampa's Victor Hedman in the next game.

He had 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games in the 2010-11 season before he was forced to shut it down for the rest of the season and the first seven weeks of last season. He played eight games before sitting out again until March 15 and played the rest of the season, including six playoff games, after which he said he was fine. He wound up with 37 points in those 22 regular-season games and added another eight points in six games in the Penguins first-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

A long summer, given the Penguins first-round playoff exit, should only help Crosby work on returning to top form.

The betting should be the Pens' $104.4 million will wind up looking like a solid investment.