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Breakdown: Bryan Rust’s Contract Includes Mutual Compromises

The Penguins and Bryan Rust each gave a little and took a little in light of the news of the breakout and details of his new contract extension

Colorado Avalanche v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Details from Bryan Rust’s recently signed contract extension have come to life, via the support handy CapFriendly website:

CapFriendly followed up by adding that Rust will have a full no movement clause in the first three seasons (which will start when this contract officially kicks in on July 13th, 2022 and lasts until June of 2025). At that point, for the final three seasons of the deal Rust will have zero protection against a possible trade.

The setup of this contract sends a few signals that can be interpreted. Overall, there is a level of give and take (which aligns with what Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out earlier in the week). Some aspects are good for the player, and other ones favorable to the team.

For instance, the Penguins are certainly acting like a big market club by structuring the deal to be front-loaded. In real dollars, they will be paying Rust $18.1 million in the next three years when they pay him above his salary cap hit ($5.125 million, the annual average value). This aspect feeds into the time value of money concept, which will benefit the player by getting more of his salary earlier in the deal, thereby giving him earlier opportunities to then further grow and/or use it for himself.

While being an impending unrestricted free agent may have helped the leverage to earn this piece of the setup, being willing to front-load a deal is a sign that Pittsburgh (and their new ownership group of Fenway Sports) are willing to spend more up front and make the details of a contract beneficial for the player. This practice is becoming more of an industry standard for high-end free agents, the Pens aren’t unique in this structuring, but it’s still an encouraging wrinkle in the process that indicates management/ownership is willing take the necessary extra steps to present a key player with an appealing extra step along the way.

Typically for long-term contracts the Pens have not acted this way to a large degree recently. The Brock McGinn contract, for instance, is flat at $2.75 million for each of his four season. Other contracts like the one John Marino agreed to, has been back-loaded as the team set a plan in many player personnel decisions to cut real costs and expenses in the short-term while navigating through the unknown environments (and future revenues from unknown-sized home attendance) of the pandemic.

An area of true compromise, and some team benefit, came with the details of how the no movement clause was setup. The Pens agreed to give Rust full control for the first three seasons, which not-so-coincidentally aligns to the time left on the contract of Sidney Crosby. But then in summer 2025 will Rust lose all trade protection, which could allow a trade of Rust if necessary from 2025-28 should the team shift into more of a pure rebuilding mode and look to deal veterans in favor of younger players.

It could be considered a bit of a surprise that Rust agreed to give up all trade rights and didn’t get to keep a small restricted trade clause for the back-end of his contract, but then again prior to this point only Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have had complete NMC/NTC clauses in their contracts for Pittsburgh. (Though veteran Jeff Carter also was given a full no movement for his contract extension for 2022-24, and Marc-Andre Fleury had a full block from 2008-10). Rust’s three years of full NMC put him to that level where only Crosby and Malkin have been, however.

With a full grasp of the details, the Rust contract details show a nature of compromise for both the team and the player where both sides were willing to give a little bit in order to also gain other favorable aspects as well. Early on in the first three years, Rust does well to get a sizeable chunk of his money up front and full confidence he’s a Penguin for that duration. For the second half of the contract, the team benefits with having it be a more routine contract. Overall, it looks like a nice lesson of finding common ground where both can be pleased and comfortable moving forward, while most importantly keeping Rust in a Penguin jersey for the foreseeable future.