This will definitely be addressed in the next CBA so I've decided to come up with a solution for it.
Here's the problem: You have too many free agents now a days signing ridiculously front loaded deals too keep salaries high and cap hits low. The players love these, the GM's don't (but they make due anyway), and the league hates them. I don't even think the fans are in love with these type of contracts because how many of them work out anyway.
Here's my solution:
You have years limits on the contracts based on age. Another words the Rangers wouldn't have to sign Richards, Gomez, Drury, and Redden to ridiculous deals even though they were in their upper 20's or lower 30's when the deals were signed.
The NBA only allows 5 year contracts or less which is too harsh for my liking, but here is my age bracket solution:
After your first ELC expires you can sign to these contracts.
21-24 years of age: Maximum deal you can sign is 12 years.
25-27 years of age: Maximum deal you can sign is 10 years.
28-31 years of age: Maximum deal you can sign is 6 years.
32-35 years of age: Maximum deal you can sign is 3 years.
35-38 years of age: Maximum deal you can sign is 2 years.
39 and over: Maximum deal you can sign is 1 years.
Here's why I chose this as a solution. Let's look at Brad Richards' contract.
Richards is making serious money for the next 5 years. Then it's complete cap circumvention for the 3 after that. Richards is 32 years old now and will be 37 when he's already made the bulk of his contract. Basically Richards will either retire at that time, or he will be bought out. This contract will be bad for the team in the future.
Here's another problem. What if by the time Richards is 37 he is still a serviceable player and could guarantee you 35-40 points? The Rangers can't afford to have a player with a $6.6 million cap hit to only hit 40 points. This is where the restructured contracts come in.
If at that time the team and the player wants to restructure their deal they can. However, they cannot take off any years from the contract. They can only reduce the incoming salary and cap hit. All the salary the player has taken from his previous contract will not count against him though.
Another example of this is our Whalers defensive prospects coach Wade Redden. Redden was terrible in his time in New York. However, he could have been, and maybe still can be a serviceable 3rd pairing defenseman. The Rangers and him could have agreed to something like restructuring his contract so he only makes $2 million or something.
Just my thoughts. They aren't perfect, and who knows if the players would agree to this.
Please write in some comments and suggestions because I'm curious to hear your guys ideas. Credit to capgeek for Richards' salary chart.