When news hit that the Canadiens had signed Carey Price to an eight year contract extension, quite a few fans were shocked if not angered at the sticker price attached to it, which works out to a $10.5M a year cap hit.
Mainly, if we are to go by the posts on social media, a lot of supporters believe that Carey should have taken "a little less", say, $9M per year, to allow his team to win, how that's more important in the big picture than making "a few extra million dollars." And that's where we are now, with the average fan siding even more with billionaire owners in their contract talks versus players, with the justification that the salary cap determines the fortunes of the team.
Now, on whether players should be happy with $5M vs. $8M, or $50 vs. $100M over their career, I completely agree from my perspective. If I got my hands on 5 mill, I wouldn't need to baby another couple of years out of my ol' truck, I'd upgrade my TV to a 100" model from the current retinally underperforming 50", and get a living room beer fridge and be perfectly happy, fulfilled.
The thing is, evidently when you attain that level of income, your lifestyle expands to match it, and it's trite to even say it, but all of a sudden you have a big house with a gardener and pool maintenance and the tech guys who keep coming around to fiddle with your home theatre since it's never quite right. You're Jonathan Bernier cruising around near your spread in Terrebonne on the river in your boat with your fashion model wife, and it's a nice cruiser, but the berthing costs and maintenance are in the back of your mind, they're killing you, and even then you're thinking you need to upgrade your dinghy, since when the in-laws come for a visit it gets too crowded on deck.
So you need to kill it on your next contract, this one you're playing on, once you pay your agent and the tax man and minus escrow which mostly you never get all back, there's nothing left, and your wife wants to send the kids to private school.
Even beyond that, that your new lifestyle now soaks up what would be enough to cover your current lifestyle ten times over, one phenomenon is that when you reach that tax bracket, you tend to hang out with others in that same bracket, and now you're comparing vehicles, houses, wine cellars, and you have to compete on those too, enough is never enough.
We see this when a George Clooney, who's richer than 20 putzes like me will ever be, goes and hangs out with Paul Allen on his yacht, and Vanity Fair or GQ reports back how wowed he is, how what he aspires to is not a comfortable life and secure retirement that would make any of us very happy, he now wants to produce and have a stake in the films he stars in, and gets into a dodgy Costa Rican land scheme to try to triple his money. Because his own yacht in Italy is kinda chintzy, all things considered, there's not even deck space for a heli-pad.
Pro athletes and hockey players tend to rub shoulders with investment bankers at golf tournaments and when they go out to dinner, and think that those guys really rock, and now $9M is nowhere as good as $10.5M per season.
So yeah, when a Tom Brady takes a little less on his contract so the team can 'afford' to pay his offensive line a little more and get him some better running backs and receivers, it is noteworthy, it's not ultimately meaningless. There is 'sacrifice' there, although usually the guys who are in position to do that, they make so much on their endorsements that their salary is almost a side-income.