Good point. Still, maybe he wants a eight year contract on a team where he's "the man" more than he wants big bucks for one season. This situation seems like it is more ego driven than money driven. He wants to be the number one center, he wants to he the captain, he wants to be the star, and he wants to get paid like it. If it can be in a hockey mad small town like Calgary, where he has the chance to be elevated to godly status, so much the better, right?
Complete speculation on my part, of course.
With the virtual abolishment of front loading to get better average cap hit, I don't think we'll see any sort of 8 year deal at low cap hits for anyone. If he thinks he is worth 5 mill now, he likely thinks he will be worth 7 mill in his prime. He doesn't care about comparable salaries since he is making more than all of his comparable RFAs by sitting out the longest.
It was smart of him and it worked. But it also means that if he can use that QO as his leverage, he will do it. He is young and confident, why should he take a long term safe salary and risk being underpaid?
1) Let the player go and take the picks. I can only think of once when a team chose this option, (but there may be others). Anaheim let Penner go to Edmonton because it was clear that the picks were worth more than Penner.