Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hello, my name is Brian Burke, and I'm a big baby (and hockey business 101)

Who is Brian Burke? The Anaheim Ducks General Manager.

- Uh oh... Vegas Dave is complaining and bashing the Ducks again...

Actually, believe it or not, this has nothing to do with my hatred for the team. If this same event happened the same way with any other team, I'd write the same article about it.

Lets bring you up to date.

The Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe offered Duck's young restricted free agent Dustin Penner a 5-year, $21.25 million offer sheet.

Hmm... since I presume most of my readers aren't experts on the NHL's salary cap and free agency status, I should probably start there before I continue.

----Hockey Business 101----
Pre-lockout, the NHL had no salary cap. As such, teams in major hockey towns (think Detroit, Colorado, New York) could spend as much money as they wanted on any players they wanted. Teams in smaller markets (or penny-pinching teams like the Kings) were left far behind in the talent department. Most importantly, when a team developed a young star, they could afford to sign him when he came of age without having to worry about a salary cap.

Free Agency is quite complicated, but the jist of it is this; When a player is under a certain age (used to be 28, is now 26) and his contract runs out, he is a RESTRICTED free agent. This means that any team can offer him a contract, but the team that he is currently on (we'll call them Team A) has the chance to match any and all offers. If Team A matches the offer, they keep the player. If they decide not to match the offer, the team that signs the player must compensate Team A with draft picks. If a player is over 26 years old, they are an UNRESTRICTED free agent, and can sign wherever they please.

This is a lot of explaining just to gripe about one guy, but hey, if I can provide sports business knowledge to my loyal readers, I'm happy to do so.

Post-lockout, a salary cap was instituted to try and level the playing field. Each team could only spend $39 million to start, but due to good ticket sales league wide, the cap raised to $44 million in 06-07 and has now been raised to $50.3 million for the 07-08 season. Having a salary cap this high seems like it could cause some new monitary problems for the NHL... but thats a whole different post.

To make sure teams stay competitive, there is also a salary floor. Each team MUST spend a certain amount; in 06-07 it was $28 million and for 07-08 it will be $34.3 million.

Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, and Scott Gomez were the top 3 free agents available this year. Drury and Gomez were both signed by the Rangers to 5 year, $35.25 million and 7 year, $51.5 million deals, respectively. Briere signed an 8 year, $52 million deal with a no-trade-clause! With $50 million of cap space to use as wiggle room, teams can now afford to overpay for players they want, which...
----Hockey Business 101 End----

Is exactly what Kevin Lowe chose to do.

Penner was the second restricted free agent Lowe has gone after this season. He offered Buffalo's Thomas Vanek a 7 year, $50 million offer sheet on July 6th. Buffalo chose to match the offer and keep Vanek.

So Lowe set his sights on Dustin Penner, offering him the deal mentioned at the top of this article. Penner was making the league minimum last year, and needless to say, the Ducks were likely going to sign him for a lot less than this.

Which, naturally, is going to frustrate any GM. If you are trying to iron out a deal with your player and someone else comes along and offers him 5 times more than what you were working out, wouldn't you be angry?


But do you have to be a baby about it?

Brian Burke set up a media conference call. Were the Ducks matching or turning down the offer? Were they announcing the retirement or return of veterans Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer?

No answers. Burke just wanted to whine.

"I certainly think [the offer] could have waited until Monday. I think it was a classless move, timing-wise. I was not notified of this until Dustin Penner’s agent faxed it in. I would have thought Kevin would have notified me. I thought that was gutless."

"I have no problem with offer sheets. They’re part of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. But in my opinion, Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it’s an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job."

Classless? Gutless? Desperation?

This is the business. I understand that it sucks, and I'm not saying this rate isn't inflated, but the market is what it is. If someone wants to overpay a young player they want on their team and can afford to do so, why shouldn't they?

Classless because he didn't wait til Monday? Teams have a week to decide. Who cares when he made the offer? It may be "inconvinient" for Burke, but the world doesn't revolve around his schedule.

Gutless because he didn't call Burke directly? Like he'd be any less upset hearing the news directly? Going to the player instead of the GM isn't that crazy.

Burke being upset doesn't bother me. It also wouldn't bother me if he answered questions regarding how upset he was.

Calling a media conference to attack another GM personally for just doing his job? That bothers me.

Boo-hoo. Compensation is in the form of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick. The team can live without Dustin Penner. Take the picks, punch your pillow, and shut up.


Vegas Mom said...

Yeah, that was pretty childish. And thanks for explaining all that hockey business 101, I forgot about what makes you restricted or just free agent. Now it's clarified. Nice to hear some hockey news again!

Don said...

Well put.