Sunday, July 08, 2007

A last word on the Vanek fiasco

I'm going to give it to Matt Fenwick, who makes what I think is the key point at The Battle of Alberta when it comes to the bellyaching we've seen in the wake of Kevin Lowe's $50-million offer sheet to Thomas Vanek:
The Buffalo Sabres have been permitted under the CBA to negotiate a contract with Thomas Vanek for the 2007/08 season for 371 days now. For the first 365 of those, they were the one and only team permitted to do so, all the while with the knowledge that Vanek could sign an offer sheet with another team when those 365 days were up.

No doubt they could have signed him to a Ryan Whitney deal 10 days ago, or 200 ago. They didn't.
This is the CBA, and it's high time general managers stop pretending the offer sheet clause doesn't exist simply because it's "not nice."

The only way I can rationalize the fact that the Sabres are this downright inconsolable about the whole thing is if they truly don't think Vanek will live up to the contract, which should have put them in a position to shuffle him off and, given Chris Drury and Daniel Briere already flew the coop, be major players in free agency next year.

The Oilers obviously believe Vanek is worth the contract (and the picks), at least in the long term, and it's that belief that Buffalo opened themselves up to by nancing around the past year.

Whether it's a pending UFA like Ryan Smyth, or someone who's vulnerable like Vanek, teams simply don't have the option of frittering away an asset they want to hold onto. If you've got a Jarome Iginla type who you deem absolutely essentially to the future of your franchise, get a deal done when he's yours to deal with or be prepared to lose him — and in the case of younger RFAs, perhaps in a not-so-nice manner.

Thomas Vanek is 23 years old and has 68 goals in his first two NHL seasons. That's more than Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik and every other sniper drafted in the last decade (not named Crosby or Ovechkin) has managed in their first two years in the league.

He's a special player, there's no doubt, and you simply don't dangle those assets in times of desperation.

Lesson learned, I'm sure.

UPDATE Colby Cosh has more thoughts both here and here.

UPDATE So much for finding the last, definitive word on this business. Tom Benjamin brings up yet another point well worth making and remaking: The Vanek offer will not drive up player salaries.

In one sense, it's good to see the young stars of the game cashing in while the old-and-busted types that took home big money prelockout are scrambling for contracts, signing one-year deals and often taking pay cuts to stay in the league. As Tom notes, Bobby Holik's not getting anywhere close to $9-million per season under this CBA.

That's all relatively healthy, but the danger lies in the fact that teams are now in the position of having to pay based on future production, something that is all well and good for the Sidney Crosbys (who are guaranteed to earn their dough), but less of a slam dunk when it comes to, let's say, the next Jim Carey.

Some clubs are going to bite down hard on a big-money contract for a flash-in-the-pan, soon-to-be RFA, and the results will be ugly.



At 10:09 p.m., July 08, 2007, Blogger MikeP said...

Fiasco, James? In what sense and for whom?

At 10:40 p.m., July 08, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

The Oilers didn't get the player, the Sabres had to pay more to keep him, Buffalo's management looks ridiculous in the press, saying things like "as long as we're alive" we'll go after Edmonton's RFAs, and the two teams trade snipes in the press.

Seems pretty fiasco-like to me.

At 10:53 p.m., July 08, 2007, Blogger Knotwurth Mentioning said...

I think Benjamin catches on the main point when he says "this is the new CBA. Get over it." Because that's the simple truth. Regardless of whether or not it's likeable, the issue doesn't rest on the shoulders of Lowe, who is using the system the way it's made to be used. It's the same as getting mad at the Ducks for playing defensive hockey -- if the system lets them, we have to blame the league, not the coaches and GMs.

At 2:35 a.m., July 09, 2007, Blogger Kel said...

To be exact, offer sheets drive up contract amount but the amount of money paid to the players aren't affected. What the players get depends on revenues and linkage. The effect of offer sheets change the salary structure (younger players get paid more than before) and probably increase revenue-sharing (I'm not 100% positive) through the increase escrow. It increases revenue-sharing if the escrow money contributes significantly to the shared revenue pool, not just goes back to the same team that the player plays for. The rules about escrow money are most likely in the CBA, but I am hoping someone else such as James may shed some light for us.

At 8:23 a.m., July 09, 2007, Blogger FAUXRUMORS said...

1) Player salaries as a whole may not go up as a result of the Vanek offfer sheet, but it WILL affect more than the two teams/one player involved
2) The GM's of Pittsburgh and DC for example can NOT be happy about this. Early this spring there were reports that Ross/Pearson/Hart Trophy winner Sid Crosby would sign an extension with the Pens for about 6 mil.
3) There can be no way that his agent would allow that with the market as it is now. By next summer when Sid the Kid is a RFA, it is conceivable that he could easily get a 9-10 mil/year deal if the Pens don't step up first with a much larger offer than 6 mil.
4) The same can be said of the Caps with their resident superstar Alex Ovechkin. Both may take a small 'home town discount' but no way will they settle for less than what Vanek is set to receive!

At 11:36 a.m., July 09, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm not sure what your question is, Kel.

At 12:08 p.m., July 09, 2007, Blogger Kel said...

James, I was wondering if you have any info on how escrow money (after players get back their fair share at the end of the season) will be distributed amongst different teams. Does each team keep most of the escrow money withheld from its players? (The opposite is that the all teams' escrow money are pooled together and distributed in a revenue-sharing scheme that may give more to the small markets) Thanks.

At 8:08 p.m., July 09, 2007, Blogger MikeP said...

James - for Buffalo, I guess. Kevin Lowe can't be totally happy that he didn't get Vanek, but he didn't really lose anything either. I don't think Lowe minds trading snipes either, it's got to be more fun than trying to figure out why some players' wives can't get out of town fast enough and having his owner stab him in the back in public. :)


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