Thursday, July 05, 2007

'No, Canada'

He acknowledges the travel out west is harder than in the east, but he says a third of the league's teams travelled more miles than the Oilers last year. He also knows some players don't want to play in Canada.
"I appreciated the offers from the Canadian teams, but I wasn't looking to move to Canada."
The first wave of free-agent frenzy has subsided. Most of the big fish have been caught. With few exceptions, the unrestricted ones fled to southern markets, far from the Canadian teams, and outside of the Original Six franchises.

This isn't a new development, but it's certainly seemed more pronounced this summer than any in recent memory.

Daniel Briere turned down more money from the Canadiens. So did Ryan Smyth. Four Canadian teams wanted Kozlov, and had more on the table than the Thrashers, but in the end, they weren't even considered. Scott Gomez's agent happily took bids from the Oilers and others, but reports out of New York indicate the American star had no interest in playing in Canada. Paul Kariya apparently gave little consideration to playing anywhere that didn't guarantee his anonymity.

And on and on it goes. In fact, the only significant signings by Canadian teams this off-season look a little like this: Jason Blake to Toronto, Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Smolinski to Montreal, Owen Nolan and Cory Sarich to Calgary, and Mathieu Garon to Edmonton.

Contrast that with the recent home-front losses, due to trades or free agency, from west to east: Brent Sopel, Jan Bulis, Josh Green, Smolinski, Tony Amonte, Brad Stuart, Hamrlik, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Petr Sykora, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith, Joffrey Lupul, Jan Hejda, Mike Peca, Jeff O'Neill, Yanic Perreault, Mike Comrie, Tom Preissing, Janne Niinimaa, Sheldon Souray, Mike Johnson, David Aebischer, Craig Rivet, Radek Bonk, Sergei Samsonov.

This isn't a big market, small market war being fought: Every Canadian team has said they plan to spend close to the $50.3-million cap. Even the Oilers are working with an increased budget.

Can it really be true? A league where more than 50 per cent of its players are Canadian, and so few are anxious for a homecoming? Or is this just a one-year blip?


At 1:47 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger MetroGnome said...

Robyn Regehr and Jarome Iginla recently decided to forgo the chance to sign elsewhere (as well get more money) in favor of playing in a Canadian market.

At 1:49 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Goodenow Generation of NHL millionaire babies.

At 2:01 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Matt said...

I'd be careful about confusing "Canada" with "Edmonton and Montreal". Those two cities/organizations have problems (downsides) fairly specific to them, at least at the moment. The tales of Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto striking out on multiple players they were chasing have been non-existent. Calgary seems to have signed the one UFA they wanted and resigned two of their most important players for the long term.

At 2:02 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Like I said in the Free Agents Winners/Losers post, a team like Montreal didn't actually offer more money to Briere or Smyth. Briere got $10m more with Philly than Montreal's rumored offer, as Montreal was offering $42m and Philly $52m. The difference was per season (MTL offered 6 years, Philly 8), not in actual dollars. And that's before taxes. Quebec's tax rate for multi-millionaires is up to 18% higher in base bay, before write-offs. And there are more tax write-offs in most US markets than in Quebec.

Montreal would've had to have offered Ryan Smyth around $8.5m per year to offer more money than what Colorado offered.

Edmonton has a different problem... they have low taxes for Canada. It's perception. ESPN player polls have consistently shown Edmonton is the least, or one of the 5 least, desirable markets for players. The usual wording of the question is "which team do you not want to get traded to?"

At 2:15 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Your 'home front losses' is somewhat misleading because Comrie would like to return to Ottawa, but the Senators might not have the budget. O'Neill and Peca wanted to come to Toronto and probably took less money to do so, but the Leafs are not interested in keeping them. If given the option they would both love to return. Comrie would like to return to Ottawa but the Senators may not be able to afford to keep him. Sopel, Stuart and Perreault were rentals and their teams never really intended to keep them (at least not seriously). Several others probably should retire (Niinimaa, Amonte) or are no good (Samsonov) and still others remain unsigned.

Several other players have stated that they would like to play in Canada. Toskala is looking forward to that opportunity (and signed an extension) and supposedly Yashin would like to play in Canada.

While I think some players would prefer not to play in a hockey mad city, I think there are legitimate reasons why we saw what we did this summer. Ottawa and Vancouver are under serious salary cap restraints and couldn't really afford to sign anyone of interest. Toronto and Calgary had mild cap constraints but both signed mid-level free agents. Montreal and Edmonton were the only teams with serious money to spend but neither of them have a very good team so any player who wants to win isn't going to be that interested in signing there.

It should also be mentioned that Adrian Aucoin waived his no trade clause to go to Calgary.

I think all this talk about players not wanting to play in Canada is a bit exaggerated.

At 2:23 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Yeah, you're definitely exaggerating the home front losses by putting guys like Josh Green and Janne Niinimaa in there. If that's the case, then Montreal signing Tom Kostopoulos should be on the "gains" side.

Also, you have Hamrlik in both the gains and losses side. Smolinski came from a Canadian club as well, but you didn't have him on the loss column interestingly enough. Byron Ritchie also just changed his Canada Post delivery address, and Dany Sabourin jetted Vancouver for Pittsburgh while we're at it. If you include Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul as losses (even if it wasn't the player's choice), then you have to include Aucoin, Pitkanen, Toskala, and Geoff Sanderson as additions.

At 2:43 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm obviously not saying teams are losing that many more players than they are signing; that's absurd. One list has significant free agents signed; the other has a look at what players teams have to replace this off-season.

I do think there's been a general "outflow" of talent in that general group of players named.

At 3:00 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Something else to consider, perhaps the more robust Canadian dollar means they're not getting as much back in value for their American dollars.

Remember, all salaries are paid in American dollars, and with that stronger loonie, their American dollars don't go as far anymore.

Just a thought.

At 3:32 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe if in baseball and football players even had a CHOICE to play in a city where no one cared, they would choose to do that. Baseball leaves such places (Montreal) and Football never goes to them in the first place. I'm sure many would if they could though. (Although the mentality sometimes seems different --> more football players appear glee ridden with fame)

For NHL Players, add in nice weather where ICE doesn't exist outside of arenas and it makes a great situation to play elsewhere.


At 3:34 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Kariya bit, if true, is the biggest chuckle. If ever a player had "LOSER" stamped on his forehead, it's Paul Kariya. After he emptied the vault in Anaheim playing a decade for a crappy team nobody watched, he spent one miserable year in Colorado where they actually care about hockey, then another couple toiling in the anonymity of Nashville, and now he's headed for three years in the craphole that is the St Louis Blues. If there were a franchise in One Tree Hill, Wyoming, Kariya would be its first UFA signing.

At 3:36 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger Black Dog said...

hmm, I don't know James - I would say that Ottawa and the Canucks are pretty well hampered by the cap while Calgary and Toronto did pretty well. Also a lot of these guys weren't coming back as mentioned, for example, Tjarnqvist in Edmonton. He may not even play this season because of his lingering injury. And Smith and Lupul were traded for Pitkanen and Sanderson. Smith was in no rush to get out of Edmonton.

Nor was Ryan Smyth for that matter, when it comes down to it.

Kozlov has a kid in a tennis academy in Georgia and is building a house there etc etc

I think there are issues in Edmonton with the current regime attracting UFAs and maybe in Montreal as well although they did pick up a couple of guys so ... not sure about the whole theory James.

At 3:42 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

What it comes down to, in my mind, is that for the first time I was hearing multiple reports of players explicitly saying they didn't want to play for 'a Canadian team.' Not Edmonton, not Montreal, but any of them.

The Canucks have roughly $5-million available under the cap and were said to be in the running for Kariya. Ottawa bid on Kozlov, so they obviously aren't just sitting on their hands there.

And I'm not saying Smith, etc., were in a rush to leave: The point was that these teams have holes to fill, and they're not being filled through free agency. I think everyone will agree there have been very, very few UFA signings by the six Canadian teams this summer so far.

At 4:01 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger Kel said...

I am not so sure why it's such a big surprise to find out that some players don't want to play in Canada. I believe there have always been players who don't want to play in Canada. Maybe one reason you're hearing more reports is that there are more free agents more than other? Perhaps Lowe has been complaining to the media way more frequently than before? I am not sure if the players were being polite when they told Lowe that they didn't want to play in Canada (instead of naming Edmonton). But I agree Lyle made a good point, given that players already pay more income taxes in Canada than in US, the currency issue exacerbates the problem in the difference in take-home pay.

At 4:58 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Kevin M (St. Louis, MO) said...

I love how after 25 years of making the playoffs, the Blues have 2 bad seasons (1 1/2 really) because of an owner who abandoned the team and all of the sudden we are a "craphole".

Get a clue, "anonymous", you clearly have an agenda with Kariya. Why is it bad if a guy wants a semi-private life outside the rink?

At 5:16 p.m., July 05, 2007, Anonymous Matt said...

>>What it comes down to, in my mind, is that for the first time I was hearing multiple reports of players explicitly saying they didn't want to play for 'a Canadian team.' Not Edmonton, not Montreal, but any of them.

I think this is kind of like asking a girl out and having her say no because "she doesn't want to be in a relationship right now". A guy who doesn't take that *at all* personally might be a little naive...

At 5:21 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

That's a fair comment. There's no doubt Edmonton and Montreal were the teams "out there" and getting turned down the most.

At 6:16 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

And there's also no doubt that Montreal would have to overpay by $1-$2m per season for players to take home (after taxes) as much as they would in Montreal as they would in Philly, Colorado, New York, or Miami on the top end guys... hence Hamrlik getting $5.5m/year when no one would've gone over $4.5m, I'm sure.

It'd be interesting to see what players take home, after taxes, in each market. A real income payroll.


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