Friday, July 06, 2007

Oilers offer Vanek $50-million

The Edmonton Oilers, who have been embroiled in controversy in which they claim they signed Michael Nylander before the Washington Capitals, found time this morning to sign Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek to an offer sheet. has learned that the Oilers are willing to pay Vanek a stunning $50-million (U.S.) over seven seasons. Now the Sabres have seven days to decide whether they will match the lucrative offer sheet to retain the 23-year-old sniper.
Wasting little time in dealing with the matter, the Sabres have called a press conference for about 15 minutes from now. My guess is they match, if only because the franchise can't stand to lose yet another key piece.

UPDATE Here's Covered in Oil:
It's a steep price for the Oilers to pay, in both money and futures, but for a 23-year-old sniper coming off a 43-goal, plus-47 performance and for whom the sky seems to be the limit, oh man is it worth it.

Oh, those Oilers. Every time you think they're down and out for good, they come storming back in.
The problem being, in my estimation, that the Sabres aren't tight against the cap, and were likely prepared to pay Vanek in the neighbourhood of $5-million a season as a restricted free agent.

Another $2-million isn't going to break the bank, which means it's just a matter of what sort of value Darcy Regeir puts on those four draft picks.

UPDATE Here's the other side, Sabre Rattling:
WOW. I can’t see the Sabres matching here. Its an overpayment of ridiculous porportions. Take the 4 first rounders, Edmonton is going to stink for at least 2 of those years anyways.
UPDATE The Sabres' brief news conference just announced that they will be matching the deal.

"Had they locked up a Drury or a Briere, they might have thought differently," The Hockey News' Adam Proteau says on local radio here in Toronto.

UPDATE Apparently several teams made offers for Vanek, but the Oilers' offer was so much higher that a bidding war never took place.

UPDATE Tom Benjamin offers his always entertaining take here:
I'm not surprised to see RFA offers — I predicted it would be a consequence of the new CBA. However I expected it would be large market teams scooping stars from small market ones. (Bettman poodles assured me that it would never happen. I suppose they were right — I didn't expect teams in more or less the same boat to eat each other.)
UPDATE And here's Spector with his thoughts:
This hasn't been a good week for Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, as now he's been thwarted of signing a potential marquee RFA. He's entitled to make another offer to another RFA player, but having tried and failed to pry away Vanek with an eye-popping offer he could decide RFAs like New Jersey's Zach Parise or Anaheim's Dustin Penner aren't worth the effort.

It'll be interesting to see if other teams also try their luck with offer sheets to RFA players. If the Oilers successfully signed away Vanek, it might've opened the floodgate for more offer sheets, but having seen the Sabres match what appeared to be an unmatchable offer, that could put the brakes on other potential offers.
UPDATE From Kukla's Korner:
GM Darcy Regier said he contacted Kevin Lowe last night and tried to persuade him not to make the offer, that they were always going to match whatever offer the Oilers might make.
UPDATE Appropriately enough, I'll give Kevin Lowe the last word here:
Oilers GM Kevin Lowe — all but shut out on the unrestricted free agent market and still smarting from having centre Michael Nylander agree to, then back out of a contract — called the Sabres reaction “rather juvenile.

“I could have behaved that way with Washington (which signed Nylander),” Lowe said on a conference call. “It’s a business.

“Take the personal out of it. It was right for the Oilers and obviously it was right for the Sabres.”
I mentioned to bloggin' vet Lowetide that he may soon need a new name for his blog. Things haven't been going so well for the Oilers GM ever since losing in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.



At 12:25 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger PPP said...


Best. Off-Season.Ever.

Hmmm will the Sabres be the first team to follow the arc of "Real" 2005-2006 champs to Annointed 2006-2007 champs to glorified AHL team in 3 seasons?

At 12:31 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...


There goes our shot at Esposito in two years, unless the Slugs go and match.

At 12:49 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Conrad said...

Real glad we had that lockout a coupla seasons ago...

At 12:50 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

I am glad to see the offer sheets being used. Too bad this one didn't work out but if I am a fan I want my GM using every tool available to him to win.

Who do the Oilers target next?

At 12:52 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger BlackCapricorn said...

In some ways, glad the Sabres matched, the bleeding had to be stopped. On the other hand- way overpaid and I doubt the Sabres will go after that many more RFA's or UFA's with TV's cap hit. As a Sabres fan, I am not sure how to feel right now. Its been a hell of a week.

At 1:02 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

James, I think Lowe was hoping Buffalo would match, and play into what I believe to be his longer term strategy.

Yesterday 29 pretty good young forwards and defencemen, who are RFAs, filed for salary arbitration.

Under the rules of arbitration, the awards are based on voluntary contract signings by similar RFAs. Since Buffalo will now sign Vanek voluntarily to a $7 million contract - that becomes the benchmark for other forward RFAs. Their stats are measured against Vanek's stats to establish an award.

As a result, by the middle of August we could see enormous arbitration awards to these RFAs. Their teams will have to give them one year contracts at these terms, or let them go as free agents.

Many teams will be up against the cap, or their self imposed budget, and will have to let the player go. Others will be reluctant to pay these large amounts for the talent level involved.

Therefore, Lowe will be in an excellent position in mid August, with a lot of salary cap money to sign these players, at amounts below the arbitration award, because of the limited number of teams able to sign players.

We saw this happen last year with Briere and JP Dumont, where Buffalo was only able to sign Briere and had to let JP Dumont go to Nashville (he ultimately signed a two year deal below his arbitration award). Last year it was Chicago who established the arbitration award benchmark by voluntarily signing Havlatt to a $6 million contrat.

Therefore I wouldn't be surprised to see Lowe take further runs at Parise, and a defenceman, Keith Ballard - not in the hopes of actually signing these players - but to establish high bencmarks for arbitration awards later this summer.

At 1:04 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think you're giving Lowe too much credit.

At 1:20 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Vanek > Briere
Vanek > Drury
Vanek > Gomez
Vanek > Rafalski
Vanek > Smyth

Easy decision. Match. What's the issue here? The Sabres just dropped about $8-9m in payroll this off-season and had a revenue boom with new jersey sales.

Both GM's should be fired for letting themselves get to this point, but this move in itself is a no brainer.

At 1:22 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Black Dog said...

Agreed on that. Anyone who has seen him mismanage this team over the past twelve months (as well as his admission that there was no plan a couple of days ago) knows that deep thinking is way way over his head.

Man is trying to save his job.

At 1:22 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Black Dog said...

ppp - that arc is pretty similar to that of the Oilers - a little different but not much

At 2:24 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I crazy or is Tomas Vanek not a fairly one-dimensional player who has had one good season in an optimal situation (strong team, good linemates etc.)? This is more than Iginla signed for!!!
I must be crazy cause 2 years ago I thought the new CBA would reduce the number of ridiculous contracts GMs would give out.

At 2:26 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

I think a GM will still use an offer sheet if he goes after a player he covets--but next time I suspect he will go after a team closer to the cap, so they won't be able to match at all, instead of just paying more than they had hoped, but have cap space for.

Better planning required next time.

At 2:33 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Yeah, I was surprised last year that no one tried to lynch Paul Martin from New Jersey when they had ridiculous cap problems still unsolved. He didn't sign until the last day of training camp when the Devils made all their final moves to get under the cap. If someone had made an offer in early September for $2.5m-$3m they could've really hit Lou hard.

At 2:38 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Hooks Orpik said...

Anon, I think Vanek is worth big bucks, he's a 23 year old sniper that's scored goals at every level and should be atleast a 40 scorer every year of the contract.

Now he's getting basically open market money and he was restricted.

Ridiculous contracts will always be around, as long as the league makes the revenue to support the ever-increasing cap.

And so much of that revenue is coming from ever increasing ticket prices.

The owners aren't really paying for this, it's the fans that go to games largely footing the bill.

Don't like it? Quit giving them your hard-earned money and miss out on being at games. Sucks either way.

At 2:47 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Tom L said...

Regier, during the presser, said if they didn't match the offer then they might as well sign a 'development agreement with the NHL' to supply the rest of the league with talent.

It's hard to argue with that.

BTW, PPP, better to have gone through this cycle in the past three years then to sit around stinking up the join with nigh-unlimited resources for the past 40.

Enjoy it while you can, but we'll still finish ahead of you guys in the division this year.

Oh, and for the record, my AHL team can beat up your AHL team. Nyah!


At 2:48 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Tom L said...


Matt is wrong for wanting the picks.



At 2:52 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Regier, during the presser, said if they didn't match the offer then they might as well sign a 'development agreement with the NHL' to supply the rest of the league with talent.

Oh, boo hoo. Work for the Rangers, Leafs, Flyers or Wings if you don't want that to happen.

At 2:53 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Tom, we went through this cycle from 1992-1996 when we made it to back-to-back conference finals. Sadly, your cycle hasn't even hit THOSE highs ;)

Not to mention that 40 years counts the Ballard years when there really was no hope. Kind of like the Sabres' future.

Last year you might have but I wouldn't get too excited about this season just yet.

We'll see at the end just where the slugs finish.

At 3:00 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Anshu said...

I disagree with Spector. I think the likelihood that the Oilers make more offers, and that other teams follow suit now that the taboo has been lifted, just went way up.

If I were a GM with cap space, I'd seriously consider Parise given the cap problems the Devils still have. Of course, afterwards I'd also lie awake at night wondering if Lou is sending someone to take out my kneecaps...

At 3:01 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Alec said...

GM Darcy Regier said he contacted Kevin Lowe last night and tried to persuade him not to make the offer, that they were always going to match whatever offer the Oilers might make.

That should make for a tasty morsel if the NHLPA ever sues over collusion.

At 3:09 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

The Devils really don't have major cap issues anymore, do they? They lost two of their most expensive players (much like the Sabres) and still have all the cap space from the natural increase of $6.3m from last year.

At 3:10 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think Lamoriello's going to sign Souray here shortly, which would make things interesting against the cap once again.

They need another big ticket defenceman.

At 3:48 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Keith said...

It's a shame that the Sabres are in a position where they almost had to match, because the Oilers are a very bad team. Vanek is likely the difference between 14th place in 12th, so what is the upside for Edmonton to do this? Let alone do this after Lowe spent the last three days talking about the importance of DRAFTING?

The draft is important for the Oilers, presumably, so they can indoctrinate young players who don't have a choice whether to play for in Edmonton or not. Just an asinine decision by Lowe to risk four first rounders - two of which will likely be top ten, if not top five - for nothing, really.

The Oilers need to dump Lowe, and stop inbreeding management (that means, say no to Messier). That franchise has been mediocre for 17 years now, and is not going to get any better until it brings in new blood.

At 3:53 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

GM Darcy Regier said he contacted Kevin Lowe last night and tried to persuade him not to make the offer, that they were always going to match whatever offer the Oilers might make.
Why do the 'victimized' GMs, for lack of a better word, always telegraph that they'll match? Doesn't this drive up the price? For example, if I, as the 'poaching' GM, have doubts whether my rival will match, I can offer Vanek, say, $6M in order to save money against my own cap. But if I know my rival will match no matter what, do I not then offer $7M, $8M, $9M....? Doesn't amount to much when it's EDM v BUF, but what if Lowe stuck it to Sutter on Pheneuf like this?
If I'm Regier (or Burke the other day) I'd hold a press conference and announce that we're more than happy to let Vanek (or Penner) go.

At 3:59 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

The upside for the Oilers is that they have a glut of guys from their past few drafts but none as developed as Vanek.

Even if 2 are top 10 picks then what are the odds that either one will be as good as Vanek?

Vanek himself might make the difference between 14th and 12th but his signing could have triggered more signings. There is no guarantee that the Oilers would still be a bottom 5 team four years from now.

At 4:11 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Keith said...

No, ppp, there is no guarantee they would remain a bottom five team a few years from now. But to lose those four first rounders would hamper the Oilers ability to draft and develop players for years down the road. It creates a lot of long term pain for almost no short term gain.

Also, it is remarkably simplistic to assume that the loss of those picks isn't as important because they might not turn into a Vanek like player. For what Lowe has done to the Oilers, one of those picks could well end up being Tavares. Or, more likely, two or three turn into servicable players. While you might not get another Vanek, chances are good you will be a deeper team.

And one thing the Oilers are desperately lacking is depth.

At 4:25 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

At the same time it's easy to say that they'll never replace those picks and that they could all turn out to be great players.

The truth is that either scenario, or more likely one in the middle, would be more plausible.

Plus Tavares goes into the draft in 2009 right? The Oilers could easily be far out of the running for the top pick in two years.

The Oilers have a tonne of young talent (from what I read) but what they lack is the top-line prospects which is something that Vanek would have addressed.

At 5:10 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Kevin M said...

PPP - your 2:53 post makes no sense. Didn't the Sabres just make it to back to back conference finals?

At 5:10 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

If more GMs engaged in RFA poaching, wouldn't the compensatory picks kinda wash out?
Eg. the Oilers lose 4 first to the Sabres for Vanek. Then the Bruins sign, I dunno, Heatley, and owe the Senators four picks. Then the Sens sign Phaneuf and owe the Falmes four picks, and so on, until someone plucks an Oiler and the Oilers end up with as many, if slightly different, picks.
In other words, if enough GMs did it, the cost, in picks, would be reduced to zero over time.

At 5:23 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Or... a team could let all of their RFAs with offer sheets walk and then own 5-6 first-rounders in the next four or five drafts.

Could happen.

At 6:45 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger Kevin said...

The Sabres HAVEN'T been to back-to-back conference finals?

Crap. I guess my ticket stubs must be fakes.

At 7:09 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger mike said...

Buffalo had to sign Vanek else the fans'd crucified them. He's screwing with the cap teams or something. gotta be.

he's stirring some snarly brew. wow.

At 7:42 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger robert cleave said...

"rather juvenile"...quite rich, considering the hissy fit press release after the Nylander fiasco. It's past time for Nichols to put Lowe out of his misery.

At 8:13 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger mike said...

Vanek had no choice in the matter, is that true?

If in a couple years someone offers Hemsky as an RFA, say Buffalo, and Edmonton matchs, then Hemsky would have no choice but to stay. Is that right? Hemsky couldn't leave town?

At 8:21 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger She said...

Hemsky is signed through 2012. He'll be UFA then.

But yes, if he were RFA, he'd stay.

At 8:55 p.m., July 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keith - The Oiler's farm system is completely stacked with all sorts of prospects and they had to not sign kids to keep under the contract limit.

What the Oilers lack is a guy like Vanek - a top-end prospect.

To say the Oilers are deep in prospects shows how ignorant you are. The picks are useless to the Oilers except as trade pieces.

At 10:43 p.m., July 06, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Alec has an interesting point. The phone call from Regier to Lowe definitely constitutes an attempt at collusion. Really, it's an attempt to make the entire concept of restricted free agency meaningless.

However, I'm not sure what the NHLPA can do about it. As far as I can tell with a cursory read, the CBA doesn't have any prohibition against teams colluding. (As I said, it was a cursory read; I could easily be wrong.) Without that, I'm not sure what recourse the players' association has if they wanted to pursue it.

The case of major league baseball was different. Their CBA did, and still does, have a specific prohibition against collusion between clubs (or players) to put downward (or upward) pressure on salaries. Oddly, it was the owners that insisted on this clause back in the 1960s, after Koufax and Drysdale held out together until the Dodgers signed them both to significant pay raises.

It was this clause that the owners ran afoul of in the 1980s, and it cost them a lot of money. (Though, several analyses I've seen support the idea that the eventual payout was less than the artificial lowering of salaries, so the owners actually came out ahead.)

So, I'd say that Regier's call definitely violates the spirit of the CBA, but I'm not sure that it violates the letter in any way.

At 12:47 a.m., July 07, 2007, Blogger mike said...

Edmonton future picks are only useless if you can only see one year in advance.

This sounds to me a bit like two teams working to keep their players at home. As in, two teams working together, and may be a bit like the end of free agency, or anti free agency, or something.

Collusion is such an ugly word.

At 12:49 a.m., July 07, 2007, Blogger allan said...

mike -

Vanek had a choice of whether or not to accept the Oilers offer. But once he'd accepted it, and Buffalo matched, the Oilers offer was no longer available to him.

Essentially, by signing the Oilers offer, he was agreeing to that deal with the Sabres if they chose to match it, or with the Oilers if they did not.

At 9:34 a.m., July 07, 2007, Blogger Colby Cosh said...

The Oiler's farm system is completely stacked with all sorts of prospects

Do we have a true blue-chip prospect anywhere in the system aside from Gagner?

At 9:39 a.m., July 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was this what the league had in mind when they developed the new CBA? I can understand the big markets getting a lion's share of the UFA's, but small markets attempting to destroy one another with overrated RFA's?

At 4:56 p.m., July 07, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Keith, Kevin - You're right. I miswrote. The Sabres actually have followed the Leafs' arc exactly. They lost the first CF in 7 and the second in 5.

Hate to break it to you guys but Leafs management cut Fletcher's budget after the second run and the team missed the playoffs the next year. Just so you guys know what's coming up.

At 2:39 p.m., July 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do we have a true blue-chip prospect anywhere in the system aside from Gagner?

Gilbert, Chorney, Petry - three offensive D-men that will have a NHL career somewhere. Lowe's eye for defensemen is great.

As for forwards - two of these will be long-term NHLers:

Cogliano, Gagner, O'Marra, Trukhno, Nilsson, Schremp.

So no guarantees on the forwards side because these players have lingering "issues."


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