Thursday, October 25, 2007

Toronto eyes Tavares

John Ferguson has made a bold move with an eye to capturing the next big thing in hockey — he offered up-and-coming superstar John Tavares a contract to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs' farm team.
By offering a deal for at least three years or longer, the source said Ferguson hopes to convince Tavares to remain Leaf property and opt out of the NHL draft. Tavares is eligible for the 2009 entry draft.
Well, isn't this interesting.

This doesn't seem all that likely, especially the stipulation that Tavares would play three years in the AHL (likely for a ridiculous salary), but it's notable that Toronto is making the play. The last thing the league wants, however, is for teams to be able to manoeuvre around the draft like this.

I can't wait to see the NHL's response, which I'll have up here as it's made available.

UPDATE Here's NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:
"As a general matter, what AHL clubs do with players is not something that concerns us," Daly wrote. "Having said that, an NHL club cannot use a related entity to circumvent any rights granted under the [collective agreement]. There is no indication that Toronto is contemplating anything that would circumvent the [agreement]."

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At 12:07 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous said...

So if this happens, now we can start the parade, and laud Ferguson as a genius. Boy I love watching and reading about the Maple Leafs!

And my wife is always trying to get me to watch Grey's Anatomy!

At 12:12 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) If that happened/was allowed, that would seem to be a bad precedent to have. Good/beter Teams making back room deals with impending stars about to be drafted.
2) We can't see how that could/would be allowed. If there is such a loophole it needs to be closed for the integrity of the game.

At 12:36 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simmons just spit up his corn flakes.

At 12:40 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me Trotsky, but that would be a step in the right direction. Allowing humans to select where and for whom they want to work. Take away the fact that hockey players make millions to play a game, the entry draft and subsequent years of unrestricted free agency are a slave auction. I hate the Leafs, but I hope they pull it off and consequently toss a grenade into the amateur draft process.

At 12:45 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except he still wouldn't entirely be able to decide where to play, because he would be committed to the AHL even though he could make it to the NHL more quickly if drafted, instead of signing a three-year contract and refusing whatever non-Toronto team would draft him.

Better option to make all draft-eligible players free agents, and let them sign for whatever team has the best fit for them, whether it be a hometown team, one as far away as possible, one where they will have some time to develop, or one with little talent at a position so he can step in and play immediately.

At 12:59 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

The AHL could try and block this move themselves, I would think. They've never had a 17 year old play in their league before, so they could simply not allow him to play there in his draft year.

Of course, it'd be good for AHL business, but the NHL might try and strongarm them.

At 1:00 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

Speaking as a Leafs fan, if you let all draft eligible players become free agents, you'd see Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, Toews, Taveres, et al in Rangers, Leafs, Canadiens, and Red Wings jerseys.

That probably wouldn't be great for the NHL, as much as I want it to happen.

At 1:03 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

If the Leafs did this no one would likely draft Tavares because they wouldn't get him. But what if the Leafs drafted Tavares with a seventh round pick? Would he then be able to opt out (mutually of course) of his Marlies contract and then sign with and play with the Leafs? Probably and if that is the ase Tavares is only giving up one year but he isn't eligible to be in the NHL next year anyway.

But why stop with Tavares? Why not sign a dozen young players who would be mid-first round picks. Many of them have no hope of making the $3 million in bonuses and most will be toiling in junior or the AHL for a few years anyway. Give them three year contracts at $500,000 each. Mid-first round picks aren't likely to make that much from ages 18-20.

At 1:27 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I expect a vitriolic attack from Brian Burke any time now.

At 1:30 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Karina said...


A Leafs GM trying something new?

Colour me stunned.

At 1:31 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

Burke just might ditch SoCal if JFJ manages to stock the cupboard before he gets the axe.

At 1:41 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Menzies said...

"one where they will have some time to develop,or one with little talent at a position so he can step in and play immediately"


Just kidding anonymous. I do like those two ideas. Imagine if a guy like Jagr got to play for a coach he wanted? I'm thinking something similiar to this in free agency would be the ntc, although I respect that clause also has some of it's origins in elite players not wanting to uproot their families every trade deadline. Here's looking at you Sillinger.

What I am thinking though is that I don't watch, or even really follow, AHL et al, but I did during the lockout season. I said then, wow, hopefully the hockey fans who need their fix during the lockout season and flocked to the junior leagues to get it will possibly stay on board as a fan with the junior teams once the nhl season gets it's collective shit together.

My thinking was cheaper prices, more impassioned play, and maybe - just maybe! - a new found respect to support the kids playing on a local team who haven't gotten embittered by the big league horse crap that is free agency (I'll take bickering over .4 million for two years, alex).

In my little dream world this could result in things like an Iginla or a Crosby or a Linden taking less then what their team could afford to pay in order to build a team, rather than going to whoever's got the biggest bucks. I know, dream world, but still. There are some humble, down to earth hockey players out there that I think would do that.

I think I got a bit off topic though, and so I digress. My only doubt would be what of the Russian Juniors, or the Swedes, or even the Latvians? Clearly there would be some who have mentors that would point towards the systems in Buffalo or Nashville, but it's also likely they have agents that would be nudging them towards the Wings or the Rangers. I think the potential for a bottleneck would be very high. And without the draft, how does that help the team with the worst record in the league?

We just went through a seasonless campaign for parity. I'm not sure that 18 year old free agency is the best solution for that, but it's not completely out to lunch either...

At 1:44 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Andrew said...

If this is allowed to happen (by the NHL, the AHL, whoever), it is a very dangerous precedent. It will render the entry draft "barrier" meaningless to any team with enough money.

Following the "slippery slope" argument... what would stop a team (say, Toronto) from throwing wads of cash (i.e. more than they can earn under NHL rookie deals) at the top 10 entry draft prospects each year?

Unless the NHL outright blocks this move, the solution may be to eliminate the "entry contract" restrictions currently in place under the CBA. There would be little incentive for prospects to play in the AHL when they could fetch the same dollars in the NHL.

At 1:48 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

I think much of the blame lies with the NHL for not allowing Tavares into the draft. If Freddy Adu can play MLS soccer at 14, why can't Tavares play in the NHL, especially with youth acquitting itself so well in the past three seasons.

At 1:51 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Blitzen said...

Why would anyone want to commit to Toronto at such a young age? Thankfully he has an agent and parents to keep him from even considering this. Toronto fans are brutal to their team. It's like sharks at a feeding frenzy the minute anyone making a decent salary has an off game or two. Run away John, run away!

At 2:00 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

he still wouldn't entirely be able to decide where to play, because he would be committed to the AHL

I don't follow. How is electing to sign a contract with the Marlies not "deciding where he wants to play"

if you let all draft eligible players become free agents, you'd see Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, Toews, Taveres, et al in Rangers, Leafs, Canadiens, and Red Wings jerseys.

That probably wouldn't be great for the NHL

Gary Bettman would disagree.

an Iginla or a Crosby or a Linden

That's just plain old funny.

At 2:02 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

WOW - its "Back to the Future" time.

It brings back memories - before the Entry (Amateur) Draft was implemented in 1963 - of NHL teams being able to put up to four 14 year old kids on their future negotiation lists, and signing an unlimited number of kids to C- Forms at age 18, which indentured them to the team for life.

MLSE better tread carefully here. If they piss off Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors over this, they may soon see the Hamilton Preditors playing next door!

At 2:21 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this was allowed to happen, I can see all the Canadian teams becoming loaded with talent (lots of good juniors in BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec) followed by Rangers, Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks, Kings, etc. i.e. teams with money.

But it won't and the Maple Leafs will continue to suck for another 40 years.

At 2:54 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger John said...

I'm not sure there is much the NHL can do about this UNLESS there is something written into this agreement that Tavares will promise to sign with the Leafs as soon as he is a free agent. If there is no promise (explicit or otherwise) then Tavares could take the Leafs money for 3 years (or whatever it would need to be) and then sign with any team he wishes. And theoretically AHL contracts are offered by different entities than NHL clubs, so I'm not sure how much authority the NHL would have if the Marlies did make this deal.

The wealthy teams would have the best farm team prospects, but they would also have a lot of risk that the player could jump to a different franchise as soon as they are able. Since NHL clubs are cap constrained, who can say what team may end up offering the best deal.
And really, if a player is delaying his dream playing in the NHL for money then you can be pretty sure the mercenary aspects of the player will also jump to the best FA money offer.

I don't like this possibility, but I also don't think it is as much of a free pass to the wealthy teams as it looks.

At 3:00 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous paul said...

Has everyone here gone insane? This is a unique situation for a unique player, don't just blindly apply it to everyone. The gamble is that at 21 he'll be worth max unrestricted free agency money. The advantage of drafting a player is three years of entry-level salary followed by a period of restricted free agency. Very few players are worth skipping that step for, not to mention the millions you have to pay to a minor league player.

At 3:18 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Menzies said...

an Iginla or a Crosby or a Linden

That's just plain old funny.

:) I thought I'd slip that in there...

One thing the original article does mention that is not in Mirtle's synopsis is "[player eligibility in the AHL] matches the NHL's. Only players who turn 18 by Sept. 15 are allowed to play in the AHL that season, which means Tavares would not be eligible to play until the 2009-10 season."

That sets Tavares up to be stuck out of the NHL until the 2012-2013 season. For a kid trying to get into the NHL draft *this season* I don't think it's likely he'll give the offer much consideration.

At 3:33 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Jonathan said...

This move reminds me of when Rick Dudley, as Florida's GM, tried to take Ovechkin with his last pick in 2003, arguing that Ovechkin was eligible if they accounted for leap years. I think the same thing about it for that matter- it won't happen, but you can't blame a guy for trying.

At 3:52 p.m., October 25, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

A couple of misconceptions here: If Tavares signs with the Marlies, that makes him Marlie property, not Leaf property. It's an important distinction; he would still be subject to the NHL entry draft. The Leafs can't sign him until they draft him, or he becomes eligible for NHL free agency.

If they "traded" him to an NHL club, they would really be releasing him from his AHL contract in exchange for compensation from the team that drafted him.

Also, the NHL cannot block this move, as they do not run the AHL. It would be the AHL's decision, and I would be surprised if they blocked the possibility for significant increased revenues.

The only way he could become Leaf property is if they pay him enough to refuse to sign with the team that does draft him and become a free agent - at which point anyone else could sign him too. The Leafs might have the inside track, but that's up to Tavares.

Does this seem like a loophole that could result in bottom-feeders being denied the rights to franchise players? If so, it's a product of the rookie salary cap and the lack of an NHL-AHL transfer agreement (that and the fact that CHL players don't get paid). It's the league's own mess, and it's too late for them to stop it.

It won't become widespread because NHL teams can't afford to pay out millions of dollars to kids who may never play for them. Tavares is a special case; at 16 everyone already believes he will be an impact player.

At 4:14 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous beingbobbyorr said...

I'm wondering if anyone -- especially the Leafs -- has stopped to ask whether ___ years in the AHL is going to stall JT's development process. Maybe this year & 08-09, the AHL would represent a step up that will push him as a player, but beyond that any time spent there might be a detriment to his NHL potential.

At 4:40 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous PPP said...

I would liken Tavares' move to the AHL as similar to guys going the NCAA route. He'll get to play against bigger, stronger, and better competition while he fills out.

Also, Spezza and Wellwood benefitted greatly from their year in the AHL during the lockout. One or two years won't hurt Tavares but your right in that there is probably a ceiling to how much 3 years might benefit him.

At 4:53 p.m., October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Tavares signs an agreement that he promises to play with the Leafs while under contract with the Marlies, then he has effectively signed a contract with the Leafs. This would be a breach of the CBA since you cannot sign someone that unless you own his rights (re: the draft) or unless they are a free agent. Tavares would not be a free agent until two years past his draft eligibility so this is all just a pipe dream. Besides JFJ won't be around in six months so this idea is moot.

At 2:19 p.m., October 26, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

James, I'd like to hear from all the CBA experts out there as to how the CBA would deal with the following hypothetical situation.

1) Teachers pension plan immediately signs Traveres to a 10 year personal services contract for his hockey services and all related marketing activity.

2) Teachers agrees to immediately pay Traveres 15% of the prevailing NHL maximum cap for each year under the contract, and 50% of all net marketing revenue earned each year.

3) In exchange Traveres agrees to the following terms:

a) he will play hockey for any professional team Teachers sub contracts his hockey services to during the term of the contract;

b) he cannot sign with or provide hockey services to any professional team not approved by Teachers for the 10 year term; and,

c) he will participate in any marketing activities requested by Teachers.

Based on this contract Teachers would then:

1) Sub contract Traveres to the Marlies or European professional teams until Traveres qualifies as a UFA under NHL rules;

2) Once Traveres becomes a UFA, Teachers would then enter into annual one year fixed dollar contracts with the Leafs (or any other NHL Team) - equivalent to 20% of that year's NHL cap - for Travere's hockey services for the remaining term of the 10 year personal services contract; and,

3) Teachers would pursue marketing activities for Traveres.

From Teachers perspective they would lose money in the early years of the contract - as they would be paying Traverse much more than they could sub contract him out for.

However, once Traveres qualifies for UFA status, Teachers will make money as they will contract him out for 20% of the cap, while paying him 15% of the cap.

In addition, Teachers would receive 50% of each year's net marketing revenue to help cover the losses in the first few years of the contract.

Overall, the contract would be structured so that Teachers would make money, and Traveres would receive more than if he followed the current system.

Let's not debate the dollar and percentage numbers involved - or the business risks. The issue is - can this arrangement work under the existing CBA and NHL rules?

At 3:20 p.m., October 26, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

According to The Hockey News, personal services contracts are now considered circumvention by the CBA and so are not allowed. This loophole is firmly closed.

At 4:36 p.m., October 26, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

Adam C.

I don't think personal service contracts - in themselves - are illegal. I believe most players incorporate themselves and the teams sign contracts with the player's corporation.

I guess what is illegal - judging by Daly's comments - is personal service contracts used by RELATED PARTIES to deliberatly CIRCUMVENT the CBA. On this basis my scenario is illegal as Teachers and MLSE are related parties, and the draft is being cicumvented.

However, what if a group of investors TOTALLY UNRELATED to ANY NHL TEAM OR HOCKEY ENTITY undertake this contract structure - soley on a money making basis. And they sub contract Tavares out - on one year contracts - to the highest NHL bidder each year once he becomes a UFA. There is no circumvention here.

Similar types of contracts are done with young and upcoming golfers on the PGA Tour all the time.


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