Friday, July 6, 2007

Thank Goodness For Kevin Lowe

I was in big trouble today.

I felt that a blog post was in order but when I went to the well, the bucket came up... empty. Apathy I think was the main cause of that. It's in the mid to high 30s outside and here I am in my office drinking hot coffee. I just couldn't get up for it today.

And then, just when I had resigned myself to not writing anything today, Edmonton Oiler GM Kevin Lowe comes along and bails me out of a jam. He has been my go to guy all week, constantly providing material with which to skewer him with. And just when I think he's through embarrassing what was once a proud franchise - he's at it again. Say what you will about the man, at least he's consistent.

In case you haven't heard by now, the Oilers tried to sign another big name free agent today. But of course they were once again foiled. This time it was not an unrestricted free agent (UFA) but one of the restricted (RFA) variety. Which means that you can't simply sign the player (as with a UFA) - with an RFA you make an offer to the player and if he accepts then you have to compensate the team he came from with draft picks. But of course the team that player is currently on has the option to match the offer and if they do the transaction is null and void.

Today the Oilers signed Buffalo's RFA Thomas Vanek to a 7 year, $50 million contract. However, as everybody, except apparently Kevin Lowe, knew they would do, the Buffalo Sabres quickly matched Edmonton's offer. So this means that Buffalo keeps Vanek and has signed him to the 7 year, $50 million contract. If Buffalo had decided not to match Edmonton's offer, the Sabres would have received 4 first round draft picks from Edmonton.

This is all a very convoluted description of what went down today, and probably not a very good one at that - so if you're confused and want to see how a professional journalist would explain everything, just read this article from -

Oh poor Kevin Lowe, he can't win even when he bends the rules. Well let me rephrase that, there's nothing wrong with what Kevin did. Teams are totally free to make offers to other team's RFAs. However, there has always been something of a gentleman's agreement about doing something like this. It's like hitting on another guy's girlfriend when they're sort of broken up but he's still got his arm around her - and then if you talk her into giving you her phone number, you have to give her boyfriend your car and your little brother's Xbox 360.

Signing an RFA to an offer sheet is considered in bad taste because it forces the player's current team to either match the offer, which in most cases is over the top, or let the player go and receive draft picks in return (the number of draft picks the team receives is based on the salary of the player in question) - this whole procedure is more complicated than instituting a code of conduct for a CFL team.

However all's fair in love and war. And I guess as far as Kevin Lowe is concerned, it's war. He's been totally unable to lure any top tier players to Edmonton - only castoffs that nobody else wanted. So now he's moved into the territory of forcing the hands of other teams. With no luck even at that so far.

It's too bad that Edmonton doesn't need a goalie, they could easily make offers to Ray Emery and Henrik Lundqvist that Ottawa and New York couldn't match because of salary cap reasons. But oh that's right, Edmonton has a 39 year old, career backup goalie who makes over $4 million a year. Oh well.

But beyond Kevin Lowe's total futility, there is another interesting story here. Thomas Vanek now makes over $7 million per year. Does that sound right to you? His salary will be $10 million this year (and then decreases in the years after that to average out to $7.14 million per year) - his salary last year was less than a million. Sure he had 43 goals last year on an insanely talented Buffalo team. Let's see if he can do it again this year with no Briere and Drury around. I have my doubts.

So that makes one more player who is making more money that Jarome Iginla or Joe Thornton. Who would you rather have on your team? Vanek or Iginla? Briere or Thornton? History is going to remember that Iginla and Thornton took less money than they would have gotten on the open market so that their teams could still compete. Sure they could have probably gotten $10 million a season next year in free agency but when one player takes up a 1/5th of a team's salary, your chances of building a championship contender are slim.

This is not taking a home town discount, as some might suggest. These are great players who want to win above all else and will put the teams needs ahead of their own. Wanting to get the most money you possibly can and wanting to play for a winner are two totally different things. Just ask Paul Kariya.

In an age when Vanek is a $7 million player and Kimmo Timonen is an $8 million player, I'm glad that I can still look at players like Iginla and Thornton and be reminded that there are still superstars who care about being part of a winning team.

See, sometimes it isn't always about money - just ask Edmonton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of ridiculous salaries in pro sports. I golfed with a young man yesterday whom I know who was ble to put things in perspective for me. He indicated that one of his Minnesota Wild teamates of the superstar variety (hello Marion G.), when his slary is broken down, makes 500,000.00 every two weeks forthe 7 1/2 month hockey season. I'm not sure about your place of work, but at mine, I don't think the machine that makes the cheques every two weeks has that many digits associated with it...