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Hey, so various Postmedia titles have announced that they’re now putting their content behind paywalls. What will we be losing? Well HHOFer Jim Matheson had a good piece in yesterday’s Journal:
Only two other Oilers, Jason Bonsignore and Milan Kytnar, have ever worn 64.
Matty initially had that as just being Bonsignore and then someone pointed out on Twitter that he was wrong – the story was fixed.
Judging by the salaries of other defensive D-men like Los Angeles Kings’ Willie Mitchell ($3.5 million), Smid should be in that price range in a new deal. He played close to 21 minutes a game last year and was plus-four, playing against the other team’s top guns.
According to both measures of QualComp on Behind The Net, the Kings’ top pairing was Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi. According to Hockey Analysis, Doughty played about 989 5v5 minutes with Scuderi and 222 5v5 minutes with Mitchell. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Mitchell probably wasn’t the guy the Kings were lining up against the opposition’s best.
Also, Mitchell signed that deal in LA when he was 33 and coming off a season in which he didn’t play a game after January 16 because he was concussed. So, six years older than Smid and with considerable health issues. I’ll go a little further out on that limb and say that Willie Mitchell’s contract is not one that’s going to be the basis on which Smid gets paid. It’s tough to forecast contracts when you’ve got a CBA between now and the time that Smid gets his deal but I’d expect it to be a lot higher. Guys who can play top four minutes will generally get paid.
Larionov said his client Sergei Samsonov, the one-time Oilers winger, will be getting a tryout with the San Jose Sharks, if there is an NHL training camp. Samsonov, who was on the Oilers’ 2006 team, didn’t play at all last season.
Matheson, today on Twitter: “may have jumped gun a tad on samsonov going to sharks camp. talking to several teams. agent is neil abbott not his friend larionov.”
Larionov’s said his old KLM linemate friend Viktor Krutov, who went to the Vancouver Canucks with Krutov in 1989, died of liver problems several months back in Moscow.
Matheson, today on Twitter: “mentioned igor larionov’s friend Vladimir Krutov dying a few months back in Journal story Monday but in brain cramp called him Viktor. ”
Viktor, Vladimir, whatever. The really weird thing is that this was widely reported at the time. It’s like saying, today, “Larionov said that his client, Nigel Yakupov, was drafted by the Oilers a few months back.”
This stuff with Matheson is low hanging fruit – truthfully, you can do this with a lot of his columns. That said, I tend to roll my eyes when I hear about how tough it is in the media world. The Journal actually has a guy, in Jonathan Willis, who could turn out stuff like this, only much more sensibly and accurately, and they confine him to David Staples content farm, churning out links to stories about stories with which to overwhelm Twitter. Maybe the Postmedia guys should try, y’know, having star writers who are versed in what’s actually going on in the areas that they cover.
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Speaking of terrible journalism – Mark Spector has a real beauty up at Sportsnet. To the credit of some of the other guys who are clueless about business and legal issues, they tend to avoid them. Spector tends to wade right in.
(Eberle and Hall) are playing in a city that has historically struggled to retain its good young players, another factor that sets these negotiations apart.
Best players to leave Edmonton and the age at which they left:
Wayne Gretzky: 27 years old
Mark Messier: 30 years old
Paul Coffey: 26 years old
Jari Kurri: 30 years old
Glenn Anderson: 31 years old
Grant Fuhr: 29 years old
Kevin Lowe: 33 years old
Doug Weight: 30 years old
Bill Guerin: 30 years old
Ryan Smyth: 31 years old
Curtis Joseph: 31 years old
So three of them left before the age of thirty. One of them (Fuhr) was probably grossly overrated anyway and playing behind Conn Smythe winner (probably also grossly overrated, but that’s a separate issue). Coffey forced his way out in a pay dispute of the type that simply does not seem to happen anymore. Gretzky was sold because he was a depreciating asset and Peter Puck had bills.
So really, there’s little truth to the argument that Edmonton has historically struggled to retain its good young players. What Edmonton has struggled to do, historically, is find and develop good young players. By and large, those who were found and developed were happy to stay in Edmonton so long as the Oilers were able to pay them at a competitive level. Does anyone doubt Edmonton’s capacity to pay Hall and Eberle market wages going forward?
It’s another example of a curious phenomenon with Edmonton media: nobody seems to think less of Edmonton or be more certain that someone would leap at the first opportunity to get the hell out than these guys do.
Know this: It is a slap in the face when the commissioner of the NHL is sitting across the bargaining table with the NHLPA asking for limits in contract length, while GMs are quietly trying to sneak long-term deals in under the CBA wire, behind Bettman’s back.
Know this: that’s a stupid way to start a sentence. Also, how is it a slap in the face of the commissioner? One, that’s pretty obviously a negotiating position. Two, the current rules are what the current rules are. The entire negotiation of the CBA is premised on stopping teams from doing what they would otherwise do – make it rain, Pacman Jones style. Bettman is trying to engage in legalized price fixing. Nobody bothers to fix prices if the prices aren’t naturally higher than the price at which he proposes to fix them.
It gives us a window into the competitive advantage between ownership and the players that you’ve read about before in this space. Because as much as we’re willing to bet that Bettman does not want Tambellini to sign Hall and Eberle to contracts of longer than five years, for him to call up Tambellini and express those wishes would be pure collusion.
This is where Spector goes completely off the rails. Everyone likes to talk about collusion. You know where “collusion”, in the collective bargaining context, comes from? Baseball. It’s actually in the MLB CBA: “Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.” I can’t find anything in the NHL CBA prohibiting it (the words “collusion” and “concert” produce nothing), although there likely are some restrictions that would apply which can be found in competition law.
You know who were the first people in baseball to collude? You’re thinking owners, aren’t you? Wrong. It was Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, who held out together and forced the Dodgers to give them big money. The MLB owners freaked out about it and got that provision inserted in their next CBA. Then they proceeded to violate it in the 1980s and pay big money.
Baseball actually had a system for quite a few years in the 2000s where Bud Selig did exactly what Spector describes as “pure collusion.” Players drafted by MLB had to be signed by the teams that drafted them. MLB issued what were called “slot recommendations” – essentially a recommended signing bonus. So basically, Selig called up GMs and expressed his wishes. Everyone ignored him.
Also, this isn’t unknown in the hockey world. Cal Nichols after the Dustin Penner signing:
“There was some negative feedback from some other teams to me and, frankly, from the league itself, and the only argument I had was that we’re like everybody else, we have got to sell tickets, we have got to be competitive and do the best we can, and that we are working within the parameters of the CBA and we’re simply trying to make our team better,” said Nichols.
So what Spector is suggesting, Bettman recommending that the Oilers not sign long term deals, didn’t result in collusion charges in baseball and, in any event, there appears to be no such prohibition in the NHL CBA. What’s more, Bettman has commented publicly before on long term contracts, in the context of Rick DiPietro:
“My reaction is two-fold. One, and I’m on record saying this long before this contract, namely I think under the type of system we have, it’s generally more prudent to enter into shorter-term contracts than longer-term contracts … because under our collective bargaining agreement, there is no ability to renegotiate a contract … With respect to this particular contract, only time will tell whether or not it was a wise move or a less-than-wise move.”
Of course, the problem with Bettman’s position is that if lots and lots of other teams are handing out long term deals, you can then either hand one out or you can let your guy go somewhere else where he will get such a deal. In effect, the current system forces teams to make big long-term bets on the hand they hold.
In the case of identical, 13-year, $98-million contracts for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise however, agents for the two sides – likely directed by the Players’ Association – cooperated freely and legally in forging those contracts.
If Oster and Ferris were speaking daily about their clients in Edmonton, as we’d expect they would, that would be totally above board. Tambellini, however, is on an island, allowed only to consult with those people inside his own organization.
It is why we seldom look at a contract the way people are looking at Hartnell’s deal today, and say, “Why did the player sign that?” Yet so often we observe a long-term deal and wonder if the general manager has lost his marbles.
This is insane. Tambellini is allowed to consult with people outside the organization. Bettman’s shared his views publicly on long term deals. I would expect he’s also expressed them privately to people. Of course, neither Bettman or any other non-Oiler has the interests of the Oilers at heart. Tambellini’s job is to make the Oilers as good as he possibly can (in theory anyway.) Bettman’s job is different – he looks out for the interests of the league in theory. Jay Feaster’s job is different – he looks out for the interests of the Calgary Flames. None of those people are going to be helpful sources of advice on how to make the Oilers great because they’re conflicted.
What Tambellini is prevented from doing is entering into an agreement with the other 29 NHL GMs that they won’t try to poach players from one another. I don’t believe that there’s anything specific in the CBA about it but there is law on the point. Of course, entering into such an agreement would be insane when the players are guaranteed a fixed percentage of revenue. This CBA has less than a month left to run and one of Sportsnet’s stars still doesn’t get this. You’d expose yourself to legal action and pay out the same amount of money.
Why do we seldom look at contracts and say “Why did the player sign that?” My guess is that it’s because UFA players have thirty potential teams to which he can sell his talents, it takes just one stupid team for things to get blown up and, in some cases, because there’s an information disadvantage between team and player. There’s an actual name for the one stupid team phenomenon – winner’s curse – and it helps to explain things like the Nikolai Khabibulin deal. The Oilers hilariously overestimated what “winning” Khabby would be worth.
The information disadvantage happens less frequently than you’d think. It’s not going to really exist with RFA players or players under contract because offer sheets are so rare and the league has rules against tampering. The only time you can really see it happening is with UFA players for whom there is high demand (or for whom some stupid, stupid team, with stupid, stupid management thinks that there might be high demand). That’s not the case in any of the contracts cited by Spector, nor is it the case with Hall’s contract, which was signed today.
Spector finishes with this:
But in this case, it’s illegal to ask for permission.
Well, no it’s not. Also you don’t need permission.
Maybe Sportsnet will put up that paywall soon.