BIG-MARKET THEORY A BIG LIE
…AND so Pat Quinn was heavily fined by Gary Bettman, for last week publicly promising a 2004-2005 lockout, but that hardly matters, not when a lout like the Toronto GM and his buddies such as Vancouver GM Brian Burke continue to spread smoke under the NHL imprimatur that big- market teams such as the Rangers and Stars are imperiling the foundation of the league.
It’s a Big Lie, nothing less, that Group III contracts such as the ones earned by Bobby Holik, Billy Guerin and Darius Kasparaitis are at the root of all financial evil. Once and for all: contracts signed by unrestricted free agents have virtually no impact at all on the cost of doing business for those teams that choose not to enter the marketplace.
Group III contracts cannot be used in salary arbitration cases. General managers have no obligation whatsoever to consider Group III contracts in negotiations with their respective restricted free agents. Fact is, while Burke last week called the three aforementioned contracts, “asinine, insane and inflationary,” he had more to do with across the board Group II increases last year than the Rangers or Dallas (or Philadelphia and St. Louis.)
A year ago it was Burke – who held all of the leverage – who increased Markus Naslund’s salary from $2.35 million to $4.33M per in a three-year Group II contract registered early enough so that it became the primary comparable established in the arbitration cases of Guerin, Petr Sykora and Alexei Kovalev that ended with huge increases for the wingers. That’s right – it was Vancouver, not New York, not Dallas, that raised the bar on Group II free agents.
How about Quinn professing outrage over Holik’s and Guerin’s five-year deals, and Kasparaitis’ six-year deal?
“What blew everyone away was the length of the contracts . . . we had no clue that was going to happen,” he claimed.
Well, Quinn may not have a clue how to dress the requisite number of eligible players for a playoff game – the Leafs twice had to go a man short in the tournament – but he sure had a clue about the length of those contracts, seeing how it was Toronto that first offered Holik a five-year deal and first offered Kasparaitis one for six years.
It’s time for Quinn, whose team is an ugly smudge on the league, to stop distorting the record, in addition to stop making outrageous statements such as “. . . there are ways to run a business and that’s why we’re going to have a lockout . . .,” one that earned him a fine believed no less than $100,000.
There’s no comparison between the NHL and any other sport – in the NHL, teams have complete control of their players for the first 13 seasons of their respective careers. Let’s face it. If there was legitimate free-agent bidding rather than the collusion obviously in place and orchestrated by NHL headquarters, if super-revenue teams really were interested in flexing their financial muscles, then the Flyers would be tendering an unmatchable offer sheet to Montreal’s Group II Jose Theodore, the Rangers would be maneuvering to sign Calgary’s Group II Jarome Iginla and the Red Wings would be preparing an offer for New Jersey’s Group II Patrik Elias.