I remember years ago the
Toronto media was all over General Manager Pat Quinn because Pat was spending part of the summer in , and leaving some of the free-agent negotiations work to his top assistant, Bill Watters. Many seemed to feel he should have been on the ground in Vancouver , making the pitches to the available players himself. Toronto
Similarly, Burke is taking some heat from fans and media because he was/is in
with Canadian troops for Canada Day. My thought? As with Quinn before him, in this day and age, deals get done by phone, fax, e-mail, etc. You are in constant contact with your own people, so it’s not as though you are ever out of the loop. You’re still driving the bus—it’s just that others may make some of the phone calls, etc.. Face-to-face contact is important, but not necessarily a difference-maker. (It can be, I realize, in certain cases. Like new Sabres’ owner Terry Pegula hoping on a private plane to convince Robyn Regehr to sign on with the Sabres—but there are no guarantees with that approach, either.). Afghanistan
Burke is a persuasive guy and the phone is just fine. If Brad Richards doesn’t sign with the Leafs because Burke is doing something that has real value (visiting the troops) rather than spending his time in a line-up with other GM’s trying to woo the 31 year old center, then Richards never wanted to come here in the first place. In any event, the Richards scenario was laid out by the agent: interested teams were invited to come and make their case in person (or not) at the agent’s offices in
. The Leafs made their pitch and Richards is well aware of Burke’s interest. Mississauga
Anyone who knows Burke knows he works hard at his job. They know he is totally committed to building the Maple Leafs. And they know that, for the right players, he will invest the money he needs to spend to continue the process of turning the Leafs into a competitive team.
So I don’t quite buy that Burke’s “absence” is making a difference in whether Richards—or anyone else— will sign here. If the money is close, Richards knows what kind of hockey market this is, if he really wants to play somewhere where hockey matters for the first time in his career.
As far as the Leafs “not doing anything” on the first day of free agency, I’m not sure there was a lot to do. There seemed to be a lot of “OK” players being signed for contracts that would have been reserved for superstars just a few years ago. (On that note, I’m becoming more and more confused about what the NHL lockout was really all about a few years ago. We have teams paying guys who haven’t been in the league millions of dollars, and clubs like
signing guys just because they have to get to the NHL cap “floor”. It’s all very odd.) Florida
If Brad Richards needs/wants 25 million dollars in the first two years of a long-term contract, well, the Leafs or anyone else who has the cap space can do it if they want, I suppose. But as nice a player is Richards is, he is not worth, at 31, that kind of money. I don’t believe anyone in hockey is, or should be. And as far as the Leafs are concerned, we are being a bit too hopeful if we think adding him will make the team a true contender in the next two seasons. Better, yes, but a Cup contender?
If the league really wants to keep costs under control, they simply can’t be paying out that kind of dough just because someone is a
(or in the case of Stamkos, an RFA). This is a league with half a dozen teams that are struggling to survive, that need new owners—and no one wants to buy the teams. What does that tell us? UFA
(On this subject, I will vent a bit. I truly dislike the idea that a player at 21 is already facing free agency, even “restricted” free agency. I don’t think it’s healthy and I don’t see a league like the NHL thriving if teams can’t plan to have their players around for more than three years without being ambushed by an offer sheet.)
As I post this, the Leafs have indeed, to the best of my knowledge, “done nothing” on Day One of free-agency. As much fun as it is for fans (and I’m glad for the fans in Buffalo, who have seen their team hand-cuffed for so long, and are finally able to spend some money, though I question how they are spending it…) in Toronto when the Leafs sign someone, I’m not sure it is a disaster that they haven’t gotten anyone. A Joel Ward might have been nice, but at what price? And what guarantee is there that he would have performed as he did in the recent playoffs for
? Erik Cole? Maybe five years ago, if the Leafs played in Nashville , where Cole played his best hockey—sometimes. Raleigh
It is frustrating at times to listen to the Burke bluster about things he will do (move up in the draft, etc.) when they don't actually happen, but his "absence" on Canada Day is not an issue for me.
Anyway, Saturday is another day, and there are more possibilities for Burke and the Leafs to consider.