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Le Affaire Du Vanek

As we all know, Thomas Vanek signed a seven year, $50 million offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, which was matched in about 13 second by the Buffalo Sabres.

The surprise is not the offer sheet, the player, or even the amount, really. The surprise is the team making the offer and the reaction it elicited from the Sabres front office.

A little background, here: The day prior, Kevin, the Oilers GM, re-acquired his third round draft choice and defenseman Allen Rourke from the New York Islanders, and noses were twitching that he was going to present an offer sheet-teams need their own draft choices in hand to present offer sheets. But the compensation for the sheet to Vanek doesn't include a third rounder.

That means Lowe is probably making another sheet, for less money, in the near future. Anyhow, that ends the background portion of our blog.

The reason it's surprising is that Edmonton is a "small market team" that was one of the teams that supposedly had to hold ranks with the others, like Buffalo, against the New Yorks, Detroits and Philadelphias that were making the lockout a joke by signing big name free agents to big money deals. (Yeah, I know that ignores that teams like Montreal, Buffalo and others made massive offers to free agents like Chris Drury, Danny Briere and Scott Gomez, and that Briere turned down more money to go to the Flyers and Drury refused an identical deal from Buffalo to sign with he Rangers...Big Markets are ruining the sport, remember?)

Equally stunning to me was the Sabres reaction. They villified Lowe. They stated flat out that the next Oiler RFA was getting a sheet from Buffalo. They basically made Lowe out to be the Devil incarnate. They also took their pokes at the Flyers and Rangers.

Here's the thing-their negotiation strategy for Vanek was to sit on their hands and let somebody make an offer sheet and then match. It's been rumored in a few places that they didn't open negotiations with Vanek's agents because they knew he was getting an offer sheet anyhow. Why the Hell are you mad at Lowe? He did all your work for you? If you wanted TV at a lower rate, you should have made the call and hammered out the deal yourselves.

More Sabres Stuff

I know Sabres fans don't like other team's fans talking about their team, and I am not trying to be disrespectful. I usually agree with the way the Sabres handle things, and even with the mistakes I feel they have made this off-season I expect them to ice a good club this season.

I am still trying to figure out how they negotiated a deal with Chris Drury in February and then "forgot" about it. It probably cost them Captain Clutch as Drury was known in Buffalo. It definitely was a PR hit, regardless and forced them to match what was a pretty high offer for Vanek.

Regardless, had the Sabres handled renegotiations in a more timely manner, they could have avoided the PR disaster that the first week of the free agency period has been.

Teemu Selanne a FLYER?!?!?!?!?!?

When Eklund broke this little E4 gem in the chat room, the response was.....one of disbelief, then we engaged in a no way, wow, oh BS, battle with Rangers and Ducks fans in the chat.

Tim Panaccio, erstwhile Flyers beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer was pretty quick to dismiss it, basically over limited cap space and the team needing an enforcer.

Still it was like manna in the desert to Flyers fans whose free agency period started with a huge bang-Briere, Joni Pitkanen trade to Edmonton-and now had slowed to a trickle of sludgy water.

Looking at the roster and the rumors I have heard, Sealnne still doesn't make much sense. His arrival would still leave the team without an enforcer and would push another winger to a 4th line role or out of town. The Flyers have also been trying to trade Denis Gauthier with no success at all for quite awhile. Adding Selanne puts them over the cap and would make Gauthier even harder to trade for any kind of value and retards the development of a kid like Scottie Upshall if he stays.

BIG BERT STRIKES IT RICH

Man, I want to get on Brian Burke's good side.

Islanders Make Up For Losing Smyth, Poti, Et Al.

Ok, despite Mike Bossy's pathetic plea with angry fans on the team's website, I like what the Islanders did. I think Bill Guerin is a better player than Smyth. Mike Comrie is a maturing and talented playmaker, Rusty Fedotenko is a good little player with guts and grit, they got rid of Yashin and Tom Poti was an inconsistent player. Garth Snow is not done and the Isles still have an excellent goalie and a damned good head coach.

They might not be as good as they were when the season ended, but they have time and resources.
Filed Under:   Vanek   Islanders   Selanne   Flyers   Sabres   Jsaq  
July 8, 2007 1:34 PM ET | Delete
upshall will be here through his 2 year deal.
July 8, 2007 2:11 PM ET | Delete
Good stuff, J. While I'd love to see Selanne don the orange and black, it probably doesn't make much sense for the team. I also remember reading that the Ducks asked what number he wanted to wear in his final year so that they could retire the correct one...
July 8, 2007 4:00 PM ET | Delete
I like what you write, good sense will eventually prevail regarding the Oiler offer for Vaneck. I hope K. Lowe does get some help for the Oil. He only did what a lot of G.M.'s were thinking of doing.
July 8, 2007 4:31 PM ET | Delete
Good post. I agree with a lot of what you're saying. The only thing is, in the case of Vanek, he is not a vetran of the game like Drury and Briere. He is entering his 2nd full year as an NHL starter. The fact that he is making $7mil per season is dangerous ground for the NHL, regardless if the team is a large or small market team. This means that players of Vanek's calibre who are entering their 2nd season are worth of similar money and those of a little lesser calibre are worthy of a mil or 2 less than vanek's contract. I think the arbitration hearings will be a good indicator if this will be the case. According to the new market established with Vanek's contract, Parise, Hunter, Ryder, Roy and a few other talented young players should receive contracts within the $4-6mil range; if not higher. Personally, I think that young players (for the sake of the league's financial stability, the sake of senority, and the sake of awarding someone for their hard work) should have to wait until they're established (like Drury or Briere) until they can make big money - and that is in no way knocking Thomas Vanek, its just being practical. Again, we won't know if the NHL is heading down this path of paying big contracts to potential stars until the arbitration hearings. But I think, given the NHLs lack of a TV contract and huge US fan base, that this is a dangerous path to travel down for the league regardless if the team is small or large market because it will drive all of the salaries of all tier players up to dangerous levels. It could also have implications on team chemistry, and potentially price some players out of the NHL based upon the cap system if salaries outpace the increased in the cap. Its just a realm that isn't good for the game, and I think it goes beyond the small-market vs. large-market issues.
July 8, 2007 4:35 PM ET | Delete
Lack of a TV contract = lack of a highly viewed TV network in the US (Versus doesn't count since it isn't included in most cable packages)
July 8, 2007 4:35 PM ET | Delete
The impact of Vanek on arbitration could be a blessing in disguise-maybe it will mean an end or retooling of the system to something that makes a lot more sense.
July 8, 2007 4:46 PM ET | Delete
That could be. But, could changes be made to the CBA or would changes have to wait until it expires? My biggest fear as a hockey fan is not the Sabres losing their players for big money elsewhere, its losing another season to a lockout (well, that's besides losing the Sabres in Buffalo). I feel like another lockout will kill this sport. It was hell not watching hockey for a year, and I think that changing this system might require another lost season.
July 8, 2007 8:56 PM ET | Delete
Don't you mean L'affaire du Vanek, you southern Jersey sophisticate you?
July 8, 2007 9:07 PM ET | Delete
yeah it is pretty wild.
Yan
July 8, 2007 10:01 PM ET | Delete
Good article. In real French it would be L'affaire "Vanek", but it's pretty much boring... I prefer as it is, the French touch is funnier. Anyway... Great reading.
July 9, 2007 7:41 AM ET | Delete
Well, since I usually have trouble with English, my foray into French was probably a bad idea....thanks for the kind words. JP, you know sophistication eludes me at the worst possible times...;)
July 10, 2007 7:56 AM ET | Delete
I would think that one of the reasons the Sabres were waiting for Vanek to accept an offer sheet was the hope that the offer would be low balled, even a little. Vanek could have turned it down, but it would have been a lower starting point than where they are now.How soon until GM1 calls GM2 and asks GM2 to make an offer to team 1's rfa at a reasonable price that can be matched by GM1. Of course the RFA could refuse, but in some ways the market will be set.
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