Monday, June 18, 2007

It's all part of a piece...

It’s all part of a piece…

We have this story posted last Saturday in the National Post on the possibility of the Nashville Predators embarking on a Florida Marlins-style firesale…

“If the Nashville Predators are not sold by June 30, which seems unlikely now, sources say club owner Craig Leipold is prepared to vastly trim his player payroll next season, even if it means dismantling a Stanley Cup contender . . .

“. . . The Predators are considered one of the deepest organizations in the NHL but the fire sale could begin as early as July 1 when marquee free agents such as Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya could be jettisoned. The club's depth could very well be tested should Leipold, who spent US$40-million on players last season, choose to scale back his hockey budget.

“The Wisconsin businessman claims to have lost US$70-million since founding the Predators 10 years ago, including a staggering US$15-million last season and US$26-million in the last two years -- even while drawing from the league's shared-revenue pool. The Nashville business community has recently organized with a goal of selling 3,000 season tickets by October, but it remains unclear whether individual fans will support the team should they feel it is leaving town, or should the on-ice product significantly decrease in quality.

"’I have come to the conclusion that I cannot make it work here,’ Leipold said on the day the sale was announced. ‘It's painful to say that. As hard as we tried, and as good a team as we had ? we are by far the lowest revenue team in the league.’"

Today, possibility skated right up to the brink of certainty . . . with this deal consummated between the Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers, reported by Bob McKenzie for . . .

“The Philadelphia Flyers have dipped into the free agent market a little early, thanks to the Nashville Predators.

“Because of Nashville's uncertain ownership future and an expected tight budget in the coming year, the Predators arranged with the Flyers to give them exclusive negotiating rights to two coveted free agents - defenceman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell.

“Sources tell TSN the Flyers have now signed both Hartnell and Timonen to long-term contracts.

“Hartnell, who was scheduled to become a free agent on July 1, signed with Flyers on a 6-year, $25.2 million deal for a cap hit of $4.2 million per year.

“The Flyers also agreed to terms with Timonen on a 6-year, $37.8 million contract for an annual cap hit of $6.3 million.”

Buried in the National Post story is this . . .

“Leipold stands to make a small fortune on the sale of the team, more than US$40-million, with a US$238-million sale price that is roughly double the value of the franchise, according to estimates.”

What to make of this? Well, several things, all of which seem related.

First, “cost certainty” is a joke. Philadelphia shelled out $63 million for 12 years of total commitment for a good defenseman (but not Chris-Pronger-good, whose salary Timonen now eclipses) and a forward who has not had a 50-point season in his first six years in the league. Relevant to the Caps, tell much is a Michael Nylander now worth? Heavens, what is a Dainius Zubrus worth?

Second, forever spare us the charade that the league is “healthy.” You have an owner desperately trying to acquire a pet he can take home to Canada, so much so that he’s willing to overpay for the privilege (and is so transparent about it – note that prospective owner Jim Balsillie is canvassing for season ticket holders in Hamilton, and is now outpacing Nashville signing them up). It isn’t a reflection of a new market price for NHL franchises. Oh, and note to Jim…want a pet? Buy a dog.

Third, deals such as this risk ripping the salary floor away from its moorings – stupid money was more of a problem in the old order than “greedy players,” and here we have proof that even in their immaculately tailored “new order,” some teams just can’t help themselves. Teams who can’t afford ratcheting up prices on good, if not great defensemen, or taking a flyer on “salary futures” on a guy who might or might not ever reach his potential are going to feel the same upward pressure on salaries they felt before the lockout. Trouble now is, they have a salary floor with which to contend.

These elements reflect nothing but an owner with an itch, a city that doesn’t much care, and a team that doesn’t even let “cost certainty” stand in the way of writing checks.

A year of hockey lost…for this?


Anonymous said...

"how much is a Michael Nylander now worth? Heavens, what is a Dainius Zubrus worth?"

The bottom line is they're worth what the highest bidder on the market is willing to pay.

Cost certainty is not a joke, it's a stretch. All teams are basically on the same playing field for capped payrolls, it's up to the owners on how to divvy up their share of player payroll.

Even right after the lockout there were still hefty contracts (Gonchar's, for instance). There's always bloated, inflated contracts in an unrestricted free agency as a result of the many teams driving up the price.

Shmee said...

Its unbelievable that Craig Leipold could have a mentality of "forget the 14K of fans who do show up and shell out money for playoff tix, merchandise, 7 dollar beers -- lets just sell off the team until we drive away our most loyal fans."

I dunno Craig, but maybe thats why you havnt attracted more fans?