In the end, it was like a chick flick. Jeff Vinik wouldn't stop trying until Steve Yzerman said yes.
At least one other serious candidate for the job believed Vinik was negotiating with the Hall-of-Famer for "weeks," trying everything to get a deal done with the long-time Red Wings captain. Yzerman needed to be convinced, with Vinik continually sweetening the offer until things got done.
As a result, Yzerman is now believed to be the highest-paid vice-president/general manager in the NHL, with several reports indicating it's a five-year deal worth $2.5 million US per season. (Glen Sather is believed to be number one overall, although he is also the Rangers' president.)
More importantly, Yzerman negotiated the right to report directly to the owner, not an as-yet-to-be-hired CEO, which may be as important to him as the salary itself.
Yzerman quietly interviewed last summer for the Minnesota Wild's opening - which went to Chuck Fletcher - but decided against it. Things changed this year because there are no longer any Olympic responsibilities, while Ken Holland and Jim Nill are going to sign long-term extensions. Can't help but wonder if being in the Eastern Conference, where he won't face the Red Wings as much, is also a factor.
It's a hard day for the Red Wings and their fans, but Yzerman needs a new challenge.
And, boy, is he going to get it.
The big decision
There was a lot of talk Tuesday about who he'll hire as coach and who will join his staff. (Yzerman is apparently close with Red Wings' capologist Ryan Martin, but may choose not to raid the organization out of respect for the Ilitch family.) But the number one thing he's going to have to deal with: an extension for Steve Stamkos.
Off a 51-goal, 95-point second season, Stamkos is entering the final season of his entry-level contract. Next summer, he will be a restricted free agent. His cap hit is $3.725 million, but only $875,000 of it is in base salary. (The rest is bonuses.)
Stamkos is deserving of a massive raise, and will get it. Yzerman may not have selected him for the Olympic Team, but has spoken very highly of Stamkos on several occasions.
He recognizes this is a franchise player.
Let's look at the second contracts of several other franchise forwards. (I'm throwing out Alexander Ovechkin's, because I don't believe that's in the ballpark here.)
It's possible Stamkos could come in right behind Crosby/Malkin on that list. Even though any extension wouldn't take effect until 2011-12, that's potentially trouble for Yzerman and Tampa. The Lightning haven't been a cap team in any of the last four seasons, with last year's payroll $14 million below the max. Next season, they are committed to $40 million for just 13 players. Then, it's $26 million for only six.
That's probably why Yzerman used the phrase "slow process" a couple of times and "doesn't happen overnight, won't happen overnight" once during his sit-down with Lightning play-by-play voice Rick Peckham on the team's website.
Yzerman arrived in Detroit when the franchise was at its lowest, so he understands this is a process. He learned from the best and has no sense of entitlement. Lightning fans, who've been beaten with a stick the last two seasons, will give him the time he needs to rebuild. Just getting him to Tampa is a huge boost for a beaten-down team.
A lot of the attention will be on Vincent Lecavalier, since he's got the biggest contract and hasn't played well in almost two years. But, Yzerman's critical step is signing Stamkos. Because he is so critical to the franchise's future, it's hard to make any other long-term decisions (such as extending Martin St. Louis) until the organization knows what he's going to cost them.
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