In 1989, the Atlanta Hawks signed a player named Jon Koncak to a six-year, $13.2 million US contract. Koncak was entering his fifth NBA season, with career averages of 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
The money doesn't seem outrageous now, but 21 years ago, that deal sent a powerful stink bomb through sports. Koncak's average salary was $300,000 less than Michael Jordan's. No wonder he became known as "Jon Contract."
But, he said something I've never forgotten - telling Sports Illustrated, "Hey, I can't justify what they offered me. But what was I supposed to do? Say no?"
That brings us to Wade Redden.
Redden no longer resembles the defenceman who scored 17 goals in 2003-04, 50 points in 2005-06 and led the league in plus-minus that same season. Now the player who represented Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup and the 2006 Olympics is headed for Connecticut or the KHL.
He shares the blame. In most cases, a player is responsible for his own successes and failures. Redden's been given plenty of opportunity throughout his career. He reached a point where he stopped developing as a player, with several coaches trying everything to get the most out of him. Even John Tortorella, who likes to challenge, tried to publicly nurture Redden.
But, as every hockey fan knows, this is not about his game. It's about his monstrous contract, which has four years and $23 million remaining. Like Koncak, what was Redden supposed to do? Say no?
Rangers' fans are forming vigilante groups in search of Glen Sather, but let's look past that. (Most relieved GM: Scott Howson, who offered Redden a similar deal, only to be rejected.) To me, the biggest issue moving forward is that Redden - through no fault of his own - could be exiled from the NHL.
That's not right. It's blatantly unfair. If the Rangers fired Sather today, he could work for any other team tomorrow. There is no cap on team employees. Redden, who has basically been fired, does not have that luxury. And, really, I'm not trying to make an anti-cap argument. Fact: with the salary ceiling levelling off, the squeeze is on.
Should Redden, now 33, be forced to wait up to four years for his contract to expire? (Or, even two, when the CBA expires?) Is there a solution?
According to current rules, the Rangers cannot entice another team into taking Redden by offering to pick up a chunk of his salary. (Yes, they can put him through waivers and hope someone grabs him for half the salary and cap hit, but that's it.) However, what about this completely made-up scenario:
A floor team (Islanders? Predators? Hurricanes?) decides it is interested. The Rangers offer to pay half the money, but the trade partner gets 100 per cent of the cap space. Wouldn't that interest the owner? You get the guy, you pay half the money, and you don't have to spend as much cash on the rest of your roster. Brian Burke is a big proponent of this, and Kings GM Dean Lombardi admitted his troubles in acquiring Denis Gauthier convinced him, too. (Lombardi said he could have landed the defenceman sooner, because the Flyers were willing to eat some of the salary.)
Now, I'm just spitballing here. I don't know what the NHLPA would think of this. But, we've seen the two sides amend things before (Kovalchuk). And, who knows, maybe some NHL team surprises us all and takes a chance.
If not, this just seems really wrong to me.
Wade Redden did what any one of us would do. He got a ridiculous offer and took it before the other guy changed his mind. Should that put him in danger of a four-year exile? No way.
1. Labour laws guarantee the NHL's regular referees and linesmen will work the start of the regular season - deal or no deal. Yes, their CBA with the league elapsed August 31. That gives the NHL the right to lock out the officials, and the zebras the power to strike. But, because the union is registered in Ontario, a certain process must occur before either can happen. The Minister of Labour would have to issue a "no-board" notice (indicating a stalemate), but no action can be taken until 17 days after that paper's been mailed. As I write this (September 27), no such notice filed.
2. One of the reasons Marc Savard made himself available on the weekend: there were a lot of crazy rumours flying around that he didn't really have post-concussion syndrome. Instead, it was suggested this was a "cover up;" he was refusing to play for the Bruins because he was furious they tried to trade him in the summer. Obviously, that's not true. As someone said, "If Savard really wanted out, would he announce that kind of injury? Is there a worse way to kill your trade value?"
3. How close was Savard to becoming a Maple Leaf this summer? Apparently, closer than I thought. Word is, however, the Bruins' centre wasn't happy about some of the comments about his trade value (remember all that "soft deal" stuff) and changed his mind.
4. Why Roland Melanson may be the most valuable free-agent signing of the summer: he's convinced Roberto Luongo to decrease the amount of lunging the goaltender does. Technically, that's the number one issue others have with Luongo's game.
5. Another rumour to kill: that the NHL is looking at Lambeau Field for an outdoor game. Not true, at this point. One executive wondered if there are two teams that could generate enough local interest in Wisconsin. Don't say Chicago, because anything from that city is despised in Packertown.
6. When news of Mark Streit's injury spread on Sunday, there was a lot of speculation (prayer?) that, finally, the Oilers had a taker for Sheldon Souray. It doesn't make sense. The Islanders only made the salary floor last season because of bonuses. I'm curious to see if they'll even put Streit on long-term injury. If not, they can just sign someone for the minimum.
7. How about the Islanders inviting five more veterans to camp yesterday? Now, let's see if any of them are cut Thursday, after New York plays two games on one night. (One is in Philly, the other in Saskatoon against Calgary.) Teams must dress eight "veterans" and, under the qualifications, the Islanders are right on the edge, depending on injuries.
8. One thing about the Maple Leafs: they just can't help themselves. Last year, they blamed a 1-7-4 October on a) goaltending, and b) a ridiculous exhibition schedule. The team played nine games in 12 days. Ron Wilson said it meant too many players around and not enough practice/game time for the main group. This year: nine games in 12 days. What's the old saying? Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it?
9. Considering the amount of NHLers who skate with him in the summer and rely on him for advice, I'm surprised that some team hasn't hired Brampton Battalion coach Stan Butler as a director of player development.
10. The Washington Capitals had 475 applicants for an opening in their media relations department. That many people can't really want to work for Nate Ewell.
11. Magnus Paajarvi is one of the best young skaters I've seen. Steve Tambellini compared him to Mike Modano and Pavel Bure. The Oilers GM says Paajarvi has the same "little hop" Bure had when they get going.
12. Tambellini, by the way, has to be the NHL's most cautious executive right now about being interviewed. You can see how careful he is about his answers.
13. Jordan Eberle said former Oilers stickboy Ray Whitney really helped him at the world championships. The rookie forward said the current Coyote took pains to tell him everything about NHL life.
14. It's interesting to see how many Western Conference players measure themselves against Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk is one of league's strongest, toughest and most competitive players. Guys talk about how they gain confidence if their play improves against him. It goes for executives too. Sharks GM Doug Wilson said he learned a lot about Logan Couture and Jason Demers watching them battle Datsyuk during last year's playoffs.
15. Then, there are those - Mike Cammalleri, Ryan Miller - who refuse to admit their toughest opponents. "Why let them know?" Cammalleri says.
16. Cammalleri really lobbied Tomas Plekanec to stay in Montreal. "Look at the great combinations. They build chemistry," he said. "Look at the Sedins." Doubt these two will reach that level, but they do work well together. Six years and $30 million helped (a little), but I'm sure it was nice for Plekanec to feel wanted.
17. One more note about Cammalleri. Asked about the Canadiens' captaincy, his comment was, "I think Stanley Cup-winning experience is important in that job."
18. Patrick Kane, asked how many times he watched Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final: "How many days are there in the summer?" He also said Brian Campbell was going to shoot the puck, but passed instead because he heard Kane calling for it. Good decision.
19. What upset Kane most? His NHL2K11 rating. "I went from 86 to only 87. I thought I had a good year."
20. One more Kane comment: He said this season will really test the Blackhawks' best players. "Last year, we had so much depth, we could have a night off. Not this year. We'll be depended upon more."
21. The Hawks aren't looking forward to hearing Ben Eager taunt them. Eager - who doesn't say five words in public - is, apparently, a fantastic trash-talker. "And he's got a lot of material on us," one player said.
22. Duncan Keith had the most impressive answer to anything I asked at the NHL's September media blitz. Keith was dismissive of his spectacular 2009-10 season, saying, "I want to be like Nicklas Lidstrom or Scott Niedermayer - guys who win every year, not just once."
23. Runner-up: Henrik Lundqvist. Asked about the best accomplishment of his career, he said it was making it as an NHL goalie. I was surprised that he didn't claim it was the 2006 Olympic gold medal. "That's only a two-week event, not a lifetime."
24. When I read that Blues fans in the 300 level will only pay for half of their season tickets if the team misses the playoffs, I wondered: What does Davis Payne think about this? These types of "Guaranteed Win" promotions are murder on coaches.
25. Doug Armstrong told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Halak is scheduled for approximately 55 games this season. That would be a personal high. Last year, he had 63 - including playoffs - and the Canadiens believe he wore down in round three. Blues games will have enormous ratings in Quebec, as fans wait to see if this is true.
26. Credit to Garry Galley for this one: It looks like the Senators are adjusting their penalty kill this season. Last year, Ottawa sent a second forward, and pretty aggressively, into the offensive zone. This year, the group sat back in the neutral zone.
27. Jordan Schroeder on new Columbus coach Scott Arniel: "If you don't win your one-on-one battles, you're in trouble." That's very important to Arniel.
28. The junior rink in Penticton, B.C., is really something. That city's got to be thinking WHL.
29. Foreshadowing? I saw a Winnipeg Jets' T-shirt at the NHL store in New York City. (By the way, the quality there is really good.)
30. I was going to write something like this - but Bruce Arthur's column was better than anything I could have done. We're taking this part of the season way too seriously.
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