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BIG SANDY LAKE… After I’ve written about my indifferent feelings about Marian Gaborik and his recent Stanley Cup run with the Los Angeles Kings, last week he came to an agreement with them on a new long-term deal. The speedy winger is set to receive $34.125 mil over seven years, and this is most certainly a cap-friendly deal for the Kings.
Last Friday I got an email in response to my column from an old hockey buddy who has been a big Gabby fan over the years, even after his departure from the Wild. He basically reiterated his Gabby fan feelings to me, which were about the same as when Gabby was still working and residing in the NorthStar State. And that’s ok. I mean, I’m not a fan of his, but I do know that this is a player with a definite upper-level skill set. I have never written otherwise, anywhere. My gripes with him were more about his business dealings with the team and with then-GM Doug Risebrough. To say that there was acrimony between Riser and Gabby’s agent at the time, Allan Walsh, would be an understatement. If my memory serves me right, Walsh was Gabby’s second agent at that point in his career.
Walsh’s style, I believe, was not to work out win-win deals for his client and club. Rather, I think Walsh liked to come in with some unrealistic demands, get the initial resistance from the team, and go from there, usually downhill. Walsh also knew that Gabby was THE star of the team at time, and that real good players weren’t beating the door down to come to St. Paul. The team overpaid for Gabby on two different deals. When he was about to gain his UFA status, in the season leading up to that, Gabby opted to have a surgery, and that entire final chapter with the club was a disaster.
I could never figure or find out if he could have played and put off the procedure until the off-season, or if he had to have it as soon as possible. I knew that if he had it right away, it would give him a leg up on the impending July 1st free agent day instead of being in a position where he was still convalescing with possible uncertainties about his surgical recovery. Perhaps he already knew he was giving the Wild the heave-ho and was setting himself up for his big UFA day.
With Riser about ready to pound the snuff out of Walsh (I’m guessing), I think Walsh just said screw this team, they are off of the list, and we’ll show them. And there was nothing Riser could do about it. And yeah, sometimes power plays between teams and agents and players get that ugly. But again, let me make it clear that I’m taking a guess here. This is how my gut feeling about this went. I’m reading between the lines. Either way, I always felt that Gabby and Walsh tinkled on the organization on the way out of town, and no matter how the negotiations went, that left a bad taste with me.
Next up with Gabby is the situation with his current hockey love interest, the Kings. Gabby had a tremendous playoff. He came within a goal of tying Wayne Gretzky’s team record of 15 goals in a playoff season, and within two of breaking it. That’s remarkable. Gretzky records do not get broken very often, if at all. So throughout the tournament, there was ample talk of whether Gabby would re-sign with the Kings or take advantage of his impending UFA status. This past season was the last of the original deal he inked with the NY Rangers after leaving the Wild.
The prevailing wisdom was that the Kings could not afford a usual Gabby-like deal and that he would have to take the oft-used “home town discount.” He has never given any team a “discount.” He might have to agree to less term. But then, he lived and trained in the LA area in the off-season. He liked the team and was a good fit with King star forward Anze’ Kopitar. And then, the statement that grated me the most: this would be a good deal for him—he wouldn’t have to be “the man” anymore. He could just fit in and play. Of course, this is where my blood pressure started northward.
The problem with that is that Gabby has always, I repeat, A-L-W-A-Y-S demanded “the man” money—even more than “the man” money, based on what he has (or more importantly hasn’t) delivered to those who gilded him with multi-million-dollar deals. The Wild got one good playoff run out of him, and then he scored a bunch of goals that didn’t do much for the team. Sure, it’s a team game, and you can debate the value of the rosters the Wild had when he was here. But neither did he put the club on his back and say, let’s go boys, I gotcha here. If Kane and Toews have earned every penny of their Hawk deals and then some, what can you say about Gaborik? Yeah, I know! Let it go, FAN!
THE NHL HAS ANNOUNCED that the salary cap ceiling will be set at $69 mil per club for the 2014-15 season, and the floor, or the least amount a team can spend, will be at $51 mil. With the league experiencing its most successful season ever on a variety of fronts, a lot of league speculators thought the cap would break past the $70 mil mark, up to about $71 mil. That didn’t happen. And if current league success trends continue, with the Canadian Rogers deal about to commence, adding even more to league coffers, where will the cap be in five years?
There has already been rumor this week (unsubstantiated) that the Hawks’ Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are seeking $12 mil per season, and if that occurs you have to believe that other star players will soon follow. And if that is the case, will we be asking in three to four years why we endured two lockouts in the past ten years only to return to a position of unchecked spending on player salaries, which supposedly were the driving force behind the past two lockouts? Jeeez! Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier that things are finally going in a positive direction for the NHL. This has been driven by Commissioner Gary Bettman, and you had better give him his due. I just don’t even want to entertain another single thought about any potential lockouts in the future. Ever! PEACE
Marc Elliott is a sports opinion writer who splits his time between Minnesota and his hometown in Illinois…