A game of chicken…

Posted: November 26, 2008 in Uncategorized

This isn’t Oiler related, but I wanted to talk about negotiations and how they work.  I was reading an article in Twincities.com that indicated that Wild GM Doug Risebrough had yet to communicate with Backstrom’s agent Don Baizley about a contract with Backstrom set to be an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1.

In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the art of listening is the key to a successful negotiation.  This episode is another example of poor negotiations.

If I were an NHL GM, which would of course be the dream job, I would have constant contact with the agents of my key players.  My goal would be to maintain my key core of players and then mix in complimentary players to be successful.  Why that doesn’t seem to work in Minnesota is a mystery to me with Gaborik almost a for sure exit and no contact with one of the best statistical goalies in the league.

There are 28 Unrestricted Free Agent goalies but 4-5 of them are legitimate starters for a team that wants to be a playoff contender.  A resurgent Khabibulin, Tim Thomas, Martin Biron, and Manny Legace.  If you want to sprinkle in guys that could be considered a potential starter, Dwayne Roloson, Manny Fernandez, and even Mathieu Garon might be on your list as someone you can sign on the cheap and let him run for a year or two.

Looking at the availables, none of them are more appealing than the guy you already have in house, so why would you not be talking with the agent a quarter of the way through the season?  I can’t see a back up plan (sorry for the pun) and for a team that seems to be fairly successful, they have a lot of question marks.

I think back to the Ryan Smyth negotiation, and I wonder if either Lowe or Meehan were thinking clearly and providing each other a clear understanding of position and negotiated in good faith for both parties.

Did they actually listen to each other?  Did the $100K mean that much to either party?  Was the offer of a no trade clause worth the $100K and should have been accepted?  Is Kevin Lowe such a hard line Megalomaniac that when he carves a line in the sand, no one should DARE try to get him off his position? (I tend to believe that Kevin Lowe is a “My way or the highway” sort of negotiator.

So GMs play chicken with Agents, Agents with GMs, and sometimes action or inaction changes the internal make of their team for years to come.  If this season doesn’t work out well for the Wild, they will certainly be falling a notch starting in 2009-10.

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