Slow Clap

by Ryan

Say what you will about the Anaheim Ducks fans, mascot, arena, or even the state of California itself, but don’t you dare question their General Manager.

Brian Burke has got to be the best GM in hockey, right? Now maybe you wouldn’t have said something like that in August when they lost Dustin Penner, but after reading this you can’t help but be impressed with what he has done with the team.

Here are a few clips if you don’t feel like skimming:

Sources tell TSN that Selanne signed a one-year deal with an annual base salary of $1.5 million, which means Selanne will receive just under $600,000 for the balance of this season. But as a player older than 35, Selanne is entitled to performance bonuses and he will almost certainly earn another $1.35 million from the Ducks this season. That performance bonus is achieved by simply playing 10 games, so, barring injury, Selanne will actually receive close to $2 million in base salary plus performance bonus for the balance of this season.

Not too bad, but what about overall cap space? They were over the cap to start the season, right?

And if the Ducks should add a player at the deadline, they have plenty of cap room this year to do it. As of today, they could add a player making an annual salary of $5 million. By the time the Feb. 26th trade deadline arrives, that player could be making closer to $6 million. If they sign a player of that level, it would mean they would have to carry forward Selanne’s bonuses to next year, but there clearly is a lot of flexibility in terms of what the Ducks can do now and in the off-season.

Wow, flexibility indeed. That’s swinging a trade for Brian Campbell and Ales Kotalik and still having some room to wiggle come next year. (Soup’s a UFA and Ales has one year left at $2.5 mil)

Now maybe this is me, but isn’t what just happened here the direct opposite of what we have going on in Buffalo? Think about it: both Anaheim and Buffalo had Kevin Lowe swoop in and try to nab an RFA this off season (Penner and Vanek, respectively), as well as some big name players hit the free agent market or contemplate retirement.(Neidermayer, Selanne and Briere, Zubris, Drury)

So what happened? Anaheim doesn’t know what Selanne or Niedermayer is doing. They go out and sign Bertuzzi and Schnieder as well as resigning some key young players. Then Penner gets nabbed and they are suddenly down a winger. Things look pretty grim at the time.

Grim was the operative word in Buffalo as well. All three big UFAs walk and Vanek gets tossed a $10 million offer sheet for this year. Darcy and Co. have to do damage control and match while complaining about how unfair life in the NHL. The major off season acquisition is Jocelyn Thibault, and the phrase “we will be less competitive” is actually uttered by management.

So… what happens next?

For Buffalo it’s an easy one: nothing. It is not fiscally sound to spend to the current cap, and so Buffalo stands pat all year and has rolled to a 21-21-6 record, currently 13th in the East.

Anaheim is a completely different story. Both Neidermayer had Selanne have returned and Burke had made that more then possible. Gone are Bryzgalov, Andy McDonald and Shane Hnidy while Branden Bochenski, Doug Weight, and Mark Mowers come in. The results are a 27-20-6 Ducks team that suddenly looks more than capable of defending their Stanley Cup reign with room to spare at the deadline.

Of course there are differences in each team’s situation. The Ducks have proven they are willing to spend to the cap, while Darcy has blatantly said that Buffalo will not. However, that is not the main difference between the two clubs. For while Sabres management has stood pat and complained about the likes of Kevin Lowe, Nathan Horton, and ticket prices; Brian Burke stepped up and overcame the loss of Dustin Penner and some veteran leadership with shrewed management and the willingness to work within the system in place.

There was a time the Ducks were over the cap limit this year, but they made the right moves to both get that number down and still stay competitive. The same certainly cannot be said for Buffalo, and while that is not the only reason this team has underachieved it cannot be overlooked as one of the main problems this season.

I’m not asking to be in the situation Anaheim is in, and I’m not saying I want Brian Burke as my GM. All I ask is that our front office shows they have the “commitment to winning” that was talked about so much last summer. No more emergency “We’re not trading Campbell” press briefings, no more “We’re sorry” speeches, no more complaints about the system. Show me you believe in this team and this city by doing everything in your power to make this team work.

Don’t sign Derek Roy because Nathan Horton inflated the market value for a forward his age, don’t tell me you won’t negotiate in season again if Brian Campbell is a Leaf next year, and for the love of God don’t whine about a GM doing something completely within his means by giving an offer sheet to Thomas Vanek.

Make the system work for you within your own means. It’s possible, we used to be the “prototype for the post NHL franchise” until this summer. It can’t be all that hard to get that distinction back, look at teams like New York or Toronto floundering just like us even with those huge markets.

Please, don’t make the next sign I hang in HSBC Arena say “Mike Grier Was Right”.

One Comment

  1. Chris

    Brian Burke for Commissioner.