I’m going to sort of skip the observations on the 7-3 loss to Detroit. The Red Wings fought through a tough challenge and may be one of the most resilient franchises in sports.
Their fans helped sell out the game (only the second sellout of the season at AAC and both for Detroit games), and there was a lot of pressure in the third period on both teams.
Detroit handled it better.
But, to me, the bigger news was the Trevor Daley signing and what it tells us about the structure of the Stars.
I have assumed for some time that the lenders were going to hire Tony Tavares to take over as interim CEO or president or whatever his title would be, and GM Joe Nieuwendyk pretty
much confirmed Wednesday that they have done that. Tavares has been spotted in the building, and Nieuwendyk pretty much said Tavares has helped him connect with the lenders and get the blessing for contract negotiations with Daley and Brad Richards
Here’s Nieuwendyk on the Daley situation and how he was able to open the door and sign Daley to a six-year contract extension for
$19.8 million with an average salary cap hit of $3.3 million:
``I think part of it with Tony Tavares on board is we’ve been given the authority to talk to both of the players we have. It went rather smoothly with Trevor, and now we’ll switch
our attention to Brad.’’
When we asked if Tavares had officially been named to the position, Nieuwendyk said:
``There really hasn’t been an announcement…but…’’
Then when we asked about how he communicates with the lenders, Nieuwendyk said:
``We simply ask: `Can we do this’ and then we get blessings.’’
When pressed for more, he added:
``It’s kind of a complicated system. The lenders, for sure, with the league’s blessing. They like what we’re doing and they like what they see with us in Dallas. So we’ve been given
the green light to go ahead and negotiate with these guys.’’
Nieuwendyk is in a tough spot with all of this. The lenders have a group of banking executives with no real spokesperson. The Stars don’t really have anyone who can talk about the
situation. The NHL has refused to take ownership and communicate with the fans. Al I ever get is people telling me that everthing is being ``taken care of.’’
And maybe it is and we don’t need to know everything. But when you look behind the scenes of this stuff, you do wonder what certain decisions are being made. If indeed you were
told you can start negotiations with both Brad Richards and Trevor Daley, wouldn’t you start with Richards first? Maybe the Daley talks will go quicker and easier, but isn’t it more important for the organization to get Richards done first? It just seems that
if you don’t know what your budget is for next year (and Nieuwendyk said he did not know), then don’t you want to save every penny to get the big contract done? No disrespect to Trevor Daley, but it would seem you could find a similar player for a similar
price if you had to. Maybe you could even find an older player to do the same job for a cheaper price if you had to.
But replacing Brad Richards and his points, his influence on the young wingers and his influence on the power play? That would seem like a huge loss if he isn’t re-signed.
Here’s Nieuwendyk on Richards’ negotiatons:
``I’ve said all along that we want to sign Brad Richards, and we’re going to do what we can to make that happen. ‘’
When asked how tough that negotiation would be, he said:
``I’m sure it will be a difficult one. Brad Richards has put himself into being in position to be the No. 1 free agent in July. That’s not a secret. I certainly feel he enjoys playing
here, and he liked playing with those young kids, and we want him to be a part of our core.’’
Nieuwendyk believes he can sign both Daley and Richads. I believe that he believes that new ownership will come in and up the payroll. But what guarantee is there to that? First
of all, what if nobody wants to buy this team at the prices the lenders are demanding? What if the lenders sink $20 million into this season and have to get that extra $20 million back in the summer? What if nobody wants to take the chance that this sports
entity will make money?
And even if a person does buy the Stars, who’s to say that person will immediately raise the payroll?
What if he decided that $45 million was enough, and the Stars had to simply deal with that?
Well, then the Trevor Daley extension might be a problem.
The Stars did all sorts of work with comparable contracts and comparing what Daley might get in the summer as a UFA, and that is part of how the business works. But those comparable
players might be fitting into payrolls that are near the salary cap at $59 million (or even higher next year). What if Trevor Daley is fitting in on a
$45 million payroll next season? Then you have the same group of defensemen returning. Maybe that’s great. This group has after all helped this team to first place in the Pacific Division. But if I had told you three
months ago that the plan was to allow this defense to return intact next season, I can’t think too many fans would have been on board with that
``I’m happy with all of our players and I’m ready to move forward with them,’’ Nieuwendyk said. ``Trevor is a good example. We’ve all known Trevor a long time and I think his game
is suited to the way the league is going, with the puck-moving, mobile defenseman. He’s probably our best at doing a lot of those things. So I think it’s an important piece for us. When we look at the potential UFA defensemen coming up this summer, I think
Trevor stacks up very favorable with them. When you compare that with some of the recent signings, I think we’re happy with what we got him at.’’
In other words, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Chasing after Defeneman X is a tiring proposition, so why not just sign Daley and be sure that this group will be good
again? Well, because it very well might hurt you if a Sergei Zubov or Dan Boyle appears out of nowhere. Can you plan for that or wait for that? It is difficult. But you can be prepared in case it does happen.
Maybe Joe Nieuwendyk knows more than any of us. Maybe he can re-signDaley, re-sign Richards and get Defenseman X, as well. Maybe he understands the lender situation better than
anybody, and is just not at liberty to divulge any information.
That’s part of what’s been so frustrating _ the fact that we just don’t know what’s going on. If the Stars have a pile of money and can afford everything, then this signing makes
perfect sense. If they don’t, and this signing could help keep Brad Richards or Defensemen X off the roster…we’ll, then I think there is room for criticism.
Maybe it’s a calculated risk by Nieuwendyk. Maybe it’s just a leap of faith. Either way, we’ll just have to wait to find out.
Because nobody is rushing to tell us anything more.