If you subscribe to The Hockey News, very soon you’ll be receiving our annual People of Power and Influence issue in which we identify the 100 biggest movers and shakers in the game.
While we were compiling the list, I lobbied hard to put Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe right at No. 1.
I didn’t get my way.
You’ll have wait to see who was our top man (or woman) and where exactly Lowe finished on the list.
All right, if Lowe can’t be No. 1 on our Power and Influence rank, then I’m nominating him for Newsmaker of the Year for 2007. Forget about Sidney Crosby. Forget about Chris Simon and Brian Burke and Scott Niedermayer.
Kevin Lowe is the Newsmaker of the Year because nobody influenced the game the way Lowe did in 2007. In short, his offer sheets to restricted free agents Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner have changed hockey’s financial landscape. Not only did Lowe make enormous headlines when he offered Vanek $50 million over seven years and Penner $21.25 million over five years, but he continued to make news every time another team locked up one of its potential RFAs for ridiculous amounts of money over more ridiculous terms.
Mike Richards getting $69 million over 12 years? He can thank Kevin Lowe. Ryan Getzlaf landing a five-year extension worth $28.625 million? Thank you, Mr. Lowe. Matt Carle securing a four-year pact worth $13.75 million? Kevin Lowe again.
GMs and owners signed those and other players coming off their entry-level deals because they were afraid that another GM would be as bold, and some think, foolish as Lowe was last summer. So despite the fact that these players have no arbitration rights and very little recourse other than an offer sheet, teams didn’t want to risk facing the difficult choices Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier faced with Vanek or Anaheim Ducks GM Burke faced with Penner.
“Every GM I talk to talks about Kevin Lowe,” said one NHL agent. “Every single one.”
The implications have been huge. With two strokes of the pen, Lowe has essentially created a situation where elite players coming off entry-level deals have moved into the elite wage earners in the league. It has certainly moved young RFAs into the same status as elite unrestricted free agents, both in terms of their attractiveness to other teams and in salary.
The effects on salary caps and budgets will be felt in a big way starting next season when the likes of Getzlaf, Carle, Richards, Crosby, Dion Phaneuf and Alex Ovechkin start collecting their enormous paychecks.
Not only did the Ducks lose Penner, but they may have to unload even more salary for next season in order to get their leading scorer, Corey Perry, signed to a contract extension.
What Lowe did was well within the rules of the collective bargaining agreement and is a tool that has been available to GMs for years. In fact, the New York Rangers signed Joe Sakic to an offer sheet and the Carolina Hurricanes signed Sergei Fedorov before they were matched by their respective teams.
But that was prior to the salary cap era when teams had far more latitude to match offer sheets. With teams limited on how much they can spend, there are a number of them grumbling because they are forced to allocate so much of the cap space to a player who hasn’t even played in the league five years yet.
And we haven’t even touched on the Ryan Smyth trade yet…
HOW’S THIS FOR BAD LUCK?
When Mikael Renberg played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I used to joke that he should have been a multiple winner of the Joe Btfsplk Award.
(For those of you too young to get the reference, Joe Btfsplk was a character in the L’il Abner cartoon strip who perpetually had a rain cloud around his head and was described as, “the world’s worst jinx.”)
After all, here was a guy who not only suffered every form of injury and malady over the course of his career, he once had his chest sliced open when he was run over by his own boat and almost had to have his arm amputated after a small cut he got on his finger while tying his skates got seriously infected.
Renberg is playing in Sweden now, but bad luck continues to follow him. While practising with his Skelleftea team Thursday, Renberg was taken to hospital with a fractured jaw when a teammate’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar and hit Renberg in the face.
Wah, wah wah…
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