Blog Entry

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 4:18 pm

By Brian Stubits

Brian Burke is a neverending bowl of fun. The guy is seemingly always doing something to get people talking, whether it's trading two first-round draft picks for Phil Kessel to the recent saga of visiting troops in Afghanistan on Canada Day -- which was also the first day of free agency.

Well he's at it again.

Speaking for the first time about his the Maple Leafs' unsuccessful pursuit of prized free agent Brad Richards, the Toronto GM cried salary cap-circumvention foul. From the Globe and Mail:

“I’ll make it clear, we made a very substantial offer to Brad Richards,” Burke said, referencing what was believed to be a six-year, $42-million offer the Leafs made on July 1.

“We lost out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes for two reasons. One, we didn’t offer as much money as other teams and more importantly we didn’t structure the contract like other teams did.

“These deals that are front-loaded and have small amounts at the back end in my opinion are designed to circumvent the salary cap. I won’t do them, I never had, I’m not going to. And that’s why we were unable to sign Brad Richards.

“I wish him well. He’s a good guy. But that’s not a contract structure we’re interested in.”

Uh, Mr. Burke, contracts like Richards' are allowed by the CBA. The NHL will determind their legality, not you. So while you might not agree with them or like the rule, it's one the league -- and you -- are free to play by. Taking moral stands on free agents isn't the best way to endear yourself to a rabid fan base that is beyond frustrated with the team's playoff drought.

Since Marian Hossa's contract with Chicago raised eyebrows and Ilya Kovalchuk's contract in New Jersey led to the team's forfeiture of a draft pick, there has been a much closer watch on such contracts. The deal Max Talbot signed with the Flyers has been questioned, but it would just require a very minor fix.

But as long as the deals are allowed, Burke has no reason to handicap himself and his team with his own stubbornness.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 16, 2011 6:53 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: July 27, 2011 6:34 pm

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

This is the pot calling the kettle black.  Wasn't he the GM of the Ducks when Selanne and Niedermeyer "retired".  He then goes on to structure the rest of the team under the salary cap and then...voila, two incredible talents "un-retire" and he is OK to sign them both.

His whining is falling on deaf ears.

Since: Jul 7, 2011
Posted on: July 11, 2011 12:46 am

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

Burke is right...

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: July 8, 2011 3:35 pm

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

rcr, your inability to see a problem with big market teams competing more made me do a quick search of where you are located....weird that you live in a big city.  I'm wondering, perhaps you lived in a place where revenue didn't flow a little more, would you have the same opinion?  The fact you believe bigger cities deserve to be more competitive is absolutely and uttering moronic at best.  I think you are forgetting that some of those teams that cause your city to have a team,  you know your OPPONENT, need fans.  The best way to keep fans is by winning.  Take a look at what has happened to baseball.  I know you probably don't have a problem with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies now being perennial playoff teams when only 5 other teams make it, but you have to see past your clouded vision.  If the rich keep getting richer, eventually there are no poor(exhibit Atlanta).  The worse a team gets, the harder it is to keep it's fan base, especially in a city in a city trying to accept the game.  I think you most importantly are failing to realize that competition is a good thing and while it's fun to win, sometimes other people have to too.  On the other hand, you are from NY, so you are used to your share of really really bad hockey no matter how much your owner spends.  

Bottom line, anyone that doesn't see a problem with a big city winning more than a small city, is the same fool that doesn't see a problem with the Yankees spending 200 million when another team can only afford to pay it's team 50 million.  Bias and Ignorance, are 2 scary things that drive people into really interesting thoughts.  No one can argue someone asking for an even playing field, it should be about the better managed team, not the team that spends the most 

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: July 8, 2011 3:26 pm

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

dust601, you are missing the big point.  While cities like New York and other big cities can afford it, other smaller market teams cannot afford to front load.  Front loading essentially circumvents the cap in that it allows rich owners to spend over the cap.  You can front load the contract, lowering the value of what said player would have otherwise cost against the cap.  I'm not clear on what team you root for but I'm guessing your misunderstanding of the fact that not all teams can AFFORD to do this means your probably rooting for a pocket deep owner.  I understand what you are saying regarding it being within the rules, but the simplest form of a solution is counting the money you pay said player against your cap....end of story.  There is no argument worthy against that idea.  If you want to implement a salary cap in a sport, you don't then go ahead and make rules in which owners can work around it, it just defeats the purpose, and that is the ultimate argument.  I also believe if the NHL didn't see the issue of the LOOPHOLE that they did not foresee when the CBA was drafted, they wouldn't have penalized New Jersey for clearly abusing the policy.  

Since: Nov 21, 2006
Posted on: July 8, 2011 2:29 pm

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

Wow everyones making this way more complicated then it should be.  Let me make it nice, and simple.

Right now gm's are getting away with giving out front loaded contracts. 
If your a gm, and your not making these type of contracts to try, and snag high profile players you are hurting your team.

You can play the morals game.  Say its right, or wrong, whatever, but this is the fact of the matter.  Having a Gm running your team, and not making a certain type of contract offer because he doesn't feel those contracts are in the spirit of the cba is the reason they haven't, and won't be making the playoffs anytime soon.

Since: Feb 10, 2008
Posted on: July 8, 2011 11:40 am

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

rcr_31 The NHL already does a bottom up marketing approach in the south(recent marketing research project). Please look up how many soldout games Nashville had last season before grouping them into the "small market south." Don't we know the Atlanta situation? I understand your point, but only Dallas? What about San Jose and LA? They're pretty far south. 

Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: July 8, 2011 9:33 am

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

There is nothing wrong with big market cities competing for a title a little more often than the smaller market cities.

Someone earlier mentioned Tampa Bay's ability to compete - ugh, didnt they just play a game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals?

The salary cap's low ceiling is already more than enough for the smaller market teams to field competitive teams.  Atlanta's failure had nothing to do with Kovulchuk's contract - they were a terrible team his last 2 years on their team.  It's more about whether hockey will ever succeed in the South. Phoenix and Nashville have had quality teams the last several years - still very little support. Tampa has had a lot of success, but still struggling to draw fans. Dallas seems to be the only southern city that's working.

Bottom line is to grow a fan base, it probably needs to be in an environment where the kids can at least play the sport themselves, develop an appreciation and understanding for the nuances for the game, and grow attached to the local team. I just dont see it working in the South.  Certainly the experiment in Miami has failed and probably Phoenix and Atlanta as well.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: July 7, 2011 10:23 pm

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

I agree with him.  My team the Sabres signed Christian Ehrhoff to a 10 year 40 million dollar contract.  Over the long haul that's an AVERAGE of 4 million a season.  Considering the guy had 50 points as a defenseman, any sane hockey fan would say they'd take a 4 mil cap hit for that kind of player.  Problem is, PRE Terry Pegula, it's a move the Sabres would have never made.  The deal is front loaded with him getting 10 million year 1, and 8 million year 2.  That's 45% of the cash the first 20% of the contract.  To me this is unfair to any owner that just can't afford it.  It's unfair to the team, like my own before Pegula, that would have lost out to a team like the Rangers, and a chance to see a player like this play for his own team.  Anyone that says who cares, is sadly mistaken.  It is a big deal because these contracts are designed for easy buyout options for the clubs that sign them.  It also entices said player to jump on board because even if he doesn't see all 40 million, Ehrhoff knows he's not a 10 million dollar player.  It's the quickest way for him to make a fast buck, and for the Sabres to have a cheap buyout option, considering they pay I believe 25 cents on the dollar for all remaining money.  The simplest answer is to count the cap as the salary counts.  If you want to pay him 10 million year 1, fine but he's going to take 10 of your 64 million for that season.  End of story.  It's time the league stops catering to big cities, big owners that can afford it, and starts giving all teams a chance.  The only way the NHL will grow in cities like Atlanta, in Tampa Bay, in Miami etc is if those cities have a chance at having a good team.  The second Ilya Kovalchuk walked out the door in Atlanta I think the owners knew there was no way they were going to get the support they needed to keep the franchise afloat, and as a businessman, how can you justify the contract he ended up with if your the owner of Atlanta and you can't get seats filled.  Bottom line is building a franchise is a tough thing and building one at a disadvantage is even tougher.  For a city like Atlanta the initial excitement was tapered off by continuous bad play.  Eventually seats are emptied, the owner doesn't have enough money to reinvest and therefore the product gets worse...and less seats are filled until another team is lost.  Conclusion, those that live in big cities have the ignorant opinion of "who cares, it doesn't matter", intelligent fans realize it's not good for the game....even if for the first time in my life I'm benefitting from it

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: July 7, 2011 8:53 pm

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

What difference does it make? None. 

If you are not willing to pony up and sign these guys to the contracts they want, then let them go to the sucker team. I don't believe that Richards is worthy of that kind of money, and Glen Sather, like many other GM's in the league, believe that these kind of contracts will seduce the player to come play with them. 

Time after time, these kind of players never live up to the hype, and the team is stuck with paying them ridiculous amounts of cash for a player that isn't producing, or have to shell out tons of cash for a buyout.

Let's see how many I can list here without google's help:

Chris Drury (just recently cost the Rangers several millions to let him hit the bricks)
Ilya Kovalchuk
Roberto Luongo
Rick DiPietro
Wade Redden (another NY reject)

Well, that's it. And as a hockey fan, which of these guys would you sign? All have potential, but are they worthy of handcuffing your team? So, let the Brian Burkes rant, and the rest of you just let it go, as we fans of teams that don't have GM's that want to cheat, then our teams are the better for it.

I am glad the Flames didn't get that 31 year old loser in Richards. When I heard they were in the mix, I wanted to sell my tickets. The Flames don't need that kind of bench material. And if the Rangers want to go broke to get him to play for them, so much the better.

2011/12 prediction. The youth in New York will circumvent any real success Richards will have, and will become a secondary or third place character in the scheme of things.

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