A Cartoon Controversy
Bob McCown has been having fun blasting Brian Burke for his ridiculous comments on cap circumventing contracts. Here’s what Burke said:
“To make it clear, we made a very substantial offer to Brad Richards. What we offered I don’t think is material. 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 it like other teams did. These deals that are front-loaded and have a small amount in the back end are, in my opinion, designed to circumvent the salary cap. I won’t do them. I never have. I’m not going to.”
Those contracts are accepted by the league on the basis that the players are going to serve the full term. That’s the only basis that they’re accepted by the league. If there is any understanding that the player is not going to serve the full term, they wouldn’t be accepted by the league. I personally do not believe the players are going to serve the term of their contracts. I’m not going to name names, but I do not believe players are going to play in 10 years who have signed them, or nine years, especially when the compensation for the final two years is one or two million dollars. I’ll be very anxious to see the explanations that occur when these players don’t serve out these contracts. That’s why I don’t do them. I don’t believe the players are going to serve the term. If that fact were known, I don’t think the NHL would accept them either.”
McCown’s position is that the league has ruled on this issue and therefore it is not cap circumvention. It is, McCown asserts, Burke’s obligation to use whatever loophole is available if it helps his team win. Burke’s unwillingness to take advantage of the rules because he disagrees ethically with them is very nearly a dereliction of duty.
This story – and the scandal of being in Kandahar on July 1st – is the cartoon Brian Burke at his best (or worst depending upon your point of view). It is all irrelevant nonsense. The cartoon Brian Burke is placed firmly on the high road while the real Brian Burke knows the subways like the back of his hand. The cartoon Brian Burke is criticised for being too noble and the real Brian Burke should be lashed for insulting our intelligence this way.
Brian Burke made it clear a long time ago that he did not think long term deals for older players worked out very often. They almost never did under the old CBA when all the free agents were Richard’s age. Never mind the tail on Brad’s contract – he’s very unlikely to be worth what they are paying him in the first six years. Tacking a fantasy three years onto a bad contract does not turn it into a good one. (I think Richards is still a good player, but I’m not sure he is worth a $6.5 MM cap hit even today. I’m really sure he won’t be worth it about two years from now.)
It is very easy for Burke to declare that he is ethically opposed to cap circumvention when the only way to circumvent the cap is to offer contracts he isn’t prepared to offer anyway. He isn’t willing to “cheat” because he doesn’t think “cheating” is going to help his hockey team beyond the very short term. As always with Brian Burke his actions (or inaction) make sense and his pronouncements about same are total bullshit.
It would be very easy to express this opinion tactfully and honestly – “We dropped out of the auction when the money and term stopped making sense to us” – but that’s not Burke’s style.
Not when he can send cartoon Brian Burke out there to stir up a cartoon controversy on Talk Radio.
Postscript: I hope that Mike Gillis has learned this lesson with the Luongo contract. A couple of years later and its feeling a lot less like a good deal, isn’t it?