The Prime Time Sports Management Conference, which was held in Toronto the past two days, featured several big names in the world of hockey including Commissioner Gary Bettman, IIHF President Rene Fasel, and of course, Calgary Flames President Brian Burke. With such a wealth of hockey knowledge and experience in one room, the interesting opinions and stories were constantly flowing. Yet, two tales stood out above the rest:
- Burke, unsurprisingly, was the author of one of them. Burke told the crowd that Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla, two future Hall of Famers who seemingly spent the summer with little attention paid to their free agent statuses, were in facts targets of the Flames all summer long. As we now know, Jagr was the end choice, as the 45-year-old signed on in Calgary in early October. Burke stated that the team evaluated and monitored both storied veterans throughout the off-season, waiting to see how things played out. Burke stated that, in the end, the team felt that Jagr had a much stronger 2016-17 season and brought a “charisma” to the team that they desired. It is no surprise that the team considered long-time captain Iginla, but after a difficult campaign where he looked lifeless at times, no one can blame the Flames for instead going with the ageless Jagr. In eight games thus far, Jagr already has a goal and four assists, as well as a +5 rating in Calgary.
- The second intriguing story came from player agent Ritch Winter through sources at the NHL Players’ Association. It seems as though the current contract between forward Tomas Tatar and the Detroit Red Wings came much closer to not getting done than even the arbitration hearing time line indicated. The two sides went to salary arbitration this summer and were one of only a handful of cases to actually go to hearing. Yet, the two sides struck a deal prior to the arbitrator’s award – a four-year, $21.2MM bargain that even includes a no-trade clause beginning next season. Well, according to Winter, the fax from the arbitrator with his binding one-year decision came in to the NHLPA office mere minutes after the contract was signed. A few minutes earlier and any late agreement between the two sides would have been rendered null and void. It would come as no surprise if the Red Wings wish it had. Detroit filed at $4.1MM in arbitration, while Tatar’s side countered with $5.3MM. The eventual contract holds a $5.3MM AAV, meaning anything but an absolute finding for Tatar by the arbitrator would have resulted in a lesser cap hit than what the Wings are paying now. And what of the future? Yes, the long term deal keeps Tatar in Detroit longer, but with seven points in 18 games, the soon-to-be-27-year-old is on pace for the worst full season of his NHL career. The Red Wings may regret their long-term commitment and knowing they were only minutes ahead of a disqualifying decision only adds to the sting.