What follows is a ficticious account of a conference call between Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster and the Habs Bob Gainey and their respective assistants on the subject matter of a trade involving Vincent Lecavalier.
Accent on the ficticious!
There has been no news on this front, because their simply is none. Other than speculation, arising from Lightening owner Bill Davidson's comments regarding a cut in team payroll sometime earlier in the past year, their is nothing new to divulge.
However, I thought it might be fun to get inside the heads of both Gainey and Feaster, just to speculate how such a thing would or would not play out. I began writting it, knowing I'd want a deal potentially left hanging, with options.
Who knows how these deals really come about. I thought if I were being a devil's advocate for both sides, I'd get a closer approximation of how it works.
Some readers will surely read into this, an get ideas afterwards that something is more likely to happen now. I'd caution against that.
Again, this is merely ficticious speculation, all on my part. It has but a speckle of origin, namely the davidson angle.
Trading the face of a franchise such as Lecavalier is a very delicate matter for public consumption, and surely one that will not be open for public discussion by either of the parties front offices.
Rumour mill fodder to the contrary, nothing eminating from either teams camps suggest anything is imminent between the teams.
It is essential to understand exactly what rumours are. Going by the motto "talk is cheap", many writers and journalists employ the rumour to create interest and stir readership.
Hey, that could be what I'm doing, as well!
GM's for the most part, rarely if ever fuel rumours involving their players. No GM calls a local scribe to say, "Hey, guess what? I'm about to send so-and-so to the Leafs for so-and-so....could you print it before it actually happens, so I can gauge whether the general uninformed public opinion will be positive or not?"
It just don't happen that way, folks.
While certain journalists have more credibility than others (not you, Bruce Garrioch!), most not attached to team coverage enjoy the free-for-all mentality of spreading the juice. The term "Hockey Insider", as it refers to people such as former THN editor Bob McKenzie or commentator Pierre Maguire, is a complete misnomer for their profession. My question is always, hockey insider to what? They are employed by no team, hence are not inside anything other than a ring of gossiping scribes spreading speculation.
Certain of their musings and meanderings do sound sensible, almost credible, coming from their mouths, but that is only because they are grounded in the game, are mostly more literate than the average fan, and have a certain common sense to sort ideas with.
But still, how many Sheldon Souray rumours did you read and believe last winter that turned out correct?
My motto in regards to written rumours, has never steered me wrong in 35 years of following the game. Not once! That motto would be, "If it's in print, or if I'm hearing it, it's gotta be false!"
I'll stick to when it's truth, it's news.
So with all that in mind, and sticking to the premise of speculation, here's what could await Bob Gainey should Jay Feaster call.
Note: the partakers in this call are identified by their initials, after once being named in full.
Bob Gainey: Hello.
Jay Feaster: Hi Bob, Jay here, I've been waiting for a callback.
BG: Sorry, Jay! I was getting around to calling...just lots happening here.
JF: Oh yeah, what's up?
BG: The usual for this time, prospect evaluation in prep for the draft. A dangling free agent. Budgets and prognostications. Some finalizing of contract offers. How about you?
JF: Well our teams pockets aren't as deep, as I'm sure you know. Bill (Davidson) still feels the same about our situation. Our Cup spillover didn't last as long as we'd hoped. The lockout muted that unfortunately....and here we stand. You know out predicament.
BG: Jay, I have to meet with scouts in 45. Tell me what's on your mind today?
JF: Well I just wanted to followup on our last talk about Vinny....
BG: Were you able to make Bill understand why it's only him we'll discuss...not Brad or Martin.
JF: Exactly, Bill and I are of the opinion that in order to make any kind of deal in that area, we need guarantees. We not only need the right guys back, but also need to address the fact that it could kill off a good share of seats, should we come out looking less than brilliant in return.
BG: I hear ya Jay, it's just not my problem....you understand. Not my call to make you look good. There's a group of players, and they haven't changed since last time we talked...those that I'll part with...pick amongst them. The others, I'm not budging on.
JF: Getting lots of calls about Price?
BG: Price? You mean the goalie Price? (laughs) Oh, a few. Most know better..
JF: Even 1 for 1? For anyone?
BG: Not too sure I'd be willing there...who do you wanna throw in...(laughs).
JF: It's good to hear you laughing again, my friend. How are things with everybody?
BG: Everyone's good Jay, thanks. I still have rough days...it's tough...
JF: (silence)...can't even begin...
BG: Did you see Halak play at the Worlds at all? He fared pretty good on that team of his.
JF: We noticed, we had to take note actually....no other chance to scout him until after the season starts. It was positive.
BG: Is that pre-planning on you guys part? Were you envisioning...
JF: We got lots of options open Bob, we just called to explore this one first as a means to go forward. The Vinny - Montreal thing is our starter here...has to be. Less so, in the other two cases.
BG: Any other solids, offers that will stop you inquiring at any point?
JF: Nibbles mainly, that tire kicker from Philly's relentless...but I have to take his problems as well, so until he gets off that horse, I'm just listening really.
BG: What's Paul's problem Jay?
JF: Sorry Bob. Have to wait on his next trade to guess, I assume. He's asked me to quiet it.
BG: He wouldn't be game for some Russian roulette in exchange, if you follow?
JF: Not your notorious ones! Sorry, couldn't resist that!
BG: It's okay man...getting that alot lately...enough small talk Jay. I gotta get soon.
JF: Yeah enough small talk. Who's still on the table Bob, the Kostitsyns?
BG: You looking at both?
JF: Perhaps, depends. I don't think 3 bodies in total will do it for us, really.
BG: I'll be straight up with you Jay, out of all the names I've laid out for you....we don't have to go over the kids again...all are a year away for us except two or three. Honestly, they won't make you guys a better team straight away. They need more work....that'll be yours to do....but then, before they start costing you's much, two years max, you're a better team for the deal. Right around the same time Vinny is a UFA again, and if he bolts...(laughs at own remark)...
JF: Funny Bob!
BG: ...if you lose him then, what do you get?
JF: That's why this discussion is necessary.
BG: Exactly. Now my concern is overpaying you, more than 3 players moving at once..it's risky....for us or anyone to do.
JF: I hear ya...by the way, did you get a call from Yashin's agent yet.
BG: Bolshoi! One Russian word I learned to use!
JF: What do you say I name players off your roster, one at at time, and you tell me what you think about including them? Anything to lose by going in that direction?
JF: My reason's simple for starting this way, I need some marquee to sell. No need explaning....
BG: Well shoot then.
JF: Okay, for starters, Chris Higgins?
BG: No way Jay! Too much upside on Higgins left to determine. I haven't gotten a full season of him yet to even be sure of what his worth to us is. He'd be a high risk to throw out even as a twofer deal.
JF: I understand. Give us Plekanec, I'll need a center, you have to subtract one.
BG: It's a possibility...it would depend with who he goes with.
JF: Question then, about Ryder, is that a tough negotiation?
BG: Oh yeah! We'll arbitrate his deal again. His totals dictate steadiness but his demands increase. He's one I'd consider letting go of.
JF: Mike Komisarek?
BG: Forget it! Forget that idea. My D is what I'm working on shorring up. Choose from Dandeneault, Bouillon, Streit, Georges, no one else, no D prospects, got it. Won't even go there.
JF: Gotcha Bob, that's my sticking point too. I want to bring in some steady guys back there, it's just that there's little flashpoint for the marquee thing here.
BG: Well we really can't drop those D names until after camp anyway. We have to assess that area constantly from top to bottom for a few years yet. A non starter with me, for now.
JF: Cristobal Huet then?
BG: If you're aware of his contract status and salary, I'm listening.
BG: He's a solid NHL'er in our eyes, we're no longer thinking prospect with him. Again, maybe only in a twofer.
JF: So let's back track a step, forget the Kostitsyn's, how about Plekanec, Halak, those two first rounders you got coming to you in a week, and David Fischer. Is that a starter for Vinny?
BG: Forget it. Not Fischer, Jay....
JF: That Valentenko kid?
JF: How about Emelin?
BG: Still no, can't budge on D Jay, I won't go there yet, as I said.
JF: Any issues with the 2 first rounders from this year's ....
BG: None, it's not the strongest crop we've seen.
JF: We're not so sure, really. That 12th pick you have's a good spot.
BG: We're looking to move it. Up maybe, possibly down in a trade. I'm not exactly salivating for who is likely to be left, so....who you have your eye on?
JF: Not a chance Bob, I ain't saying till a deals done....really! I'd love to close in on Angelo, though, that's why I'm inquiring on it.
BG: Had to ask. We've done province wide tire kicking on Esposito...while we're not 100% sold, but he won't be around when you guys pick.
JF: Why you mentioning that?
BG: He's similar to Vinny in some ways, don't you think?
JF: In some...think he'll be around at 12? Word is...
BG: He's gone to Boston early.....that's all marquee inuendo my friend. Watch the phone's ring before that pick. Chiarelli's worked me on it already, for our two picks plus a player.
JF: Plus a...who exactly?
BG: Nevermind. A roster player. Oh what the hell....he's asked about Ryder, Higgins too. Like...
JF: The two picks and Higgins? That's what he asked? Really?
BG: He trying to make us think Espo is high on his list, the greatest thing since...
JF: Is he bluffing? He can't be serious, can he really?
BG: Not sure there, it's name game there.... think about it, Esposito in Boston. Hold on...I gotta take a call for a minute.
JF: I'll be here.
BG: Hi Julian. What's up?
Julien Brisebois: Good news. Pavel is signing tomorrow afternoon.
BG: Paperwork's all done up?
JB: Yes, Sir! All according to specifics. He's extremely excited too.
BG: Great Julien, good work. How's the other coming?
JB: No confirms, they just asked for a time. Still iffy with Russians you know. Emelin's more eager than the agent. Hard to get a read on their positions, as usual.
BG: Okay, let's cut this off now. I got Feaster on the other end and were making some trail here.
JB: Bob! BOB!
BG: What is it?
JB: If your back on with Feaster, I just got some news...might not be much. Two sources are saying Feaster's got Chris Gratton back. Only details from being made official. A smart move really...from Tampa's point.
BG: Good stuff my friend, that is why we pay ya that big bucks!
JB: Yeah, sure Bob! I heard it's filed.
BG: Okay Jules, letting you go now.
BG: Okay, Jay, I'm back.
JF: What the news?
BG: Oh, nothing much, contract progress. Plekanec is a hard sign right now, wants almost three million per. How bad do you need a center, Jay.
JF: No way. He's key to the deal with us Bob.
BG: Well Jay, that's where it stands for a few days.
JF: Would you sub Max Lapierre for Plekanec?
BG: I doubt it, for now any ways. Do you have any centers your looking at aquiring around ....
JF: Something might be in the works, not sure yet.
BG: Almost time for me to go...
JF: Okay then, let me step back a bit, in regard to that 12th pick. If Esposito or Logan Couture are still out there at that time, you can expect a call from me then and there. I'll ask for Plekanec, Halak, the 12th for Esposito, and one other thing. What do think Bob?
BG: It's ballpark Jay, call me. What other thing would you be getting at? Picks, conditionals, players? I'd offer what Burke gave Kevin.
JF: I was getting to that as an add on really, like a Stanley finals clause kick in should you guys get there...
BG: I'd want the same one in return, should you guys...
BG: For sure! Fair from my standpoint. Who knows if you guys can't get there first. If that happens, and it could, I'd want to be compensated, don't you think...
JF: Wow, didn't see that coming....but I'd be okay with it.
BG: But still, the names I said were off, stay off. You can take Ryder instead of Plekanec or Huet instead of Halak, but just not three of the four. Go back over that last list I faxed you, with all the Hamilton bound guys. We can do a conditional for one of them a month into the season. The Milroy's, Cote's, Biron's and such could all add up to cheap depth for you.
JF: So are we talking the five plus the Cup clause thing, and then a conditional?
BG: A two way conditional...
BG: I agree with that kind of framework. We can deal with the loss of those names if they should work for you. Is it all dependant on that 12th pick being Esposito for you guys?
JF: As of right now, yes it would. We could swing it earlier than next weekend if it wasn't tied to it...
BG: ...and concern yourselves with moving up as well. But we'd rather hold onto some options leading up to the draft and that position, there could be other calls. I've had curious inquiries that need pursuing in certain matters. If only one or two picks of the first 12 get out of order, a player we have eyes for could become avaible and then there's no deal, Jay.
JF: Who's on your mind there?
BG: Hard to say, the 67's kid shows promise, but there's another as well. We won't be doing this until next Friday, either way, for now.
JF: Bob I know you got your meeting in a minute, but a got take a call, I'll put it on hold here, gimme 60 seconds.
BG: Okay, hurry!
Feaster rings up Bill Davidson's office.
JF: Bill, I got Gainey on the other end and there's a workable frame for a deal here for Vinny.
Bill Davidson: Do you like it, Jay? Will it flesh out the roster?
JF: It won't hurt, but it looks better in the second and third years. We only get two roster guys for now, plus conditionals. I'm looking at the goalie Halak and center Plekanec, plus the 2 first rounders Friday and conditionals. It all hinges on Angelo Esposito's availability come that pick. If he's gone, we're back to zero...
BD: Is he really that good?
JF: He could be, we've assessed him as a guy who can step right in. That solves our goal of getting 3 bodies straight into starters. I've got to check with Torts and watch some Halak games to make sure he's on my page with it first.
BD: Did he say no to Ryder?
JF: In lieu of Plekanec only, not together.
BD: Did Latendresse get on the table?
JF: From the last time, it was still unequivocally no!
BD: You'll have to find a way, Jay, just to get a little more out of it. A low depth guy, cheap. A sixth or seventh defenseman or a fourth liner maybe.
JF: He won't touch the D, Bill. Can't budge him there.
BD: Well, call him mid week, see if you can get more in any way.
JF: Okay Bill, I'd better be getting back to him now.
BD: Later Jay.
JF: Bob, sorry, some legal snafu's. Can I call you back on Wednesday, go over some finer points before Friday?
BG: You can try, I may or may not be away for one day this week. I can send you those players current contracts details that expire shortly, so you can get a sense of where they've been at going forward. It might help you in choosing between the two. I'll send you my notes from Ryder's arbitration, don't let it scare you off (laughs).
JF: What the deal with Ryder's status...
BG: Nothing to sweat really...it's just him an his agent work real hard at being our last signing. It's gone on for two years now. They use that as a wedge heading into those arbitration things...and then they settle without it. It's like the new CBA doesn't exist to them. It makes what appears to be my hardest sign, my easiest. If they talked more earlier on, when we have more dough, it would serve their interest better. Ryder lost out on about 600 grand last year employing that tactic, and looks like they are headed that way again...
JF: Is that the newfie?
BG: Ah, Jay, he's a great kid, good team guy. Improves all the time, just a touch slower. Our patience has paid great dividends with him. He's come far. I'd really agonize over parting with him, if it wasn't to aquire Vinny for us.
JF: That's good to hear (laughs), your trying to hang onto to Plekanec aren't you?
BG: Either one you take, either one we keep, we're not hurting. I'm just thinking of Ryder at Vinny's side, but we can't have it both ways.
JF: Bob, I'll get back to you Wednesday afternoon.
BG: I get to the office after jogging around 9 in the morning if you want to start earlier Jay.
JF: Alright Bob, sounds good!
BG: See ya.
The latest on Lecavalier