Kevin Lowe laughs in the face of salary inflation

26Jul07

Is Kevin Lowe a jerk, an idiot, or just collapsing under the weight of the chip on his shoulder? First the ridiculous Tomas Vanek offer sheet — cause, obviously, anyone with ONE good season can’t possibly regress over the course of his career — and now comes word that Lowe’s put out another overpriced offer sheet, this time to Ducks’ big bruising forward Dustin Penner. This contract’s modest in comparison, averaging out juuuuuuuuust over $4 million per year (said in my best Bob Eucker voice).

Boy, $4 million just can’t buy what it used to, can it? Penner’s had one reasonable year with 29 goals, but ask any Ducks fanboy (or fangirl) and they’ll tell you that Penner’s maddeningly inconsistent. At some times, he’ll look like Todd Bertuzzi at his prime. Other times, Penner will look like today’s Todd Bertuzzi. Coincidentally, Penner’s potential replacement is the worn-down Todd Bertuzzi, all at a similar price.

Remember the pre-DUI Mark Bell who consistently scored about 25 goals for the Blackhawks while offering John Leclair-style presence on the boards and in the slot? One season ago, the Sharks gave him an average of $2.25 million per season. Suddenly, someone with less credentials deserves almost double that for at a longer term?

Inflation? Bah, Kevin Lowe doesn’t care about that. Of course, when Shawn Horcoff becomes a free agent at the end of the season, he’ll look at the team payscale and determine that he deserves $900 million over a 30-year term with a no-movement clause and his pick of Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, or Kate Beckinsale.

Coming out of the lockout, proven 25-goal scorers got Petr Sykora-type deals of about $3 million. Suddenly, everything costs 25% more. Geez, I wish my home value would appreciate at a pace like that.

My personal theory: Kevin Lowe is a mole planted by the NHLPA to artificially drive up costs.

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12 Responses to “Kevin Lowe laughs in the face of salary inflation”

  1. 1 Mike

    Decent theory. I personally think he’s in the same boat at Paul Holmgren. He has to win now, or he’s out on the street. So he makes a bunch of ill-advised offers for players that don’t deserve them (Pitkanen, Vanek, Harnell, Timmonen, now Penner) in hopes that they will improve, and he’ll be able to hold onto his job for another year. He doesn’t give two shits about them being cap-fucked a couple years down the road, or saddled with overpriced never-will-bes.

    Or he’s trying to do his best Bobby Clarke impression (remember the Kesler offer sheet) and piss off the other GMs, in hopes that he can spin animosity as grudging respect.

  2. 2 Doogie

    his pick of Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, or Kate Beckinsale.

    Hathaway! Pick Hathaway, Horc!

    Even as an Oilers fan, I have to find this whole summer kind of comical. It’s so far past the point of hurting, it’s become just stupid and funny. Shove over Leafs fans, we’re settin’ up for the long haul!

  3. 3 Anonymous

    Penner sounds like Torres. Inconsistent, but great when ON.

  4. 4 The Hockey Rabbi

    couldn’t agree with you more. I think the Oiler$ have lost it. I disagree with Mike, however, because I don’t think Krazy Kevin is going to further his career this way. Remember Neil Smith of the NY Ranger$? When the hockey world decided to blame him for single handedly escalating salaries (despite the fact that the Rangers focused primarily on UFA’s whose contracts were not used in salary arbitrations), Smith got black listed. Except for a 10 minute stint on Long Island, Smith hasn’t had any meaningful work since leaving the Big Apple. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Krazy Kevin suffer a similar fate!

  5. 5 Joe

    You’re totally wrong about Lowe increasing salary costs. He can only change where on a roster the same money is coming from, not the total amount, and no one can do that. He might start trends leading to younger players getting paid more than older ones, or more high risk high reward contracts, but he cannot cause salary inflation.

    Tom Benjamin does a better job of it than me, so I went and tracked this down:
    http://www.canuckscorner.com/weblog/nhllog/archives/2007/07/rattling_the_wr.html

  6. 6 Joe

    Arg, apparently it doesn’t like my long link.

    http://www.canuckscorner.com/weblog/
    nhllog/archives/2007/07/
    rattling_the_wr.html

    Put that all into one long line.

  7. 7 Mike Chen

    I’m surprised only one person has commented on Shawn Horcoff’s potential dilemma of Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, or Kate Beckinsale. I know I’d be torn!

  8. 8 Mike

    I’ve gotta go with Natalie Portman. Not only is she hot, she’s supposed to be exceptionally intelligent. Love it!

  9. 9 The Hockey Rabbi

    Joe, let me clarify my point: you and Tom are correct in saying that salaries can’t increase to more than 50+% of gross revenues. But that’s only part of the cap equation. The next question is, how will the cap space get allocated. Top UFA’s who have the most leverage (Crosby excluded) have been getting about 14.5% of the overall cap space alloted per team. In order to fit an entire roster under the cap, the scale has to slide downward. Lesser players must get paid less. Additionally, teams must use their leverage to keep salaries for young players (who don not yet have UFA leverage), down. Otherwise franchises will not be able to sign a roster full of deep players. You’ll see teams with a handful of better players and 17 below average ones! That’s not what the CBA is supposed to accomplish (in my opinion anyway). The Oiler$ are disrupting that salary scale. And the fans will ultimately suffer since, as you correctly point out, teams will have to save money by spending less elsewhere. Which is another way of saying your team will have 4 decent players and 17 below average ones.

  10. 10 Joe

    THR, sure, some teams might end up in that situation then, of having an elite guy making 7 million a year (though, under the system, you need to make DAAAAAAAMN sure you’re giving 7 mil to the right guy, Briere is an example of a guy who I think will be a wrong choice in that regard), and will have to force the rest of their players to play for less than their worth. But what happens when a team offers a guy less than he’s worth?

    He says to hell with you, packs his backs, leaves his old team to rot in salary cap hell, while he goes to a team that is not currently so hamstrung, and gets his cash from them. You might see a few teams, especially at the start of this new era make phenomenal mistakes, like I think the Rangers have, with signing too many long term cap heavy deals. They may end up in that situation, and thats unfortunate for their fans, but these things happen. However, other teams that avoid doing that and see what happens to the teams that do it will wise up. While a handful of teams pull a Lightning and allocate far too much payroll to far too small a portion of the roster, the other teams that balance things better will be winning Stanley Cups. Not every team is or will be sucked into this Lightning/Rangers trap of being totally retarded with their money. If any of them do it because of Kevin Lowe, then they obviously weren’t very good GM’s in the first place.

  11. 11 The Hockey Rabbi

    Joe,

    the truth is that only time will tell. We’re at the beginning of a new era and we’ll have to see how things play out. My prediction thus far remains the same:

    1. the allocation of cap space is being driven out of whack by the Oiler$. This affects ALL player salaries (either diving the price tag on good players higher at even younger ages or driving salaries of mid level and bottom level players down).

    2. All teams will have to play the free agency game on some level. If they don’t they will not be successful. Ultimately, many teams will have no choice but to have 4 above average players and 17 below average ones. That dilutes the quality of the game.

    3. mid level NHL talent may abandon the league. As elite players continue to eat up a disproportionate share of cap space, the rest of the players will have to take pay cuts. Low level players may not have a choice. What about mid level ones? In other North American sports, this same phenomenon may not be a problem: the athletes are primarily North American, where else will they go to play. The NHL on the, other hand, is different. As early as 2003, approx. 1/3 of our players were European. The league (and the fans) have benefited from their presence because they bring added talent to our game. The good european players will stay because they’ll still earn their money. What about the mid level ones? Why should they leave their homes and families if the money is no longer what it used to be? This would be tragic for the fans because our league would no longer be attracting the best talent from all over the world. The quality of the game suffers which means we fans suffer. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of the reasons that Russia refuses to sign a transfer agreement with the NHL. The Russian supe league has deep pocketed ownership. They may see an opportunity to attract the kind of players that up until recently would prefer to play in the NHL.

    Obviously, I can’t make any predictions. It’s still early and no one knows how things will work out. I simply feel that the balance is being thrown off by the Oiler$ and it’s a dangerous game. I don’t think the NHL expected teams to be as predatory as the Oiler$ have been and I fully expect to see the NHL increase the compensation a team like the Oiler$ has to pay when signing RFA’s to offer sheets. If mid level Europeans do start leaving because there’s not enough money left for them, how will the owners continue to expand the league?!?!

  12. 12 SKAHA TRUTH

    Read this before considering a job relo to Seattle. I am a Canadian that moved to Seattle two years ago. At the recommendation of my AAA Bantam coach, I joined SKAHA. Currently under investigation by USA Hockey, SKAHA is one of the most corrupt organizations in America. They also train in a grocery store with rats….truly a miserable experience that I want anyone to think about before moving to Seattle. Beautiful city, yes, but worst hockey imaginable!


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