CONFERENCE CALL- BRIAN BURKE
November 15, 2005
We obviously have a major trade that was made today. I’ll take you through that and I’ll answer any questions you have to the best of my ability.
First off, I would like to thank Sergei Fedorov for a job well done here. He’s an outstanding hockey player and a good guy, and I wish him well in Columbus. The evolution of a trade sometimes is interesting and it’s funny in this case. There were trade rumors that I was trying to move Sergei, and I actually ripped the article out of the clips and went and showed it to him and said, ‘Just so you know Sergei, I have not offered you to one team. That is not a guarantee that you will not be traded. If I get the right offer, you’re on a plane son.’
That is the same thing I do, I have always done that with my players…when there are trade rumors that are not true, I go and show it to them but I always leave the door open that if a team steps up and is interested in you and if it is the right deal for the team, you’re on a plane. So I just had that conversation with him and then I got a call from Columbus the next day, the very next day. And I even said to Doug MacLean, ‘Man I just went to this kid, and told him that we weren’t trying to move him.’ But that is the way the business goes.
So this deal that has been put together it does two things for us: It gives us some cap room and it solves what really is almost a crisis right now in terms of…we had set aside as many teams did, a reserve of around a million and a half dollars to deal with injuries, and it was inadequate to do for that purpose. Close to a dozen teams are bumping up against the cap as a result. So it solves that problem.
It also gives us cap room to add a player. Whether we do that immediately, or reinvest that later in the season…it gives us cap room going out beyond the end of the season and as far as moves in the offseason. We like the players that came back: Tyler Wright is a former first rounder. He’s a scrappy player, an excellent penalty killer and chips in with goals. Hard nosed two-way hockey player. Good Western kid. He has some leadership skills and we like that part. And with Francois Beauchemin, he’s only 25, which is not that old for a defenseman. Still relatively young. Former 3rd round pick with Montreal. He’s a stay-at-home, puck-moving defenseman, but he’s physical when we need him to be. So we think they’re both players that can help us….so it’s a combination of two things.
I couldn’t sell this as a stand-alone hockey deal and I won’t try to, there’s a cap consideration here, but it’s also players that we think will help. Questions…..
Q: Just wanted to ask you, are you surprised and shocked at all by this new kind of a move? I mean in the old NHL, we probably wouldn’t have a move like this. But was it surprising to you after you did all the numbers etc, that this would be the guy who would go?
It’s the evolution of a trade. In this case, this is a team that came after Sergei. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do here. He’s worked hard, he’s been injured, but through that time, he worked extremely hard in his rehabilitation. It’s not a guy that we were actively shopping around. I don’t care what the rumor mill says, that’s the truth. But Columbus came after him, and you’ve got to look.
As you say this is the new NHL, it’s a new landscape. And you’re going to see more deals where the financial side is a factor in the trade. That is life in the National Football League. This is how it works in the National Football League also. Players, economic concerns are the backdrop behind most deals. So from our perspective, living in a cap system…this deal makes sense.
Q: Couple of questions: 1. How close are you to the cap now, and the other question is: 2. Is Sergei’s case, is he just the victim of all players now who are making five, six million dollars are going to be on watch, that no matter how good they are, they could get traded. And in his case, he’s older than maybe we think he is. (Brian Burke: “I don’t know about the last part”) He’s 35 isn’t he? It’s not like he’s 31. He’s played a lot of games?
Again, I have no problem with Sergei. I have no problem with how he played here. He was our best forward in the pre-season. His work-ethic was fine. He wasn’t a problem for us at all. That being said, when a team comes after a player, you have a chance to move that kind of money, I think you’re right about the first part of what you said…teams are going to take that opportunity when they get it. We’ve done it here a couple of times now, where we had a chance to move money, so we could add other players. And I’ll point out again, we had been up against the cap since the very start of the season. We intend to re-invest this money too. The Samuelis have been clear on that. We intend to spend at our near the cap, plus an adequate reserve for injuries, so we intend to reinvest this money as well. This isn’t about saving money, it’s about spending it elsewhere, or spending it in a different direction.
Q: Summing up on what you said about not making this as a panic move, or based on the standings, but where is this team, in your estimation…what is going right, what is going wrong, what areas are you specifically looking at shoring up either soon or down the road?
This is the only team that made a coaching and had to implement new systems in all three zones. There has been a culture in this market, that losing has been accepted in the past, and it’s not anymore. So, to me, changing the culture of a team is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, it’s true in the NFL, it’s true in Major League Baseball, and it’s true in the NBA. You take a team, and try to change the acceptance of losing, to try to change the idea that not winning is acceptable. That is the hardest single thing to do in professional sports.
What I like about our team is our coach hates losing as much as I do, our players have bought in nicely to the systems. We’re playing with making fewer mistakes, we’re outshooting and outworking our opponents most nights. Right now, we’re having trouble scoring goals. And we need some guys that can score goals on our team to start doing that. But as far as what major changes that we need to make, I don’t see any major changes that we need to make at this point in time.
Q: With the money that you picked up in this deal, do you have another move immediately in the works? And the second part to this question is, did you feel that Sergei, if healthy, was going to give you what you had hoped for if he had remained with the team.
It’s not for a lack of effort on Sergei’s part, but again, from my perspective, you have to balance two things. Again, the new NHL, but it’s not new for me. In Vancouver,. I had a budget every year and I wasn’t allowed to go over it so dealing with a salary cap is not new to me. But in the old NHL, a lot of teams, they had a problem, they just move a guy, take on more salary and then just worry about it at the end of the year. That was not how I was trained, it’s not how I did things before I got here. In a salary cap system, you’ve got to always balance an offer you get on a player, you’ve got to balance what that player can contribute, versus what the players you get for him can contribute, and what use you can put that money to. And in this case, the balance of those factors led me to believe the smart thing to do was move him.
Q: About Sergei’s contract. Is he able to walk away from it after the end of the season and become a free agent himself by his options?
No, he had exercised all the options remaining in the deal. It’s this year and two more.
Q: Did you have to pick up any of his salary to ship him off?
You’re not allowed to pick up salary anymore. So, no we did not.
Q: When you signed Scott Niedermayer (6.75 million), and obviously the amount that he receives each year, and you have Sergei’s number (6 million)…with a 39 million dollar cap, isn’t it pretty difficult to have two guys making roughly a third of that number?
Yes, but it’s not unmanageable. Having studied how the NFL teams handle their cap, given the size of their roster and the size of the cap, on some teams the top two players on a forty five man roster eat up a much larger percentage than two guys on a 23 man roster. You’re looking at the Indianapolis Colts with what Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison make combined, and you back that out and compare it to the percentage of the roster size…it’s not unmanageable with two guys at that. But you better be smart on your spending decisions on every other spot.
Q: The guys you acquired today, are they signed on beyond this year or no?
They are both signed through next year.
Q: Understanding what you said about any moves that might be coming, might be soon, might not be soon, would your preference be to do something else pretty quickly to add to this team, or do you feel like what you have is good enough to get the job done and afford to be real patient?
I think when you’re reshaping a team and making a major move, I think if you can do more than one thing quickly, it’s better. If you’re trying to bring new people in, bring in three or four or five new guys in a seven to ten day period is preferable than bringing them in over a sixty day period. But that being said, we’re going to have to wait and see what happens.