October 25, 2007

Leafs offer Tavares contract in effort to circumvent NHL draft: With the Toronto Sun calling for JFJ's head this morning, could this be a ploy to save his job, or might it actually work out?

posted by garfield to hockey at 12:30 PM - 19 comments

As a fan of a horribly struggling team, the mere idea of landing a top prospect has me giddy. As a critic of the NHL, I blame Tavares being denied eligibility for the draft as the root of this situation. As an objective observer, the rest of the league is not going to like this one bit.

posted by garfield at 12:52 PM on October 25

I think the chances of this working out are about one in a trillion. To be on the Leafs, he has to sign now with the Marlies, wait until he is drafted, refuse to play for whoever drafts him for three years, then sign with the Leafs. (Or have that team trade his rights to the Leafs beforehand.) Or, he could wait until 2009, get drafted, and play in the NHL.

posted by fabulon7 at 12:53 PM on October 25

It's a fine move for JFJ, since MLSE has no shortage of cash and the Marlies are struggling at the gate. But fabulon is right: there's no way he's going to end up as a Leaf, unless they draft first in '09. Which, given recent trends, is probably not altogether unrealistic. And heck, reading the article, it's probably all moot anyway:

... the AHL bylaw for player eligibility matches the NHL's. Only players who turn 18 by Sept. 15 are allowed to play in the AHL that season, which means Tavares would not be eligible to play until the 2009-10 season, the same year he becomes eligible for the NHL draft. An exemption could be granted by the AHL but league president Dave Andrews said that is unlikely. "That would require an amendment of the bylaw in question, which requires a vote of our board [of governors]," Andrews said. "In my experience, the likelihood of the other 28 teams in the AHL voting in favour of allowing the other team a competitive advantage is not great."
So the Marlies would need a majority of the other teams voting "Yes, we want to play against John Tavares." Good luck with that.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 01:02 PM on October 25

Aw come on. Don't be all logical and pragmatic about this. Dream a little, wouldya?! Next you'll be saying JFJ traded him for the next Minnesota goal tender to look good behind Lemaire's D scheme.

posted by garfield at 01:08 PM on October 25

Oh come on, the Leafs wouldn't trade a top prospect for a middle-of-the-road goaltender. They'd trade him for an over-the-hill power forward.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 01:35 PM on October 25

So the Marlies would need a majority of the other teams voting "Yes, we want to play against John Tavares." Good luck with that. Not to mention I can't imagine anyone looking out for this kid could possibly think this is a good idea.

posted by SummersEve at 02:00 PM on October 25

I blame Tavares being denied eligibility for the draft as the root of this situation. Why is he being denied eligibility for the draft?

posted by 86 at 02:37 PM on October 25

Because he's not old enough—by five days.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 02:42 PM on October 25

I could see his handlers liking the idea for a couple reasons. First, his agent is partially responsible for seeking out alternatives after the draft next year was ruled out. Tavares is a local kid, so I'd guess he might be a Leafs fan. Making pro money at that age while assured time to develop is probably not so bad. He might get razzed a bit more than other non-phenoms. And he might receive some unwanted attention, but he is a pro athlete in training.

posted by garfield at 03:51 PM on October 25

It's an obvious publicity stunt to make it look like someone is in charge in Leaves management. Even if there was some way this could happen, it would be terrible for hockey to make a loophole wherein the rich clubs could bypass the draft and stockpile talent in the AHL, presumably outside of the salary cap.

posted by rumple at 03:58 PM on October 25

I think DJE hits it on the head. Not only would a perfect storm of other contingencies have to come together for this kid to circumvent the draft, a majority of the AHL owners would have to allow it. While the prospect of seeing the kid play would certainly lure fans out in droves, I just don't think other AHL owners would be willing to be Tavares' showcase for the next two years. The gain is too short term to outweigh the costs, IMO.

posted by tahoemoj at 04:00 PM on October 25

Let me explain myself. The eligibility DJE pointed out wasn't in the article when I first read it. Second, this possible loop hole might eliminate the need to wait until he is 21. Also, there are some salient points made over at Mirtle's blog. And finally, there have been two other 17 yrs old to play in North AMerican pro hockey; Samsonov and Bonk. Maybe this isn't such a great idea afterall.

posted by garfield at 04:25 PM on October 25

As arbitrary as the age restrictions seem to be, this is a dreadful move by the Leafs. If it succeeds, it ruins much of the competitive balance built into the current draft system. What would keep other (rich) teams from signing all of the junior talent to similar deals? The draft would soon be stripped of it's top-tier talent before the early-picking teams had a chance to select. Sure, the Rangers / Red Wings / Maple Leafs would be stocked ten-deep with prospects, but the league would suffer as a result. A better move by Leaf management would have been to argue publicly in favor of an adjustment to the age restrictions on a one-time basis considering this player's considerable talents. Am I wrong? (In case it's not quite evident, I'm still not sure I understand all of this clearly, so that question is one I pose honestly).

posted by 86 at 04:28 PM on October 25

86, I read it the same way: if this is anything more than a PR stunt, it's terribly short-sighted. Yes it could make a bad Leafs team better in the short-run, but it would also be a crack in the entire foundation of the draft, which is one of the main ways ownership keeps salary costs low.

posted by yerfatma at 04:45 PM on October 25

A better move by Leaf management would have been to argue publicly in favor of an adjustment to the age restrictions on a one-time basis considering this player's considerable talents. Am I wrong? Actually, Tavares and his posse were pushing for him to be declared eligible for the 2008 NHL entry draft (I linked above to a piece about it). Enough about his age eligibility, though: I think we can conclusively state that (a) the NHL won't let him be drafted next year, and (b) the AHL won't let him play next year, both because he's too young. So he's back to junior hockey next year. But what happens the year after that? Could an AHL team, like the Marlies, offer him a boatload of cash and say "don't sign with the team that drafts you, skate with us for a couple years until you're free-agent eligible, then sign with the Leafs"?

posted by DrJohnEvans at 06:14 PM on October 25

DrJohn, the "a couple of years" you refer to would actually be quite a long time. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, NHL players are granted unrestricted free agency at the age of 27 or after 7 years in the NHL, whichever comes first. Until that point, his rights would belong to the team that selected him in the NHL Entry draft during the corresponding year.

posted by 86 at 07:26 PM on October 25

Well, this is the deranged rantings of a sad, sad man. I can't see this coming to bear. But incidentally enough, remember there was another player who was never drafted in the NHL. He was 17 - young, gifted and competitive - and didn't want to wait until 18 to see his dreams fulfilled, so he struck out on his own. A free agent, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers in the WHA (which had no age restrictions). Six games later, after 3 goals and 3 assists, he was sold to the Edmonton Oilers. He finished third in the league in scoring and won the rookie of the year. One year later the Oilers joined the NHL. And that then 18 year old boy was Wayne Gretzky. Tune in next week for more Storytime Hockey... Until then, goodnight.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:33 PM on October 25

Ah, good to hear, 86. (Also, thanks for doing the research for me!)

posted by DrJohnEvans at 09:03 PM on October 25

This guy seems to have a plan that will save the Leafs.

posted by NoMich at 07:53 AM on October 27

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