The New York Rangers’ General Manager, Glen Sather, upon explaining the trade of Ryan Callahan for Martin St. Louis, claims the two sides had narrowed the dollar gap, and that what irked him most was the request for a no-trade clause. That struck me as odd, as a further attempt to malign a player just doing what any of us would do, and demonstrated that Sather brings to his managerial style what he displayed on the ice: a contentious, ego-driven, chip on the shoulder, state of mind.
Larry Brooks, discounts the no-trade clause request as the reason for the deal not getting done and describes the request as reasonable. Players who have no-trade clauses often waive it when a trade emerges as desirable to them such as going to a contender or to a home town. It was reported that the two sides were within $200,000 a year, that close to extending Callahan six years. It now appears this was less about money and more about Sather’s ego and reputation as a “brinks man”. He takes heat for signing lengthy contracts to aging stars, particularly when they have skated for another club, such as Wade Redden or Brad Richards, just to name a few. So it was time for him to show how tough he is by again playing hardball with the homegrown talent. This inconsistency should irk the fans.
It is safe to assume that any employed individual will seek to earn as much as
possible within the context of his or her job for as long as possible. It is what
any of us would do. For a professional NHL hockey player, an athlete whose
talents are seen in under 1000 players throughout the world, the window closes quickly on careers and access to dollars the game amasses is limited. Team owners, who have no such career ending pressures and are unquestioned as multi-millionaires and billionaires come together every few years under the guidance of Gary Bettman, to shut down the league, take bigger bites out of what they pay players, players being the only reason anyone watches the sport, and then inconsistently hand out contracts as a result of some emotional competitive spasm. In the case of Sather, given a permanent open window as GM, it is his ego most in play. Before coming to New York, pre-cap, he claimed if he had the team’s money to spend, they would be a perennial group of Stanley Cup winners. Upon his hiring, the team was promptly led to numerous straight years of missing the playoffs. Sather is still trying to overcome this.
I believe Callahan wanted to stay, yet Sather painted him as greedy,
unreasonable with the no-trade demand, and ran a good PR campaign resulting in not only loyal fans doubting the captain, but also potential trade partners becoming wary. So how did Sather do? What did he save the team? What did he do for the future? The concern supposedly was that at the end of a six-year contract Callahan, at 35 years old, would no longer be worth it. So, instead Sather trades for St. Louis, a 38-year-old, and surrenders draft picks in the process. I don’t buy that Callahan’s skills are diminishing,
not still in his twenties, nor that he is injury prone. Virtually all players
have lesser years or incur injury. In Callahan’s case, he gets injured by being
committed to what he is most prized for: blocking shots and doing the dirty
work in front of the net and in the corners. Who will now lead Rick Nash into those areas?
As far as I know when Sather goes, or sends someone, to buy his expensive
cigars, he doesn’t demand the price be lowered. In this exchange, his ego is sufficiently buoyed by paying the high price, and not maligning the cigar assemblers; they apparently deserve every penny with no threat of trading brands. Either way, Sather’s state of mind is a selfish one. The team continues to falter having never made the Stanley Cup finals under his leadership. It is he that exacts too high a return for his services.