Should Gillis Have Made The Holmgren Offer?

Thomas Drance
July 23 2012 09:32AM

Is it fair to criticize Mike Gillis for not being as bat-shit crazy as Paul Holmgren? I don't really think so, not that it will stop anyone.

Read past the jump.

The stock of Mike Gillis, the team's generally conservative General Manager, has taken a sizable hit over the past six months in the eyes of Vancouver's more emotional hockey fans. That will happen when you trade a young player like Cody Hodgson, a perfect vessel for the hopes and dreams of cultish Canadian hockey fans, then lose in the postseason in five games...

Canucks fans wanted bold moves this summer and instead the club missed out on Justin Schultz, has yet to move Roberto Luongo, is likely to strike out on Shane Doan and now: they're sitting on the sidelines while Philadelphia makes a bold play for Shea Weber, the ultimate object of desire for any true born British Columbian hockey fan.

First of all, it's worth remembering that the Canucks at least explored this particular possibility. As per Elliotte Friedman:

Vancouver's interest was confirmed by Weber's agent, and Laurence Gilman told Brad Zeimer that "it's safe to assume" that the spectre of a Shea Weber offer sheet was "discussed internally" at Rogers Arena.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that the Canucks were aggressive in pursuing every possible recourse that could maybe, just maybe see Shea Weber suit up in green, white and blue. 

But they weren't so aggressive as to lob this particular grenade into David Poile's bunker. Is that stupid? Is it limp-wristed?

Look, all credit to Paul Holmgren, the ballsiest General Manager of the past thirteen months, because the Flyers have put together a package that will be difficult for the Predators to match. The contract they offered Weber requires the team that ultimately ends up with him to pay out 27 million in one calender year, an amount that represents roughly one sixth of the total worth of the Predators franchise.

The Canucks shied away from making a Weber offer sheet, in part because they were certain that the Predators would match. Even though Holmgren did well to make it supremely difficult for the Predators, I'm still pretty confident they will match Philadelphia's offer, and Shea Weber will never suit up for the Flyers.

For all of Paul Holmgren's bluster and balls - admirable qualities no doubt - he's chosen to pursue Shea Weber using a tactic that will almost certainly fail. I thought Canucks fans wanted Shea Weber on their team, I didn't realize that what they actually wanted was Mike Gillis to make a big show of pursuing Shea Weber.

Again, here's the rub: the Canucks considered an offer-sheet for Shea Weber. While they weren't in on trade talks for Weber, I doubt that has anything to do with a lack of effort, and significantly more to do with David Poile's asking price (start the discussion as Ryan Kesler). In the meantime they met with Weber, and considered the offer sheet route internally, but decided against a tactic that the management team, apparently, saw as sure to fail.

To anyone looking at this situation critically earlier this summer, it was apparent that unless Shea Weber wanted out of Nashville at any cost, the Canucks were going to be a long-shot at best to land his services. Ultimately, Shea Weber didn't really want out of Nasvhille (despite his recent comments), and it's quite clear that he prioritized cashing out before the current CBA expires over getting out of dodge. Agreeing to this offer sheet with Philadelphia isn't the "get out of town" move, it's the "I make big money, I drive big cars" maneuver.

Let's get back to Mike Gillis, the man who didn't extend Shea Weber an offer sheet. Simply put, I just don't get criticizing Canucks management for failing to pursue a course of action that (probably) won't succeed. Some people may point to the "one year offer sheet" but seriously that scenario was never going to happen becasue such a deal would've left Weber's long-term financial future exposed to the uncertainty of CBA negotiations. Weber was looking at a situation where he had to either sign now or wait until next summer when his new deal might've been subject to a term limit or worse, that he'd have to remain an RFA because of an extension of "years accrued." The one year offer sheet was a non-starter.

Mike Gillis also didn't manage to orchestrate a trade for Shea Weber, but no one else could either. Poile reportedly was dragging his feet on an offer from the Flyers that would've included three young roster players plus, leading Holmgren to force his hand by signing Weber to this deal. Short of moving Ryan Kesler, the Canucks were never going to be able to compete with a Flyers package on the trade market.

Finally, Mike Gillis didn't make an offer that would closely mirror the one Holmgren made to Weber. Maybe he should have, and certainly there is no denying that the structure of Holmgren's offer is devious and subtly brilliant. For the next few days, Flyers fans will have images of Shea Weber sporting Halloween colours and absolutely wrecking people on Broad Street. The fantasies will be glorious, but then Nashville will (probably) match, those dreams will evaporate, and Holmgren will have simply done David Poile a favour by having locked up his franchise cornerstone long-term (albeit at an exorbitant price).

This is what the anger and criticism being directed towards Mike Gillis over the past few days is actually all about, I think: the death of the Shea Weber fantasy. But if the Canucks were going to make a move to go after an elite, 1A defenseman, I'd prefer them to go about it in a way that actually, you know, lands that blue-chip 1A blueliner! For the Canucks, who didn't have the trade chips to compete with the Rangers, Flyers or Red Wings, the only real hope was that Weber wanted out of Nashville and was committed to doing everything in his power to hit unrestricted free-agency, personal costs be damned. 

It didn't turn out that way and it was never going too. Because the Predators are likely to match this and any Weber offer, I think there's another way of looking at this: the Canucks may have been spoiling their one possible shot at Weber if they'd extended the Sicamous, B.C. native an offer sheet. Based on the way the recruitment of other BC born defenseman like Dan Hamhuis (his rights were traded twice, he still went to July 1st and left money on the table to come to Vancouver) and Jason Garrison (left at least one million per season on the table this summer) played out, the Canucks may have even had an inside track... 

Paul Holmgren's gambit is cunning, and mad, and has a very outside shot of working. If it does, it'll undoubtedly be the best move made by an NHL General Manager since Dean Lombardi somehow (thanks to Holmgren, actually) managed to add two top-line player to a loaded roster for cents on the dollar in the span of ten months. Still, I remain convinced that the Predators will match or else run the risk of becoming the Montreal Expos, and that Holmgren's maneuverings will have been for naught.

For the Canucks, their conservatism on this end makes a good deal of sense to me. I don't like the result, since I think Weber is exactly the type of piece this Canucks team needs to really put the club over the top, but the thought process behind it seems sensible. As a fan, that's all you can really ask for.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Maqywhaq
July 23 2012, 11:14AM
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There seems to be a lot of loud opinionating going on lately, that seem to suggest any option regardless of how ridiculous would've been better than not getting Weber (I'm pretty sure somewhere, someone would've said yes to sending our entire top line for him)...

And seeing the situation as it stands, this IMO really boiled down to what Weber himself wanted to do. If he were entirely dead set on coming to Vancouver, he would've refused to sign any offer sheets, hit UFA and come to Vancouver at a reduced cap hit. Had we sent an offer sheet for anything other than a 1 year deal, we would've shot ourselves in the foot by locking Weber down at Nashville. And I'm pretty sure they still would've matched any 1 year deal(not even sure if that's allowed, but lets pretend it can be done).

IMO, the fans need to consider what they would do in Nashville's shoes. Would you let what is pretty much your last super star slip out of your hands for less than a good pile of pieces in return out of it? Even if it were to completely ruin the relationship between the team and Weber, I would match any offer. I'd even go as far as to bench him for a year while soliciting trade offers for him if things were bad enough, as the alternative of letting him go for 4 first round picks is just idiotic.

Personally, I don't think the canucks balked at the idea of sending 4 first rounders, or even possibly sending a few good roster pieces to make the trade happen, but when it boils down to trading multiple pieces for one, you're ultimately trying to limit the damage while getting something back out of it. Unfortunately, short of effectively blowing up a good chunk of our roster, I doubt we would've managed to put together any deal enticing enough to pry Weber out of Poile's hand...

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#2 Jason
July 23 2012, 03:26PM
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Thomas Drance wrote:

The hypothetical route for Weber to end up in Vancouver went through unrestricted free-agency, not an offer sheet. They'd have shot themselves in the foot by making an offer sheet in my view.

Fewer teams do less with first round picks than the Canucks. I would be less hesitant to make the offer if my scouting department was good and had the ability to unearth late first round gems. 14 years of Weber or 4 lost picks? I'd take the former in a heartbeat for Vancouver, a team with deep pockets but a closing window.

I think once Suter left, everything changed. Weber won't be able to fully control where he goes, but an offer sheet allows him to at least change teams. No question he doesn't want to stay in Nashville now. The Canucks must've known that the Flyers were interested.

The one aspect that I've been trying to find out is if Weber even wanted to be in Vancouver in the first place. If it's a no, then no arguments there.

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#3 Scott McKenzie
July 23 2012, 09:48AM
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Didn't read the post but my answer is yes.

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#4 Jason
July 23 2012, 09:53AM
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Like you, I think Shea Weber is the really big piece Vancouver needs.

However, to NOT extend an offer sheet because Vancouver management somehow thought it was doomed to fail (matched) is crazily conservative.

I can understand if Canucks didn't offer if they didn't want to part with four first round picks. I can understand if the Canucks don't think Weber is not that piece.

I cannot understand simply NOT going for it because there's a "good chance" that the Preds will match. There are no guarantees the Preds will match. If they don't, and there are $110 millions not to match, then Gillis looks even worse.

At some point, you have to go for it. Lombardi did it with Richards and Carter. I think the window for Vancouver's closing and their best chance was in 2011.

What's the harm? If Preds match, the Canucks lose and gain nothing, except maybe a hurt ego. If they don't, the Canucks get the player they covet.

So what if Holmgren's offer sheet fails? Weber stays in Nashville for the rest of his life where he's destined to not win a Cup. Despite the amount of player movement we see players don't change addresses often, and they don't like to. This may be the one time Weber moves in his entire career, and the Canucks don't want the hometown boy simply because they THINK the Preds will probably match?

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#5 Jason
July 23 2012, 09:55AM
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@Jason

I should add that we obviously don't know the whole story in Vancouver, but there has to be another argument to not make an offer sheet beyond this ludicrously lazy reasoning (not you, TD, but Vancouver management).

From what I hear, Philly jumped the gun on the deadline the Preds gave to teams interested in Weber. This isn't out of the ordinary in Philly, especially with Ed Snider.

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#7 Brentals
July 23 2012, 12:23PM
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I think everyone also needs to consider that the Canucks management did discuss an offer sheet directly with Weber/Weber's agent. They may have come to a conclusion that the amount of money it would take to get him to sign and not be matched by the Preds was prohibitive to their salary cap situation, which we know is what keeps Gilman employed. My assumption is that Gilman and Gillis sat down after talking with Weber/agent and crunched the numbers and scenarios.

They probably came to a number that would work, and either suggested it to Weber and were turned down due to Philly's offer; straight up turned down as it was too low; decided the number that was an option for an offer sheet would be too easy a decision for Nashville to match and thus lock him down solid in Nashville, as TD concludes will happen with the Philly offer sheet.

The Canucks would have lost big if they signed an offer sheet as Philly did, as the Preds could and probably would match it thus concluding any possibility of having Weber ever. They figured that if nobody makes the offer sheet, they can get him as a UFA. If someone is crazy enough to do the offer sheet, Nashville will match and then never trade with that GM again due to destroyed relationship (as can happen with these offer sheet situations, they tend to piss GM's/teams off), again having the option at some future point to trade for Weber with Nashville.

If Nashville doesn't match any offer sheet, then they lose their best asset, their fanbase will dwindle, they will be forced to sell/move/bankruptcy. They essentially MUST match any offer sheet that is made for Weber or they have a high percentage of becoming the RIM of the NHL: solid lineup, poor fanbase, slow maturation to new and better product (the 1st rounders they get for Weber), painful decline towards the inevitable end.

Some may find that this decision making shows Gillis as being too conservative. I would like to remind everyone that non-conservative GM's end up with Milbury era Islanders. Conservative GM's end up with Ken Holland era Redwings.

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#8 yobbei
July 23 2012, 12:31PM
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I love kesler. But kesler for weber does not sound too bad to me.

Especially if you have compared Weber to Lidstrom.

I'd do Kesler for Weber for sure.

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#9 John Andress
July 23 2012, 02:44PM
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@yobbei

I am sure that Mike Gillis would too but you misread. It was not Kesler for Weber. It STARTS with Kesler and would go on to include, potentially, Alex Edler, Cory Schneider, young Mr. Jensen and the equally young Mr. Gaunce. There would have had to be Kesler and two or three others plus draft picks. Would you do that? I am glad that Mike Gillis did not. I think that the Canucks have suffered from the beginning with "rightnowitis' and I have no doubt that the fans and the franchise will benefit in the long run from a management that thinks long term rather than today and the next day.

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#10 puck-bandit
July 23 2012, 02:53PM
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Kes for Weber may sound good. What I like, Kes is a Canuck, whereas Weber is all about the money. I would sooner have a player on our team that wants to be part of the Nation, not here for a payday. I don't like him, and think he is more self-centered than Kes is. I would settle for Doan, just because where ever he goes you know he is going to be a team guy.

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#11 Mack
July 23 2012, 03:32PM
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I'm with Drance on this one. The Canucks simply don't have the assets to pull off a trade (have to think Nashville would refuse to trade him anywhere in the west barring massive overpayment), and I believe Nashville would have matched any offersheet longer than a year. Weber is clearly interested in getting paid, so he was never going to do a one year deal. The only realistic course of action to procure Weber was then to wait and hope he settled with Nashville for a year, then snag him on July 1st.

Not very realistic, but there is a slim chance Weber could be available via trade if Nashville matches and the situation then devolves into a Nash-like saga. The offer would have to be pretty damn good to get him (Kesler++) though.

The dream lives, if being on life support can be considered living...

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#12 yobbei
July 23 2012, 08:25PM
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@John Andress

Got it I understand now.

well i think MG is smart not to offer an offer sheet. You just hope that preds would just sign weber to a short-term deal and snatch him through agency...

Now all hope is lost because of stupid Holmgren.

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#13 JDM
July 24 2012, 10:57AM
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Barring a situation where Poile doesn't want to trade within the conference, I don't think the deal necessarily had to be centered around Kesler. Kassian and Jensen are good prospects, as is Connauton, and a package could have been made around a couple of them. Additionally, if I'm Poile, I take Edler and a pick or two as far as a pure hockey trade goes - strong possibility I lose Weber anyway and that trade brings back an all-star top pairing defenseman and futures. So a trade may have been possible.

That said, I'm sure it was explored at least superficially and if it didn't happen there was a reason.

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#14 foobear
July 24 2012, 01:34PM
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good call drance! i wouldn't have been in favor of signing weber to that kind of offer sheet anyway, but i also thought the preds wouldn't match. clearly you know better than i do!

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#16 John Andress
July 24 2012, 02:55PM
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@yobbei

I am a bit confused now myself. On reflection, if the deal was to be a trade for Shea Weber's existing contract (which has one year as a restricted free agent to go on it) it would have required the type of player investment to the Blue Jackets which we discussed. If the deal was to be an offer sheet to an RFA, the compensation would be negotiated with Weber and the compensation to Colombus would have been first round draft picks for four years. Am I right? In either case it is a price that I would have been reluctant to pay. Thankfully we have an astute mind and a steady hand at the tiller and GMMG got it right. Perhaps it is time for all the Gillis detractors to give their heads a shake a realize what an asset we have in Mike Gillis.

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#17 Mantastic
July 24 2012, 04:20PM
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since when was Weber a member of the Blue Jackets? #derp

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#18 John Andress
July 24 2012, 09:50PM
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Mantastic wrote:

since when was Weber a member of the Blue Jackets? #derp

Thank you. You are correct. I said I was confused. I mis-spoke. I should have said Nashville.

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