In mid-summer Mike Gillis discussed whether or not an aging but highly sought after unrestricted free-agent, the captain of his former club, and a player with a tremendous sense of loyalty to the franchise with whom he spent his career, would fit with the Canucks. Here’s how he put it:
It’s natural that players who have played in one place for a long time have a degree of attachment. But I think we offer a unique opportunity and one that presents some different options. We’re cautiously optimistic.
We knew going into this that a player of [his] calibre wasn’t going to make a decision lightly and it wasn’t going to be based on just compensation — it would be based on a variety of different factors. We have been patient and we are prepared to be patient longer.”
Of course, Mike Gillis wasn’t discussing Shane Doan in that quote. No, that quote is from the summer of 2008 and if Gillis had been courting Doan then, well, it would’ve been tampering. The General Manager’s language four years ago however, should sound eerily familiar to Canucks fans who’ve been paying attention this summer – but in that particular quote Gillis was discussing his drawn out but ultimately successful courtship of one Mats Sundin.
Read on past the jump.
When thinking about Mike Gillis’ tenure as General Manager, the Mats Sundin signing stands apart from the rest of his record. With the exception of that massive 2 year, 20 million dollar offer on July 1st, 2008 – Sundin eventually signed a considerably cheaper one year deal – Mike Gillis has generally been a "conservative operator" as Canucks GM.
Sure, Gillis has taken a few big swings on the trade market (the Keith Ballard and Zack Kassian deals for example), but that "conservative" label is especially true when describing the management team’s contract work. Consider that the Gillis era Canucks have focussed on signing Vancouver’s "homegrown" talent (Luongo, the twins, Kesler, Bieksa) rather than courting big name UFAs. Meanwhile the club’s July 1st signings (Malhotra, Hamhuis and Garrison) have been uniformly inked to deals worth well below market value. That said, with the Canucks still hot in pursuit of Shane Doan, it now appears that the Sundin deal wasn’t much of an "outlier."
The Mats Sundin offer, recklessly tabled prior to the twins or Luongo signing long-term, was a true "all in move." Should the Canucks get the privilege, signing Shane Doan to a long-term deal (think four years, 24 million) even while the NHL and the NHLPA are discussing slashing the salary cap, would certainly fit that mold.
Doan’s situation has dragged on all summer, but the internal logic of CBA uncertainty indicates that his latest "deadline" should be taken seriously. With the Jamison sale still in limbo and new legal hurdles emerging, time is running out on the Coyotes’ attempts to re-sign their captain. One suspects that the Doan derby is crawling towards an imminent climax over the next two weeks, and we should soon find out whether or not Doan’s personal relationship with Laurence Gilman, his ties to the Pacific Northwest and the quality of the wine at the Italian Bistro were decisive in Gillis’ second "long courtship."
Of course, if the Canucks "win" the Doan derby, they’ll also lose it (at least in terms of spending efficiency). There’s no doubting that Shane Doan is a true power-forward, and a rare type of player, but I find it hard to believe that he’ll be worth 5+ million when he’s 38 and 39 years old. That’s the market though, and you’ve got to overpay to land Unrestricted Free Agents with options. Unless that Unrestricted Free Agent decides to take less term and money for no discernible reason, that is.
Though Doan’s hypothetical 35+ contract would carry significant risk, and promises to become an albatross in its last season or two, it’s a risk the "win-now" Canucks are clearly willing to take. In the short-term Doan would undoubtedly bolster the club’s forward group, as Sundin did (a controversial statement, sure). Doan would also bring a "mentorship" aspect that the Canucks clearly find attractive. After all, Mike Gillis and Ryan Kesler have publicly credited Sundin’s off-ice presence, in part, for fostering an environment in which the twins evolved into scoring champions, and Kesler morphed into an offensive threat in the top-six…