Thursday, August 23, 2007


"Burkie, a brief follow-up if I may..."

Right after the Ducks declined to match the Oilers' offer sheet for Dustin Penner, Tyler posted about the fact that during Brian Burke's embarrassing presser afterwards, he indicated that he didn't think Penner had been eligible for arbitration. Whether he was in fact ignorant of Penner's eligibility -- or just feigning ignorance for unknowable self-serving reasons -- was the subject of much discussion in the comments.

This doesn't prove anything either, but I was certainly surprised to stumble on this Brian Burke quote from spring 2006 (original G&M piece is behind a pay wall):
"Managing a team these days is still about asset management, but the premium now is going to be on drafting well and keeping those draft choices until they get to unrestricted free agency, even if you have to take them to arbitration."

Caveat to note: both Benjamin and I thought Burke was full of crap then, but it was regarding the general "premium" premise, not specifically w.r.t. taking RFAs to arbitration. Not matching the offer sheet is easily defensible; failing to elect arbitration for Penner really isn't. Burke erred.


In hindsight not electing for arbitration was an error, sure, but I guess in Burke's defense:

a) he may have been working for something more than 2 years in duration, in which case arbitration is not the way to go.

b) who really knew that arbitration would get soft this summer (compared to last summer)?

I guess my main point of reference is the Cammaleri award--had Burke been able to anticipate that result I think he certainly takes Penner to arbitration, but there was nothing I saw last summer that suggested that Burke couldn't get a better deal outside of arbitration than in it.

At any rate, I never felt that Burke really made a bad decision until I saw the Cammaleri dollar amount, so it's tough for me to judge him too strongly outside of that context (unless he really didn't know the CBA rules).

I was going to scoff a bit, Earl, at how Gomez and Briere's bodies of work were a lot more substantial than Dustin Penner's, but then I remembered Mike York ($2.85M). So I understand a bit of reluctance. But...

NHL experience & career stats are a big factor in these awards, not just last year's production, and I know of no contract comp for a player coming off his rookie season that could have spooked Burke. However, as you say, clearly he thought he could make a better deal w/o arbitration. Turned out to be a bad guess.

Just because someone files for arbitration, that doesn't mean they actually go to arbitration. Teams and players frequently come to an agreement prior to the actual hearing.

That's why--regardless of how soft arbitration was this summer--Burke clearly dropped the ball.

Besides that, I think that this off-season has taught us that the time to lock-up young players to longer contracts is before they become RFAs. If the free agent period is about to begin, and there are any GMs whose jobs depend on them improving their teams in the immediate term (no matter what the cost), you'd better take them to arbitration.

Just because someone files for arbitration, that doesn't mean they actually go to arbitration.

Sure, but there's not a huge history of teams not filing for arbitration and then losing players because of it, either.

I'm not really arguing--Burke did drop the ball. But I'm not sure that in the same position, I might not have done the same thing. It depends heavily on how you think you can negotiate with Penner (vs. and arbiter), which is tough to speculate on.

Ummm, have you guys seen this?

Arbitration has its risks too and unlike keeping Penner available for an offer sheet, you do not have the option of taking what is behind door number two in terms of compensatory draft picks.

What is inexcusable is failing to match on Penner and then turning around today and signing Kunitz to a monster deal. Sorry, bad call Burke - bad call.

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