by PuckStopsHere on 07/22/09 at 02:44 AM ET
Because of their financial situation, the NHL is running the Phoenix Coyotes. This creates a situation where any Phoenix move can be interpreted in two different ways. It can be interpreted as having been done to suit Phoenix interests and it can be interpreted as trying to suit NHL interests. It is impossible to know for sure how important NHL interests are in Phoenix moves (but conspiracy theorists will maintain that they are quite large). As a case in point, we can look at Phoenix’s recent trade for Radim Vrbata. This trade was made with the Tampa Bay Lightning and cost the Coyotes Todd Fedoruk and David Hale. Vrbata is a player who had success in Phoenix. In 2007/08 he scored 56 points with the Coyotes. This prompted Tampa Bay to offer him a three year contract worth a total of $9 million. Vrbata was not given much of a chance in Tampa before the Lightning gave up on him. They got out of his contract by letting him go to the Czech League to play with Mlada Boleslav BK.
Vrbata is a player that might get top six minutes in Phoenix. He comes at a cheap cost. Todd Fedoruk and David Hale are hardly key parts. Fedoruk is coming off a 13 point season and Hale a nine point season. Both are far enough down in Phoenix’s depth charts that they might not make the team this year.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had decided they wanted no part whatsoever of Radim Vrbata. This is a case of poor management. They never gave him a chance and then decided he was worthless. They are happy with any return in a trade and they are happy to not pay him. The biggest issue for Tampa is probably financial. They are a team in a weak financial situation. They might be the next team to follow Phoenix into bankruptcy. It is not a good sign that it is news that one of the team’s owners (Len Barrie) is able to come up with a letter of credit for $10 million. The finances of stable teams do not get aired in public in that manner.
The other interpretation of this deal is that Tampa Bay is struggling financially. In order to prop them up, the NHL is able to take a salary they don’t want on as a Phoenix Coyote and offer a savings of about $1.3 million on next year’s payroll.
Frankly, both interpretations of this trade make sense to me. It is impossible to know how much the Phoenix moves consider NHL interests before being made. I would like to think that they are being operated as a team that is independent of the league, despite being run by the league. This is the only way that they can act in their own best interests. It is impossible to know to actual situation and, given the NHL’s past dishonesty about the Phoenix financial situation, it is reasonable to imagine that the situation is worse than we would be told in the media.
Every Phoenix Coyote move will be looked at under two lenses. Why is it good for Phoenix and why is it good for the NHL’s interests? When is looks like it might be good for NHL interests, as the Vrbata trade does, that will give evidence to conspiracy theorists. Are these conspiracy theorists onto something, or is it just coincidence?
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