Canucks and Beyond

Mercenary Criticism

12/19/2008 at 2:59pm EST

The announcement of the Mats Sundin deal yesterday seemed to impress the Vancouver media more than the fans. Not that the fans aren’t happy—most seem to be pretty psyched about it, including me despite some reservations about the terms—but I think many are suspicious. Or perhaps just cautious in their optimism.

But still, there’s always New York for a little “reality check”—or perhaps it’s just embittered, revisionist history?—such as that from Larry Brooks in the New York Post today:

IN the end, Mats Sundin made like Woodward and Bernstein following Deep Throat’s advice. He followed the money.

The 37-year-old free agent center followed the money to Vancouver, accepting a pro-rated $10 million deal from the Canucks instead of less than that to live in New York and play for the Rangers New York Rangers .

Sundin followed his wallet instead of his heart. Good for him. Just one more mercenary the way pretty much professional athletes essentially are.

While everyone’s entitled to their opinion—and I’m well-aware that plenty of hockey fans share Brooks’ thoughts—I think this is nonsense.

How exactly did he follow the money?

Let’s see, he was offered $20 million for two years and left it on the table, and eventually settled on $10 million for a one year deal.

So even if he played out the final 50 games—which he won’t—that is pro-rated down to $6,097,550. for the remainder of this season.

And then, if you believe Darren Dreger at TSN, he even knocked down those numbers, settling for about $5 million ultimately. (*Exact dollar figures now updated down below.)

It’s a lot of money, sure, but it’s only 25% of what he could have had if he had only “followed the money” in the first place.

Add to that this final point, also from Dreger:

“Sundin signed in Vancouver because of the fit, the fact no player was forced out to make room for him, and the promise the Canucks intent on being a Stanley Cup contender doesn’t end with him.”

As a commenter, Orst, on my post last night pointed out:

If true, that is pretty generous thinking on Mats’ part, to make sure that no one gets dumped just because he wants to play.

Indeed it is.

And all of this adds up to Larry Brooks’ idea of a mercenary player?

Sounds more like an unimpressed, mercenary journalist looking for a target, if you ask me.

One can criticize Sundin for plenty of things in how he’s handled his decision process in recent months, but I don’t think greed is one of those things. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Update 11:32am PT:

Here are Sundin’s comments from his teleconference today. (*Not really pertinent to this post, but I refuse to make more than one blog entry per day that’s just about Mats Sundin. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad to have the guy around—but the topic is making my freakin’ head hurt.)

Update 12:45pm PT: Jason Botchford at The Province chased down the exact dollar amounts for us. Here they are, via the Canucks Nation blog:

The total cap hit of the deal for the Canucks is $5.625 million and that has been confirmed with the team.

This is how it breaks down:

For his pro-rated salary, Sundin will receive $1.625. Annualized, that is about a $2.6 million salary.

For his signing bonus, Sundin will receive $4 million. The Canucks have confirmed that they have $2.5 million in salary cap space.

The total annualized value of the deal is $8.6 million. That’s $1.4 million less than what Sundin was offered.

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