The concept of compensating another team for hiring away one of its hockey people with a third-round choice is fine by me, anything but controversial, even in cases when that individual has been fired. Since the team is still paying that employee, fired or not, and whether or not he does some of the scouting or ‘consulting’ work we’re assured he’ll do at the press conference to announce his termination, since the team has an obligation to him, then they should have some rights as well, some benefit to the fact that they’re honouring the contract.
This way, everything is out in the open, with no unseemly business, no tampering and back-channel communications. We all remember the ugly sideshow of, let’s say, Pat Quinn’s departure from the L.A. Kings to assume the Vancouver Canucks GM job, a deal struck while he was still employed by the Kings. There was also the prolonged game of footsie between the Anaheim Ducks’ Brian Burke and his suitor the Maple Leafs. Everyone seemed to know that it was going to happen, and sure enough it did happen, despite the strident denials.
In my mind, Edmonton hiring Peter Chiarelli, or the Sabres hiring Dan Bylsma, they should fork over the compensation, those guys were still under contract, earning a paycheque, despite being relieved of their duties. They’re leaving with a treasure trove of knowledge, of intel, too. A third-rounder is a small price to pay for that.
When the Wings gave other teams permission to talk to Mike Babcock in advance of his contract expiring July 1, I thought it was a smart move. Don’t be vindictive or punctilious, if the man wants to leave, if you don’t want to pay him what he’s demanding, let him. Allow teams to begin negotiations and net that third-rounder when they sign him. Instead of making everyone wait awkwardly until July 1, which does nobody any good.
Sometimes a hockey man will leave when his contract is done, like when Stéphane Waite left the Hawks and joined the Canadiens. A free agent is a free agent.
But in the old boys’ network that is the NHL, when these deals are probably made in one phone call, let’s just get it out in the open, agree that an employee under contract can leave for another team, but a third-rounder will come back the other way. No loopholes, no grey areas, no muss, no fuss.