Negotiating – A Long Term Approach

Out of the 69 NHL players that filed for arbitration yesterday, none belong to the Vancouver Canucks.  This has been a positive trend for the organization that continues on due to the negotiating powers of the man now at the helm, Dave Nonis.  Nonis had been tasked with this responsibility since early in the Burke era.  Sure it was Burke that was the voice of the team, but it was always Nonis behind the scenes getting the contracts done. 

There were those that felt it risky, and took a wait and see approach when Nonis brought in Luongo who was eligible for free agency at the end of next year.  But if you look back at his track record, you should have known from the get go that Nonis would find a way to make a long-term deal happen.   

But let’s start at the beginning, this GM and his predecessor typically only brings players to the city that want to be here.  If there is any indication they don’t, or won’t like it, no deal gets done.  But even then, this is big business and a player needs to look out for themselves and their families, so what angle does Nonis use? 

It’s nothing any Manager shouldn’t already know.  Just follow these steps, and you’re almost guaranteed to keep good employees:

  1. Tell them you appreciate their work, and their effort.
  2. Tell them your overall plan for the team, and how you’re going to execute that plan.
  3. Tell them where they fit on the team, and what their contributions will mean to their overall success.
  4. Find out what they are looking for as it relates to term, and talk to them about what terms you’ll need to fit the plan. 
  5. Finally, talk about overall cash and specific details.

The key here is to deal with the agent and player with respect during the entire process.  And don’t start with the money, as a matter of fact, don’t even talk about it until steps 1-4 are completed.  That’s where guys like Mike Keenan get it wrong.  It’s not all about the money, but showing respect.  Even if at the end of it all, a player leaves for more money, you’ve been able to build a great image of treating your players fairly, which will improve your ability to continue to attract good players to your organization down the road. 

Luongo’s agent stated a few days after the trade that dealing with Vancouver was completely opposite than that of Florida.  Should any of us really be surprised when looking at the men in charge?

Look at yesterday’s signing of Georges Laraque in Phoenix.  Kevin Lowe and the Edmonton Oilers stated that fourth line enforcers simply don’t get no-trade clauses and that their offer was probably more than they would have wanted to give.  Do you see the mistake in his approach? 

No one Canuck holds a no trade other than our newest goalie (who is arguably the best goalie in the league) and our Captain, and you don’t see the Canucks fourth line players leaving for this reason. 

Nonis walks them down the first three steps, so that before even getting to the real negotiating of dollars, cents, and no movement clauses, they feel part of it and can already see themselves as a huge contributor on the team.  They’ve bought in, which makes the rest of it easier to manage.

With Pronger having already asked out of Edmonton, and Laraque, Spacek, and Samsonov not coming back, what do you think Lowe’s chances of bringing in some strong talent is now?  It’s so limited they had to trade Pronger for one of the owner’s grandson’s (Lupul) so that they’d at least have some confidence the kid would sign a long-term deal and stay with the team.  I noticed that Lupul didn’t elect for arbitration but three of his new teammates did (Hemsky, Horcoff, Stoll).  As a kid with local connections, like Fernando Pisani, he’ll sign a below market long term deal.

The continual drop in the age of Free Agents in the new NHL is changing the way teams will do business, and it’s the savvy GM’s that have not already burnt their bridges that will find themselves the most success going forward.   

The Chief Canuck

Explore posts in the same categories: Around the NHL, Vancouver Canucks

One Comment on “Negotiating – A Long Term Approach”

  1. JP Says:

    I am sure there have been some issues with Mike Keenan’s negotiation methods, but in this case Luongo was simply being a baby. He thought the Panthers were bluffing, all along, and they weren’t. He asked for some very unreasonable things (like a specific goalie coach, who was even under contract with another club, a specific backup goalie, etc.). There is no way an organization can succumb to such demands, because they can’t do it for everyone.

    There are always bridges that are burnt along the way — it’s the nature of business. However, there has been a steady parade of good players to Florida before Keenan was there and since Keenan has been there. A lot of the time it is about the money, and sometimes even the prospects of winning a championship. It’s no different in Vancouver than it is in Florida. Good riddance to the prima donna, Luongo.

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