Much Ado About Nothing

TORONTO (July 21) — As it turns out, Auston Matthews was “signed” all along.

Both Matthews’ agent, Pat Brisson, and Leafs’ tight–lipped general manager, Lou Lamoriello, said today that an agreement with the National Hockey League’s No. 1 draft pick came together quickly upon their first meeting. So much for the hypothetical haggling over bonus clauses in the entry–level contract. This appears to have been a “sure, whatever you want” negotiation on behalf of the Maple Leafs, who understood Brisson and Matthews would settle for nothing less than the maximum–bonus deal provided Connor McDavid last year and virtually all other first–overall selections of recent ilk. The signing wasn’t announced until today because the Leafs must do things differently. As such, the delayed confirmation was couched as the hockey club “needing to get other contract matters” out of the way. Fine. Whatever it takes.

Of course, no contract terms were disclosed by the Blue and White — subterfuge that lasted for as long as it took Brisson to tell The Associated Press that his client received “the maximum salary of $925,000 per year for an entry–level player, and bonuses.” Which is more than Lamoriello, amid the threat of waterboarding, would likely confess to. The bonuses of $2,850,000 could make the final package worth the maximum $3,775,000 allowable under entry–level guidelines. “The agreement took place within, I would say, ten minutes of the first conversation Pat Brisson and I had when we talked about Auston’s contract,” Lamoriello confirmed in a media conference call. Which ostensibly echoed Brisson’s comments to A.P.

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AUSTON MATTHEWS AND PATRIK LAINE (WINNIPEG JETS) ON THE COVER OF THE HOCKEY NEWS.

So, it turns out the Leafs meant business all along and weren’t going to engage Brisson in chicanery. Most hockey agents would turn a deaf–ear and a blind–eye to such a tactic involving the No. 1 pick in the draft — Brisson chief among them. It’s the reason the Los Angeles–based rep has such NHL stars as Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar as part of his stable. It may have also prompted some form of reminder to Lamoriello from Leafs president Brendan Shanahan that the GM’s preference to exclude (or limit) entry–level bonuses would not work in this negotiation. But, perhaps that’s underselling Lamoriello. Though often set in his ways, the 73–year–old couldn’t move forward today without embodying flexibility.

The fact Brisson unveiled components of the Matthews contract to the Associated Press was either the agent being typically cooperative with the media, or an attempt to quickly offset speculation arising from Lamoriello’s unwillingness to comment on such matters. It seemed clear from the outset that Matthews would garner the maximum arrangement for a first–year player. Only a delay in officially announcing the deal sparked the nervous conjecture of the past few weeks. Hypotheses that were completely unfounded.

REMEMBER TINY, PERFECT NADIA?

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To those of a certain vintage, the events of 40 years ago tonight at the Montreal Forum will rekindle spectacularly amid these scrapbook images. On July 21, 1976, a 14–year–old gymnast from Romania became the instant darling — and story — of the lone Summer Olympics to be held in our country. Nadia Comaneci recorded the first scores of ’10’ in her routines at the long–time home of the Montreal Canadiens. So unanticipated was perfection in gymnastics that the numeric device at the Forum could not incorporate a decimal–point after two numbers. It figured that no athlete would surpass a mark of 9.9. When Nadia therefore reeled off her flawless performances, the device read 1.00 instead of 10.0. I remember as a 17–year–old it taking a moment or two for the broadcasters on CBC to recognize what was happening. Obviously, Comaneci’s routines ranked far better than one out of ten. Once it dawned on the crowd that Nadia had gone “off the board’, pandemonium ensued.

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EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

One comment on “Much Ado About Nothing

  1. I was 9 years old that summer. Spent much of it at the lake north of our home. I remember being amazed that the Olympics where happening only a 2 hour drive away. At the end of that summer my brother took me to the CNE for the first time. A little while later the same big brother would take me to see a movie that got little notice. I believe it was called Star Wars or something like that. Magical time!!!

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