July 05, 2009
The 2009 edition of "Free Agent Frenzy" kicked off at 12 p.m. ET on Wednesday and by 12:14 p.m. ET, the hockey world learned, via the Twitter account of Kevin Allen from USA Today, that Mattias Ohlund(notes) had signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Four days after the signing was announced, the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher believes there's something fishy about how quickly the former Canuck and his new club finalized the 7-year, $26 million deal; a deal that has a different dollar amount almost every year of the contract:
"How the hell do you agree to a contract structured so bizarrely 15 minutes into free agency without any tampering going on? How does that work?
Who proposed this deal? Did Ohlund's agent J.P. Barry have this all conceived going in and say to the first team that called: 'This is the asking price,' at which point Tampa simply said 'sold' without the slightest haggling?
Did Tampa get enough time between the hassles in their own ownership to formulate this generous payout and then present it to Barry, who was so bowled over he took it immediately?
Either scenario is about as likely as Darcy Hordichuk(notes) winning the Art Ross trophy next year, and Barry was not returning my calls to explain how this sudden meeting of the minds on such a complicated, unusual deal came to pass in nanoseconds."
The National Hockey League punishes any teams involved in tampering with players under contract through heavy fines and possible loss of draft choices. Players involved don't get off scot free. They could be fined and face a possible suspension if found to be guilty of talking to another team while still under contract.
It is sort of odd that one of the top defenseman on the open market finalized a deal so quickly. Maybe he was just too excited at the prospect of mentoring fellow Swede Victor Hedman? Whatever the case, like Gallagher writes, stuff like that goes on all the time between players, agents, and general managers, but some go about it without causing eyebrows to raise.