3 Signs Canucks GM Mike Gillis Is Handling the NHL Lockout the Right Way
On November 6, the NHL and the Players' Association resumed formal talks in New York in hopes of reaching an agreement that will end the 2012 lockout.
We still don't know if it will be a few weeks or many months until we'll see our favorite teams back on the ice.
In the meantime, let's take a look at the face of the Vancouver Canucks, President and General Manager Mike Gillis. During a time when teams don't have much opportunity to be frank with their fans, Gillis appears to be doing everything he can to handle this lockout as well as possible.
Here's a look at Gillis' background, and why he's better positioned than most NHL management figures to see all sides in this difficult situation.
1. He's Seen It from All Sides
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Mike Gillis played 246 NHL games over six seasons in his hockey career, with the now-defunct Colorado Rockies and the Boston Bruins. Originally drafted fifth overall, he suffered a series of injuries through his short career and eventually retired in 1984 at age 25 after suffering a badly broken leg during training camp.
During Gillis' playing career, the NHLPA was headed up by Alan Eagleson, who also acted as his agent and his financial advisor—a common situation during those days.
Eagleson was eventually convicted of defrauding and embezzling money from many of his clients, and Gillis successfully sued the titan for pension monies owed to him, as Nancy Macdonald explains in this 2012 story from Macleans.
After his playing days were over, Gillis went to law school and eventually became a player agent. He watched the 1994 and 2004 lockouts from the players' side of the fence and as Nancy Macdonald puts it, "As an agent, the too-clever-by-half lawyer took on the league’s general managers, talking them into the kind of bloated contracts that led directly to (2004-05’s) lockout."
Gillis' past experiences have given him the perspective to continue to support his players from his current position as the Canucks' General Manager.
2. Transparency with the Fans
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Despite the NHL's gag order on its team representatives, Mike Gillis continues to appear weekly on local sports radio in Vancouver, providing whatever updates he can on what's happening inside the Canucks organization.
The main point of interest is the rehabilitation of injured players Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler and Jason Garrison, who were all injured before the lockout began and, as such, are being treated by the team and receiving their salaries as non-locked-out players.
He has also offered insight into the AHL Chicago Wolves' season so far and a little perspective on the CBA talks along the way.
Click here to link to the archive of Gillis' TEAM1040 appearances.
3. Showing Patience with the Roberto Luongo Situation
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We still don't know how the final terms of the new CBA will look in terms of long-term front-loaded contracts like Roberto Luongo's 12 year, $64 million deal. When the NHL and the Players' Association last traded offers, the league had a clause that would see cap hits revert to the team that signed the player if he retires before his contract is complete.
If this clause stays, it creates a new landscape for the Canucks and Luongo. The goaltender's trade value would rise as the acquiring team wouldn't have to assume the risk of his entire long-term cap hit.
However, the Canucks could see the deal affecting their cap management all the way to 2022, when Luongo will be 43 years old. No matter how much the cap goes up in the next decade, a $5.3 million hit will always hurt a team that tries to make the most out of every dollar it spends.
Back in October, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada suggested that this clause could make Luongo a more appealing target for cash-rich teams like Toronto, and possibly even Chicago. Multiple interested parties could ultimately spark a bidding war and improve the Canucks' return for their valuable asset, thus rewarding Gillis for not having accepted the first offer that came along last summer.
Even in this hockey dead zone, all signs indicate that the 2011 General Manager of the Year is doing everything he can to bring the Canucks back strong whenever NHL play resumes.
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