Early last hockey season, Brian Burke made a pretty categorical statement: He said that, out of respect for the process of contract negotiation, he’d “never” approach a player about waiving a ‘no-trade’ clause in a contract.
I wasn’t sure at the time why he seemed so reverential to a negotiated term, but there it was. (It was stated in response to a question about the developing maelstrom of interest concerning a possible trade of Tomas Kaberle.)
Fast forward to the present as we’re fielding “up to the minute” Tomas Kaberle trade rumor updates ad nauseum, when Burke comes up with an interesting refinement of ‘principle':
Briefly, he’s denying that he’s handcuffed by Kaberle’s stated preference for a trade only to the Boston Bruins. Here are his exact words: “That’s not accurate, and I wouldn’t accept those terms – that’s not fair to us”. (He said some other dumb stuff in that same vein – that it’s an ‘unacceptable’ demand.)
OK,…,huh? Brian has apparently come a long way from reverence to “fairness”, albeit through some less obvious detours through anything resembling logic. For starters, if Kaberle decides the only place he’d accept as a condition of waiving the clause, what’s Burke going to do – hold his breath? Stamp his feet?
Secondly, how do you have this discussion without “asking” the player to waive the clause? Maybe, Burke being a lawyer, the dodge is that speaking to Kaberle’s agent directly is respecting the letter of his commitment.
I had an initial impression of Burke as a man with principles – the hardscrabble kind borne of NHL bare knuckle negotiating – but principles nonetheless. Turns out, Mr. Burke’s word is as malleable as the shifting array of strategies for getting the rich, but pathetic, hockey club he is trying to bring back from among the living dead. Perhaps starting to keep his word might be a good start on that journey.