November 3, 2003
How much of player negotiations for you involves selling Edmonton to the players?
Overall, I think the majority of players are happy to play in Edmonton because it's hockey country. When I played in New York, hockey was probably number 4 in the pecking order of major sports. Here, hockey's the number 1 sport in this city. That can be exciting, it can be a challenge and, to some players, it can be difficult. But I think it makes everybody a better player.
Was that your pitch to Ryan Smyth?
My point in the Smyth situation was that there is a price to pay for being in a good hockey city. Economically, you're in a good position being in Alberta. Personal taxes are the lowest in Canada. The cost of living is good. The city is safe. Those things are one side of it; playing for the Oilers is another. Yes, there's a cost to playing for the Oilers, but you can't really put a number on it. Is it five per cent? Is it 10? The point is, if you want to be an Oiler, we have a standard here in terms of what we pay, and what we expect out of our players.
You've expressed frustration about how salary arbitration takes control out of your hands.
Precisely. I don't want to write everything personally, or the average NHL salary to move below $1 million. I just want everybody to take a step back and say, "Holy mackerel, you get chance to play a sport for your livelihood and get paid extreme amounts of money." Appreciate the fact that, in a few years, you can not only set yourself up for life but set up your entire extended family.
Was the Anson Carter trade one of those challenges? You must have known that fans and media would regard it as a salary dump.
Not at all. That was a big shock to me and our management group. The reaction shocked me. It was stronger than when we traded Bill Guerin to Boston. In our minds, the team was going backwards, and we needed to do something. To a certain extent it was financial, but not as much as people think.