What Is Fair?

I'm now fairly convinced that Dainius Zubrus (who apparently does not represent himself, contrary to previous belief) will not be a Washington Capital at the outset of the 2007-08 season. You will recall that I made the argument in this space that the team should trade and re-sign their Lithuanian pivot, but even that seems like perhaps a long-shot now, with Zubie's agent uttering the following:
"As long as the Caps are fair to Dainius, he would like to remain in Washington for the rest of his career. He has a lot more value than just what he does on the ice."
This quote tells me two things. First, that Zubrus wants to get paid. When agents say "fair," they mean "overly generous." After all, like Latrell Sprewell, Zubie no doubt has a family to feed. You want fair? See how Zubrus produces centering the third line, then come with your contract demands.

The second thing the quote tells me is that Zubrus recognizes that his numbers alone aren't enough to justify receiving what he's going to demand (hence the "a lot more value than just what he does on the ice.") While it should be noted that I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, it will be the major point of contention in any contract talks with Zubrus. Further, there's only one team in the NHL that has a real clue about this "off-ice value" that Dainius adds, and that's the Caps (do you expect, say, Columbus to pay a premium for the mentoring skills Zubie has shown the team's young Russian stars?). So the Zubrus camp is, in essence, selling a product with a component that really has only one buyer, and they're going to try to hold that buyer hostage as a result. Is that fair?

The bottom line is that you have a player who wants big bucks but knows he's not worth them, so he inflates his overall value via intangibles that few buyers even care about. The problem is that these unquantifiables are where negotiations fall apart and where feelings get hurt.

With just days before the trade deadline, the team needs to take stock of its assets and make some tough calls, and there is none tougher than Zubrus. Hopefully Zubrus's agent is just posturing and the team and it's top center can agree to a truly "fair" deal that helps the team build for the future and the player secure his financial well-being as well. But I am sure that the team will not overpay (much) for a guy they regard as a second- or third-line center, and from the looks of it, Zubie will be seeking first-line money, bolstered by this amorphous "lot more value." I'm obviously not privy to contract negotiations, but it would seem to me that the team would perhaps be wise to ship him out and see what they can get for his decent numbers and all that "off-ice value" he's pushing so hard. If Zubrus is worth what he and his agent seem to think, it should be quite a windfall for the Caps.

UPDATE: According to Tarik:
Zubrus is looking for a long term deal, four to five years. Money-wise, somwhere between 3.5-4. So it's going to come down to his will to compromise.
Obviously those numbers are too high, and if Zubrus doesn't bend significantly, it's unlikely he'll be a Cap come February 28 and probably even less likely he'll be one in 2007-08.

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