There’s no denying Penguins general manager Ray Shero is damn good at his job. He’s assembled quite a supporting cast for the cornerstone players he inherited when he took over for Craig Patrick in May 2006 (Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby).
But let’s ease up on the credit being given to Shero after Thursday’s early morning surprising trade in which he managed to steal Calgary legend Jarome Iginla for a first-round pick, a soft pack of Winstons and some plywood.
No, it wasn’t Shero’s mastery — which has been displayed in acquiring Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Matt Niskanen and Chris Kunitz for a couple of used needles. It was the complete and utter incompetence of Calgary general manager Jay Feaster, who since taking over the position, has been on a consistent run of franchise-crippling decisions.
Let’s give a little background on Feaster. Sure, he’s a Stanley Cup-winning general manager (Tampa Bay in 2004) but he is on an impressive streak of mind-bogglingly stupid decision-making. Since taking over for Darryl Sutter following the 2010-11 season, Feaster has managed to make people around hockey wonder how he created a Stanley Cup-winning roster in Tampa.
The biggest mistake happened at the end of February. Feaster signed Colorado center Ryan O’Reilly to a two-year offer sheet worth $10 million. For those of you unfamiliar with the workings of NHL contracts, O’Reilly was a restricted free agent. Any team could sign O’Reilly, but Colorado could match the offer and O’Reilly would have been forced to go back to Colorado. If Colorado didn’t match, the Avalanche would receive a first and third-round pick.
Feaster and the Flames decided that O’Reilly was worth the draft picks, but Colorado quickly matched. OK, no big deal. The risk was worth it, right?
Not so fast. Feaster neglected to recognize that O’Reilly played a couple of KHL game after the NHL season was underway. Because O’Reilly wasn’t on the Flames’ reserve list, he would have had to go through waivers in order to join Calgary’s roster. O’Reilly would have certainly been claimed, thus Feaster would have his lost his first-round pick (almost certainly a top-10 pick) as well as his third for nothing.
Feaster was also widely mocked for signing bottom-pairing defenseman Dennis Wideman to a five-year, $26.25 million contract. Additionally, he spent his first-round pick on Mark Jankowski, NHL Central Scouting’s 43-best player, from a Quebec high school that has yet to produce an NHL player.
Iginla shouldn’t have been a Flame this year. Calgary has been downtrodden for a few years, but Feaster refused to recognize the need to rebuild. Had Feaster done the smart thing and tried to trade Iginla at the trade deadline last year, the return would have been much higher.
So yes, Shero was dealing with one of the NHL’s most incompetent general managers when negotiating for Iginla. Shero had shown has wasn’t adverse to overpaying for rental players, sending top prospect Joe Morrow to Dallas for Brenden Morrow and two second-round picks to San Jose for Douglas Murray. For some reason, Feaster failed to recognize that and gave Iginla away when he didn’t have to.
The trade deadline was still six days away and if Iginla, as reported, was only willing to waive his no-movement clause to go Pittsburgh, Feaster could have waited a couple more days and continued using Los Angeles and Boston to drive up the price from Pittsburgh.
Instead, Feaster crumbled under pressure and likely secured his firing at the end of the season.
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