You remember former Montreal Canadien's GM Bob Gainey blaming the Tampa Bay Lightning for ruining the Habs season in 2009? For distracting everyone with the Lecavalier-to-Montreal rumors? It would seem that New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather took the same approach last week in a similar fashion, not claiming distraction but a left-at-the-alter lament, while invoking another major name from the Lightning roster.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks reported this morning something that would be unthinkable at current: a hand-shake agreement between the Bolts and the Rangers to trade Steven Stamkos to New York.
By November 2008, a mere five months after the Lightning had drafted the center, former Lightning co-owner Len Barrie had already given up on him. This report follows the short-patience and short-sighted trend with Barrie's involvement with OK Hockey. We can easily run off a list of knee-jerk, impulsive and ill-advised maneuvers with his fingerprints on them: the Dan Boyle trade and the Matt Carle trade are just two examples. Those moves were made either unilaterally or with a signed-off agreement with former co-owner Oren Koules involvement...
Though that's debatable after reading Brooks article and quotes from Sather:
"How close did we come?" Sather asked rhetorically, repeating the question we posed to him as the Rangers practiced in Tampa on Thursday. "We shook hands on it, that's how close.
"I'd been on it since Europe. I had an agreement with Len Barrie. I asked him if he had the authority to make the trade, and he assured me that he did, because he was an owner.
"But the next day, I found out that he didn't. He went to run the deal by [GM] Brian Lawton, who wanted no part of it. As I understood it, the way it was told to me, Barrie was still going to make the deal, but then he was told that he couldn't unless he got the approval of [co-owner] Oren Koules.
"Koules shot it down," said Sather. "That was the end of it."
I won't rehash the drama from the OK Hockey ownership tenure, but this does fill in strokes in the grander picture of issues between Koules and Barrie. The public had long known of issues with the club's former owners, but knowing that either owner had worked unilaterally on deals (or potential deals) hadn't seen much light.
It also explains why, at the 2009 NHL Entry draft, Brian Lawton had to send out a formal memo to all NHL general managers to hammer home the fact that he was the one to approach regarding any type of professional contact with the Lightning organization, not ownership.
Of course, there is the what-if angle with this rumored move. It's all hearsay, speculation and what-could-have-been for New York as much as for Tampa Bay. It also piques the interest of those who were exposed to the past OK Hockey drama. You have to wonder what other surprises will come to light in the coming months and years about the inner workings of the OK Hockey group, and the conflicts within.