Thursday, June 07, 2007

The eighteen million dollar handshake

In a wonderful bit of timing and just a wee bit of irony, the enigmatic Alexei Yashin once the poster boy for all that troubled the old Ottawa Senators was declared a free agent on Wednesday, the same day that the team that once was his, were declared dead ducks and created a whole new nest of ghosts to chase in the off season.

Yashin, who left Ottawa after a number of acrimonious disputes with the Sens management of the day, was bought out of his generous contract with the Islanders. The decision to part ways amounts to an eighteen million dollar handshake, two thirds of the 24 million left on Yashins astounding 87.5 million dollar ten year contract which was signed back in 200-01, when fiscal sanity among NHL owners apparently wasn’t a priority.

The Islanders are hoping to use their newfound cap room to bring Ryan Smyth back into the orange and blue, as well as re-signing the team’s top scorer Jason Blake.

Yashin never quite achieved the success that had been hoped for him when he changed addresses at the start of the century, playing for a then not particularly good team he seemed to be incapable of lifting them to the top echelon of the NHL east. Though it is pointed out that while he was on Long Island the team did make the playoffs four out of the last five years, but making the playoffs and winning in them are two different things and the Isles never seemed to be a threat in recent history.

With a new coach who seemingly has the team on the right path and a new attitude in the making if Smyth and Blake decide to stay, the baggage of the old Alexei probably became too much for a team looking for a fresh start, so Charles Wang will cut a check and wish his favourite Islander a fond farewell.

Yashin’s agent Mark Gandler, who fought many a battle with Randy Sexton the then Sens GM has said that Yashin, who still lives in Ottawa in the off season would most likely be quite interested in returning to Ottawa. For which there are probably two words in reply from John Muckler's fax machine, slim and none.

It’s an unlikely scenario considering the animosity back in the day and the current state of Yashin - Senator fans relations, (he was booed at every appearance this year, as has been the case since the day he left), but with 18 million in the bank just for leaving town, he’ll probably come pretty cheap.

Somebody in the 30 team NHL is probably going to take one more chance on a player who had so much potential but never seemed to reach the levels of the elite. As he winds down his career, he’s the poster boy for unfulfilled ambitions, perhaps as a soon to be elder statesman he’ll find a role that fits right.

The question for many GM’s is one of whether the risk is worth the potential reward.

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