Player agents reveal negotiating habits of NHL GMs

Kyle Cantlon
NHL Editor
(Getty)

If there’s one subsection of the hockey industry most familiar with the inner-workings and mindsets of NHL general managers, it’s player agents.

Negotiating everything together from contracts, to clauses and everything in between, GMs and agents are intrinsically intertwined — despite often holding polar-opposite objectives, motivations and end-games.

On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Craig Custance published the website’s first ever agent poll, with 22 player representatives weighing in anonymously on various topics. Questioned on things like offer sheets, the Olympics, Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr and common non-trade destinations, the “which NHL GM do you find most reasonable/unreasonable to deal with” yielded particularly juicy results:

Custance clarifies that this question wasn’t intended in any way to make any GM’s look bad, but rather to shed some light on which general managers tend to “dig in” and “not budge” when it comes to negotiations.

“Bob Murray (Ducks). He likes to be prickly,” said one agent.

“Bob Murray or Jeff Gorton (Rangers). Here’s the thing about Gorton, he only goes back when it’s on his terms. But Murray is the worst. He hates agents in general,” said another.

Though Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray takes the top spot here, the Blues’ Doug Armstrong polled a close second.

“Bob Murray comes to mind for me. Doug Armstrong (Blues) maybe early in his career, he was more confrontational. Lately, I’ve had better luck with him. It can be that personalities don’t mix. Doug has been good with me lately, maybe because he’s doing fewer contracts,”an agent said.

“Doug Armstrong. I would just say that he’s very inflexible when he takes a position, and the frustrating part is that no matter how many reasonable arguments you make, he doesn’t seem to listen. With other GMs, they say no but there’s an acknowledgment of your position,” another agent added.

On the other end of the spectrum, the agents’ picks for “most reasonable GM” yielded less concrete results, with several execs receiving multiple votes.

Custance again clarified this one, noting that the “attempt wasn’t to find out which general managers an agent can rip off. Chances are, they weren’t going to answer that question. This was an attempt to find out which GMs were most willing to engage in conversation.”

This one produced much closer results, with nearly half the league’s GMs receiving at least one vote and five receiving multiple nods — suggesting the old-school, hard-line tactics of negotiating may be falling by the wayside in favour of more open-minded, receptive and creative deal-making.

“Ken Holland (Oilers). By far.”

“Jim Nill (Stars) … It’s not like he bends over backward and gives you (what you) want. He’s a pleasant, reasonable guy to deal with.”

“Lou Lamoriello. He’s predictable and logical. It’s not like he’s all over the place. You look at the negotiation and if he says he’s going to do this, that’s what Lou is going to do.”

“Chuck Fletcher (Flyers) is very, very fair. With Chuck, there’s no starting in the basement and working your way up.”

“Kyle Dubas (Maple Leafs). Kyle is smart and he understands that the negotiation is not a competition to beat the agent or beat the player. Kyle worked in the agent business for a while, he sees both sides of it. The vast majority of GMs are pretty reasonable.”

A lot of love for a lot of executives here, but it wasn‘t all roses and sunshine, at least for two of the agents polled.

“That’s a stupid question,” one agent said.

“They’re all difficult to deal with,” added another.

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