This question has come up a few times since our post yesterday regarding the expected (maybe?) hire of Tony Tavares as the interim team president for the Dallas Stars and I thought I'd dedicate a short post to addressing it tonight.
While we haven't heard any official news as of yet, it's expected that the Stars will hire Tavares sometime this week to be the team president through the sale of the Stars. One thing that about this hiring that should be attractive to prospective buyers is that Tavares is also a permanent option once a sale takes place; while any new owner will likely want to institute his own front office, having an infrastructure already in place -- and one that is working -- makes the transition much easier.
We've talked about Tavares' qualifications in running hockey franchises in the south, as well as easing a flustering sports organization through financial turmoil and into a sale, but Dallas Stars fans only really care about one thing the most: will this hiring help the team keep Brad Richards?
Before I give my take, here is what Mike Heika had to say last week on this subject:
If the lenders do hire Tavares, he could certainly be a conduit to Nieuwendyk and an advocate in either making a future investment in a player like Brad Richards (who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season) or a short-term investment in acquiring players between now and Feb. 28.
Remember, the NHL last season allowed the Phoenix Coyotes to make some acquisitions on expiring contracts near the trade deadline, so there is always a way to get wiggle room in these situations.
It's not much, so let me expand upon this.
As it stands right now, the Dallas Stars have not even hinted at starting off negotiations with Brad Richards and his agent on a possible contract extension. With the financials of the team and the organization as a whole stuck in limbo while waiting for a sale to come through, it's impossible for Joe Nieuwendyk to even begin to consider trying to open up talks on signing the star player long term.
Nieuwendyk has already done the most he can with the current roster, gambling by giving back-loaded contracts to several key players who were re-signed over the past year. This allowed the Stars to keep their young talent while also maintaining the strict $45 million budget the team has operated under for at least a year. The problem is that right now Nieuwendyk has no ability to make a commitment to Richards long term and it appears that any significant financial decision will have to not only be approved by the lenders but by the NHL as well.
Besides, right now it's not even a guarantee that Brad Richards will choose to stay. While he loves the area and he's an important piece of this puzzle, he's openly stated several times that he wants to play for a team with stable ownership and the ability to commit to winning a Stanley Cup. Richards thought he had that here in Dallas when he approved the trade back in the spring of 2008, but as we've seen that part of the plan has fallen to pieces in the two years since.
What Tony Tavares represents is structure and permanence. He would be able to take some of the pressure off Joe Nieuwendyk and become the liaison between the team, the NHL and the lenders (owners?) while also working on a short and long-term financial plan for the team. The financial groups that are essentially running the Stars right now appear ready to dig in and wait out the sale and to do so will require several more investments be made to help add to the value of the team.
These lenders -- if they have any brains at all -- must realize that sitting back and allowing the Stars and Nieuwendyk no room to operate will do nothing but continue to drive the value of the franchise down. Re-signing Richards, even having the ability to make a trade at the deadline that would actually add to the team, would go a long ways to making a buyer want to purchase this franchise for at least something close to the asking price.
If the Stars hope to not only have the ability to make a long-term commitment to Richards but to actually make him believe that Dallas is where he wants to stay, then there needs to be some effort to ease this sense of instability that surrounds the franchise. The sale was not supposed to drag out this long and now everything is in flux; hiring Tony Tavares will help bring a calming effect to an organization that certainly appears to be on the rebound now -- new owner or not.
Tavares personally might not have an affect on Richards, but he will have an affect on the lenders and the NHL. That's what matters right now.