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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 23, 2009
DAVID KEON: Even though this is Mike's first year as a general manager, he's spent years involved with trade deadlines from the
perspective of an NHL player and player representative.
His Canucks are currently 7-1-0 in their past eight games, climbing to fifth place in the Western Conference playoff race.
Operator, we'll open it up now.
Q. There's many reports out about your contract negotiations and Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. How confident are you that those two players will be on the Canucks next seen?
MIKE GILLIS: We're very confident. We've got a lot of common ground. They want to stay and we want to keep them.
You know, I think for both parties it's really a matter of evaluating where the salary cap is going to go and how we're going to manage the team best and how they can be the most effective players. I'm hopeful and confident we can get them signed.
Q. Because of the uncertainty of the salary cap next year, do you expect it to be a quieter trading deadline?
MIKE GILLIS: I think there are a number of factors that may be playing into a quiet deadline. Every game is like a playoff game we're playing right now. So many teams are so tight that it's difficult to say who's really out of a playoff race.
I know a number of teams are looking at their fan base, and they don't want to make the suggestion that they are giving up on this season by any stretch. In the east there's more separation, but I think really that's the factor.
I also think that, you know, given the uncertainty of the future, (indiscernible) may have been more palatable in the past. It will be interesting to watch it play out.
Q. You've been one of the more active GM's all year. You brought in Shane O' Brien. Can you talk about his contributions to the Canucks?
MIKE GILLIS: Sure. Shane, he's a tough, hard-nosed player. Big player. He came in here and worked really hard with our coaching staff to understand the philosophy and the style of play we wanted to see. He's done very well.
We had a little talk a few weeks ago where he felt he wasn't playing as much as he may have. We have high expectations, and we've tried to raise the bar here. To his credit, he sorted it all out and we're quite pleased with him.
Q. The word coming out the board of governors meeting in Florida was about some of the recession or financial uncertainty and how that might affect the cap down the road. In the time since then, have you changed your plans for how you might spend looking forward to next season and beyond?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, we're constantly trying to evaluate where we're headed. Obviously this is an internal force that may and most likely will affect something in hockey. We're not going to be immune to it.
To make an accurate prediction at this point is pretty challenging. We're trying to speak to as many people as we can to get to give us a broad spectrum as to what they see the economy doing and how it's going to translate down into the hockey.
First, philosophically, we're becoming more aware of what they think is going to happen. We're going to take the next couple months and try and nail it down.
Q. You've seen how other GMs have dealt with players with no-trade clauses. How have you and how might you do things differently in discussions with those players at this time of the season?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, you know, having been on the player's side for a number of years, I know that there is a quid pro quo that goes along with no-trade or no-movement clauses. The players are making a commitment to that city and team for a variety of reasons. There's as price to be paid for that commitment and the security of not moving.
My philosophy has always been not to waive a no-trade clause. If a player comes to us and is dissatisfied or feels they might have a better opportunity elsewhere, obviously we would listen and try to accommodate those wishes.
But I am not going to ask a player to waive a no-trade. If we felt that there was dissatisfaction on the player's part, we would perhaps discuss what his wishes would be. But that would be the extent of it.
Q. Now that you've had the experience so far this year in the general manager's role, how do your feelings, I guess, differ from your role was as a player agent?
MIKE GILLIS: They really don't differ at all. I think that players -- we haven't given out, with my group here, a no-trade clause. If we were to do that, obviously we would have a meeting of the minds as to what that clause would relate to in terms of compensation.
For me, that's a negotiation that you stand by, and that's what I intended to have here. My philosophy really hasn't changed at all. We're not going to ask players to waive the no-trade. I think once they're handed out, you know, the player has given up something significant to get that.
To then turnaround and say, Notwithstanding what you gave up something significant, we want you to waive it with the benefit of us. I think it's somewhat unrealistic, and sometimes unfair.
Q. If you do acquire a player at the deadline you have five weeks. Are you going to debate to the NHL it's is too early or too late in the season?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, when we got Mats Sundin to agree with terms, we were really pleased with the fact that it hasn't gone on any longer. He fit into our group. (Audio interruption.)
You know, I think it's better earlier than later. I think that last year it was even a little bit earlier than this year. For some reason, it was moved back a few days I think based on games being played. They were looking for a date with the fewest games being played around that time frame.
I would work within the rules, whatever they are. But I think a little bit earlier might be better. Might not. I think you have to experience it and find out.
Q. So you kind of see him coming into his own?
MIKE GILLIS: Yeah. He's been really good. He's been quite ill the last week. Obviously the build-up in Toronto and the emotion that went into that build-up and the playing of that game was pretty stressful on him. It was a great opportunity for our young players to see a Hall-of-Fame player being recognized for his consideration.
For our group it was a fantastic even with the way it turned out, the way the Toronto fans and media handled things for the most part.
You know, it was a really growing and learning experience for our young guys. We approached it trying to have fun and have them soak it all in and enjoy it, and I think that's what we got out of it.
Q. (Audio interruption.) A question on your philosophy with signing them guys that have a history of injury trouble, guys that obviously have a high level of talent but are known for missing a lot of potential games. First of all, are you reluctant to sign those guys at all? Secondly, would you be open to having more incentive-laden contracts being allowed by the CBA for guys like that who are more injury prone?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, first of all, those are players currently on other teams, so I can't speak about them specifically.
Generally, I think everyone is hesitant when there's a history of injuries with any particular player. You have to really drill down and evaluate the type of injury and whether it's created long-term detrimental affects that may affect that player moving forward.
Right now in the CBA, we have incentive-laden contracts for players over a certain age. I know it's been debated about whether or not a similar type of injury-related incentive contract should be looked at. Perhaps it should.
I mean, we're seeing very different types of injuries today than we saw twenty and even ten years ago certainly. You know, the debilitating effects of numerous concussions and head-type injuries can be really disaffecting. When I played it was knee injuries that were the most disaffecting injury. I had one when I was 19 and I was never the same player again.
If you look back at the history and the changes that have taken place and the types of injuries in today's game, it might be something to look at. Head injuries are difficult to evaluate at the best of times. You know, it may be an opportunity to allow someone to continue their career and rebuild a career.
Q. Another issue that was brought up was potentially having the ability to trade, along with players and draft picks, to trade cap space. Is that something that you would be in favor of? Say a team could spend up to $5 million or $2 million or $10n million of their cap space in trades.
MIKE GILLIS: Well, I think that a lot of people are afraid about the inability to make changes in your group once you've made a commitment in July and August. To create more flexibility to make changes would probably be a good thing. I just don't know the mechanics of it. I haven't thought about it a whole lot.
I know when you look at this season in particular, and if this trade deadline is quieter than most, there will be have been very few player transactions throughout the course of the season.
I think in hindsight everything becomes clearer. I think there's an opportunity to revisit it if those things happen and suggest some possible modifications to allow more player movement.
I think until you go through it for more than a couple years it's pretty difficult to say that there's one pattern or another.
Last year there were more trades, I believe, than any other time in history. I think based on a little bit wider time frame, perhaps those concepts would be discussed.
Q. Just to be clear, you would ultimately be in favor of in some way, shape, or form having the ability to trade cap space?
MIKE GILLIS: I would be in favor of additional flexibility in terms of making personnel changes. Whether that's being able to trade cap space or some other modification needs to be debated and agreed upon. To be flexible to make changes where you have a dissatisfied player or you have to make changes other than letting a coach go I think might be helpful.
Q. You talked earlier about no-trade clauses. Of course, we know about the no-movement clauses. As this pertains to your ongoing discussions with the Sedins, how much of that is a stickler point in your ongoing contract negotiations, not just no-trade, but no-movement? Are you a fan of those?
MIKE GILLIS: That is a term of a contract. And actually, no, I'm not going to discuss terms of a contract publically while it's being negotiated.
Q. Are you a fan of them or not?
MIKE GILLIS: You know what, I think that that's all part of a negotiation. It depends on what's given up and what's attained. I think they're just another negotiating tool. I think they represent a commitment from both sides. I think it creates much more of a partnership between the player and the organization. I think under those circumstances, depending on the age and term of the contract, I don't disagree with them.
Again, that's a negotiation. Generally it's really the price that gets paid for that type of security.
Q. As far as your hockey team right now, when you look at what you may or may not do at the trade deadline, the fact there's a chance you could lose (indiscernible), are you more apt to do something on the back end as opposed to up front before March 4th?
MIKE GILLIS: You know, I really don't know what's going to come our way. I really can't answer that, because you think you may have designs on what you want to improve in a certain area. Sometimes if you're looking for a defenseman but a really good defensive forward comes into the mix you may go that route.
So I wish I could answer that, but I really can't. I think we're going to approach this trade deadline -- we think we have a good team here. A lot of character here. Our team is playing pretty well right now. Our goaltending is becoming really solid again.
Unless we have an opportunity to do something that we feel is a big improvement, we're probably going to be pretty quiet.
Q. I know you don't want to surrender prospects or draft picks, but are you unlikely to go the (audio interruption) route.
MIKE GILLIS: Again, that really depends on the type of player and what the cost is going to be, you know, the economy factors. There's all sorts of stuff that's going to play into it. At this point, I don't know what we're going to be presented with or asked for. It's almost impossible to answer that. There's a lot of discussion going on. Even in the east right now, that playoff race has tightened right up. You know, it's going to be difficult for teams to make trades. You run the risk of a player coming in and not being what you expected them to be. I'm usually risk adverse, so we'll just see how it comes.
Q. Having said that, you've got some significant cap space to spend. Is it your intention to spend it?
MIKE GILLIS: If we can upgrade. You know, my -- the ownership group here has been completely supportive of everything we wanted to do. We have complete freedom to spend up to the maximum we can spend provided we're making shrewd judgments about our team. We have absolutely no worries about spending to the cap.
Q. Could you cite on example where one of your former clients waived their no-trade clause and had it work out quite well for them? And maybe on the other side, cite an example of one of your former clients who didn't waive their no-trade clause, or did and maybe found the grass wasn't as green on the other side?
MIKE GILLIS: Yeah. I think -- no, actually, I didn't have any clients that waived the no-trade. I had clients who questioned whether a trade was the right thing to do after the fact. I didn't have anybody that was ever asked to waive a no-trade.
Q. Maybe any who had it under consideration and found out where they stayed worked out quite well for them?
MIKE GILLIS: Nope. Nope. Didn't have a circumstance like that either.
Q. The success you've had this month, has that changed any philosophy going into March 4th for you, or has it had no affect at all on how you might have been thinking going into March 4th?
MIKE GILLIS: You know, we're with these guys every day. And as you guys know, we had a lousy month in January for a variety of reasons. We had confidence that this group would rebound and respond.
You know, I felt all along this entire that we were building towards something. I felt that if we got Mats Sundin that may be our biggest trade deadline move we can make. We didn't give up anything. It cost us money, and we brought in a Hall of Fame player into our group.
From my perspective, the pursuit of him was absolutely critical to how we made decisions going forward. The fact that he came to play for us, that made about the biggest change in our philosophy. We now have actually four high-quality center icemen. If you include Demitra we have five.
In our top six forward group, we have four guys that are capable of playing center. It's really changed the dynamic of our team. We control the faceoff circle much more.
So getting him has really solidified our group in my mind. It's presented much less of an impetus to do a whole lot at the trade deadline. So we're going to take the next week and we're going to continue to watch our team play.
Like I said, earlier, if something really good comes our way we'll act on it. If it doesn't, we won't.
Q. You guys have four games before the deadline. Barring an injury, do you have to be careful not to make a hasty decision? Say, Whatever may happen in these next four days, is that something that you have to guard against, I guess?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, we've seen in the last ten games -- you know, we had a really good start, and then some injuries and we had Roberto injured for two months. When we have a healthy team, we've got a good team that we're very confident in.
Obviously if there's a major injury in the next four games we'll have to try and do our best to overcome that and do what we have to do to continue to be competitive.
We're pretty happy with the group we have. I think they're playing very well now. The goaltender is back into the type of form that we expect, and we're confident in our guys.
Q. Heading into the deadline, you referred to the injury situation. You don't really have any right now other than Jannick. There are a number of games and the intensity of the play will probably get higher. Is there any one position that you would like to shore up or you're a bit concerned about the depth if injuries hit that position?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, you know, realistically, I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and you need 30 players to play in today's NHL. You don't seem to get away with a week of being healthy.
So depth is obviously something that's a concern for everybody in this league. We've worked pretty hard at trying to acquire depth from the summer onward. But I think if you look at -- if you can acquire good depth in pretty well any position, obviously you want to get center ice and then goal, so you know, we feel solid.
We've got four NHL quality goaltenders in our system now. Down the middle we've got a lot of depth. On defense we have quite a bit of depth. Really difficult question to answer.
I think if there's a way to improve, you look at a way do it. That's the only way you can do it. I still don't know what we're going to be presented, so it's like asking a question in a vacuum a little bit.
Q. Just a follow up on Jannick Hansen. Have you been giving a prognosis on his recovery from this broken finger?
MIKE GILLIS: We're not sure yet. They're tried a different technique on the splinting thing. We're going to wait for a few days and see how it settles down the line. We'll probably know on Thursday or Friday.
End of FastScripts