Newport Sports is the top hockey player agency in the world, and its office in Mississauga, Ontario, has been the scene of many FBI-like free agent standoffs in recent years.
Brad Richards ran negotiations out of Newport’s office two summers ago.
Last summer, reporters crowded the sidewalk as GMs and other executives filed in to woo Zach Parise.
This week, it was Danny DeKeyser’s turn to bunker down and let his agents work over some of the most esteemed men in hockey and, in the process, commence a week of foreplay that climaxed Friday with the announcement that DeKeyser – as everyone expected – has signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
Which begs many questions:
- Why let the Maple Leafs wine and dine him at the Air Canada Centre earlier this week?
- Why force Nashville head coach Barry Trotz to skip practice with 15 games left and his team struggling for a playoff berth to fly north with Predators brass?
- Why take the calls from Edmonton’s owner, head coach and brightest young defenseman?
- Why allow Flyers owner Ed Snider and his closest hockey advisors to charter a jet to Ontario for a face-to-face meeting?
- Why do any of that if, all along, DeKeyser knew he wanted to be a Red Wing?
Trades and free agent deals are like live coverage of murders the way they play out in the media these days. There’s the initial call or hint something is up. There’s the confirmation that something has happened or is in the works. Then the people who are actually involved shut up while the media stands outside and swirls rumors and analysis while it waits for the blinds to raise and the player to walk out the front door, new contract in pocket.
It’s kind of comical, really.
Still, what took DeKeyser so long?
Like these crime sprees, we likely won’t find out the blow-by-blow recap for a while, if ever. Agents and GMs and players will only talk so much, even after a deal is consummated. After all, they’re always working with the next deal in mind.
Which, to me, probably explains why this took so long.
Don Meehan and Ed Ward and the entire Newport team works for Danny DeKeyser. But they also work for Zach Parise. And dozens of other hockey players at varying stages of their careers and in various contract situations.
There wasn’t much they could negotiate for DeKeyser – the money was the same wherever he signed. And while they could likely negotiate for other things (spot on the roster, depth in the organization, playing time, perhaps even other intangibles), it’s likely DeKeyser’s agents used their fresh faced client for the air time it got them with Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe and Doug Armstrong and a slew of other big fish execs.
“Hey, Doug, while I have you … about that other deal…”
This is not to imply that Meehan or Ward or any other Newport reps acted without integrity. That’s how this business works. And, sure, it’s possible an entirely different reason held this up.
Maybe DeKeyser really wasn’t sure about Detroit. Maybe the nice guy in him wanted to give each of these teams a fair shot. Maybe the fear in him warned to slow down and be cautious with every offer, regardless of how airtight it seemed.
But you can bet this entire thing was orchestrated and played out exactly as the men who represent DeKeyser wanted it. Like a real estate deal or any other negotiation, silence, due diligence and a little gamesmanship – for sport – trump time.
Even if it drives the Twittersphere nuts.