This isn't meant to ruin your Sunday breakfast, but the Buffalo Sabres keep digging their hole deeper and deeper. They can no longer blame the media or the Edmonton Oilers or the collective bargaining agreement for their dizzying week of mismanagement loaded with half-truths and spin control.
Now, an agent, Pat Brisson, is stepping forward with enough gumption to say publicly what people suspected all along, that managing partner Larry Quinn wasn't telling the whole truth last week. Quinn claimed General Manager Darcy Regier called Brisson, who represents Daniel Briere, and never received a return phone call.
"For the record, Darcy Regier did call Pat Brisson in January," Quinn said Friday. "There was no offer back to us about any kind of discount or anything. So I think we ought to make the record clear on that. If there had been and everybody came together and said, 'Let's all chip in,' we would have tried to figure out a way."
According to Brisson, the Sabres never called his office at any point during the season. In fact, he hadn't heard from them since last summer, the day before Briere was awarded a one-year contract worth $5 million. Brisson at the time was pressing the Sabres to sign Briere to a five-year deal worth $25 million, which the Sabres rejected.
"For the record, I had not spoken about a contract extension whatsoever until three days before free agency," Brisson said from Los Angeles. "I did not get a call in January. I'm not taking a shot at Darcy because I do respect Darcy. But to say that we did get a call? We did not get a call."
Brisson was none too thrilled to hear his name dragged through a news conference Friday, when Quinn insisted the call was made. As for the five-year offer for $25 million, Briere still would have accepted it six months ago, even after it became apparent he stood to make much more in the open market.
Briere wanted to stay in Buffalo, as he said all along, and was waiting for the Sabres to make him an offer, as he said all along. Why didn't he inform the Sabres he would have accepted a deal under those terms? Because he figured it would be better to wait until they showed genuine interest.
Instead, they let him dangle.
"Danny wanted to stay there," Brisson said. "Well, I didn't get a call. We didn't speak to anybody. That's OK. That's fine. Each organization can make their own decisions on how they do business. That's fine. We respect that. But to say that, for the record, that I got a call and we never got back to them? That's not true."
I'm not in the business of calling people liars. I don't have access to telephone records to either party. A miscommunication? Perhaps. But even if Regier did place the call and Brisson somehow missed it, the Sabres should have called again rather than assume Briere wasn't interested. It would have been, at the very least, a show of faith in their co-captain.
It makes you wonder whom to believe when you start adding up the events from last week, which also included the Sabres denying they reached an agreement with Chris Drury when sources claimed they did.
You be the judge.
First, answer these questions: Who gains most by manipulating the truth? Who has the bigger agenda?
Briere signed an eight-year contract worth $52 million with the Philadelphia Flyers after realizing the Sabres weren't serious about keeping him. Brisson's business with the Sabres, as far as Briere is concerned, was finished. His concern was clearing his name amid insinuations that he didn't do his job.
The Sabres spent the better part of last week trying to cover their tracks after it became clear they could have kept Briere and Drury for far less money than for what their co-captains signed. Doing so might have helped lower the market for Thomas Vanek before the Sabres were forced into the whopping seven-year deal for $50 million.
Brisson isn't some two-bit agent. He's been around for 11 years and has a good reputation. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, also known as the NHL's most valuable player and the face of the league, rests atop his client list.
"The thing I don't like is [Quinn saying], 'We called Pat Brisson back in January, and there was no offer back to us,' " Brisson said. "I never got a call. How can I negotiate with myself? This should put the record straight."
Brisson's comments don't bode well for the Sabres, who had a bad reputation among players long before Drury and Briere were allowed to walk. It wasn't much better with agents or general managers who had grown tired of dealing with the Sabres. Brisson was merely the first one to publicly speak up.
Nobody whined about the Sabres' business practices last season because they were winning. On the ice, they had the right chemistry. They played an exciting style. Away from the ice, players and agents questioned their strategy for negotiating.
As much as players want their money, they also need to feel wanted by their teams. It's what Briere emphasized on his way out the door.
The Sabres now have a recruiting problem. In April, the Hockey News released a poll of 288 players that showed Buffalo was the last place a player wished to be traded. And that's when the Sabres were cruising toward the Presidents' Trophy. It's not a good sign for Buffalo the team, not a good sign for Buffalo the town.
I'll never forget, on locker-cleanout day in May, Drury questioning whether the Sabres wanted him back. To me, it seemed ludicrous. Who wouldn't want Chris Drury on their team? We now know he had doubts because the Sabres had already stiffed him on the previous deal. Of course, the Sabres say otherwise.
You make the call.