Connor McDavid’s agent, Jeff Jackson, appeared on the 31 Thoughts Podcast this week and talked about seeing Connor McDavid for the first time, his new deal and what negotiations were like on one of the biggest contracts in NHL history.
On his first time seeing McDavid play
Can you remember the first time you saw Connor McDavid play? I do. He was with the Erie Otters in the season before his draft year and had just spent 60 minutes absolutely destroying the Guelph Storm. It was one of those games where I thought to myself, “holy hell this kid is something else.” Now, imagine what it was like for his future agent to see him when he was even younger.
“I had been tipped off about this kid by Sam Gagner who’s a friend of mine and a client.”
YOU MEAN FORMER OILER
CAPTAIN, SAM GAGNER!? Amazing. Good guy Sam was always getting the work done for us. Once an Oiler, always an Oiler — that kind of thing. Oh, he was actually an Oiler at the time, nevermind then. Go on, Jeff, I apologize for cutting you off.
“I got a call from Sam saying, ‘you gotta find this David O’Connor kid that plays for the Marlies he’s doing stuff that I can’t do and I’ve been in the league for five years’ and he was unreal.”
I loved this part of the interview. Jackson tells the story about a young Connor asking “Mr Gagner” if he could go out on the ice with him to take a spin around. Good guy Gagner obliged and subsequently had his brain melted by a kid that was seven years his junior. I love that. I love the idea of Connor blowing minds through the back of skulls when he was just a fresh faced teen. Amazing. Then what happened?
“I watched one shift and I just kinda turned and said wow this is unreal. He was smaller then, but you could see it. You could watch him (play) on shift and see there’s something special here.”
I can’t imagine what life must have been like to be that good at something at such a young age. You ever see those six-year-old kids that are piano prodigies or something like that? That was Connor McDavid, but with hockey. Curse my shitty genes for making me bad at basically everything. Bah.
“He thinks way above everybody else. He simplifies the game.”
Simplifies the game is probably an understatement. I think Connor McDavid sees the ice like that scene in the Matrix where Neo starts seeing the world in code. Dummies like you and I are seeing in SD while he’s seeing the world broken down into atoms and what not. I mean, I don’t have any proof of that but I can’t disprove it either.
“He’s got some sort of weird GPS and he’s tracking things all the time. It’s like some of the other great players that have played before him, they have their own way of doing it.”
Interesting to hear you describe it as a GPS because I never really thought of it that way. It makes sense, though, if you think about it. I can see some kind of internal computer directing him to where he needs to be and tracking his movements, analyzing it all in real time. I get it. Connor is a robot. Confirmed.
“He thinks the game at a whole different level.”
It’s kinda like when you see those kids at the Arcade playing both Dance Dance Revolution games at once. Amen, Jeff. Amen.
On McDavid’s contract
This past summer, Connor McDavid signed a monster $100 million contract with the Oilers that will keep him in Edmonton for the next eight seasons after this one.
“It’s not hard to figure out that for a player like Connor that the Oilers, and their new arena and the building that’s going on around, that they wanted a long-term commitment for Connor.”
As far as easy plans go, figuring out how to keep Connor McDavid around for the longest amount of time possible was a no brainer and probably one of the easiest decisions ever made. Was there ever any other option?
“If he played out his seven years then he would have been free at 25. It wasn’t brain surgery to figure out that they were going to come and talk to us early.”
So then no. There was no other option. Signing the man was the ONLY option. Give him his money, pour yourself a rum, and call it a day. He’s earned every single penny. So, Jeff, tell us how did the whole deal come about?
“I have a good relationship with both Peter and Bob Nicholson, and when I go to see Connor in Edmonton, I usually stop by to see those guys and chat. One of the times when I was there I said I would like to start talking about Connor.”
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see how excited the Oilers’ brass were when Connor’s agent said he wanted to start talking about a new deal. I imagine their pants tightened substantially in the front. It would have been so interesting to hear those chats.
“We just had conversations over the course of a few months. And then, as we got through the season, and the draft, we started to talk in more concrete terms.”
MONTHS OF TALKING ABOUT CONNOR! These guys are basically living out my dream. Incredible. Though, I assume, at least from the Oilers side, that those conversations involved them repeatedly handing over a blank sheet of paper and saying “whatever you want.”
“They put the offer down and you work off of that. Peter was very realistic.”
For Peter Chiarelli, this had to be one of the easiest contracts he’s ever worked on. I mean, what is there to really negotiate? With a player like Connor McDavid, you have to pay him what he’s worth which is basically the maximum amount allowable under the CBA. I mean, how much back and forth could there have been here?
“There was no silly posturing on either side about let’s go low, or let’s go high. We both kind of knew, I think, where it was going to end up.”
Atta be, Pete. Why bother lowballing the guy when you know he’s the franchise. That would be like me telling Miranda Kerr that she’d live a better life with me than with the billionaire Snapchat guy. She wouldn’t buy it, and I’d feel guilty lying about it.
“The cap system puts a lot of pressure on both the teams and the players, especially the star players.”
Now, some of you might be reading this and saying “what pressure” but let your boy Baggedmilk break it down for you. Not only are these guys expected to carry the franchise on their backs but they’re also pressured into not taking too much money so that they can build a team. And from the NHLPA side of things, they’re probably pressured into taking the max they can get as a means to drive everyone else’s price up. I get it. I’m with you on this one, Jeff.
“People come to watch the star players.”
You don’t have to tell me. I’m just here for the McPoints and have been for a while now.
On McDavid taking a cheaper deal
Back in the summer, it was initially reported that Connor’s contract would have an annual cap hit of around $13.5 million (and he would have been worth every penny, I might add), but then the story changed as news came out that he felt uncomfortable at that number and wanted to shave some dollars off in order to help the team out a little bit. Any truth to that, Jeff?
“It never really was done — it was getting closer to being done. And Connor’s decision, at the end of the day, didn’t really have anything to do with public pressure.”
Ha, check Connor out with his big old balls of steel, not bowing to any outside pressures. The guy is a machine, I tell you, A MACHINE! Pressure? What pressure. Kick rocks, public opinion.
“It was more his internal gauge of where he needed to be in the team structure, in the cap structure.”
I bet McDavid looked at the cap and figured that the Oilers would be borked (worse than normal) if he took as much money as he was allowed to take and probably should have taken. You see, Connor McDavid is a man of the people. He’s a gentleman, a scholar, and an all around handsome young man.
“If you know Connor McDavid, he’s a team-first guy. He was concerned about being able to put a team around him and he was concerned about (his) teammates.”
I don’t know Connor McDavid at all but I do love the idea of him caring for his teammates, and not just in a friendship kind of way either. I’m picturing him bringing the boys homemade chicken soup if they’re feeling sick and putting Tylenol and water beside their beds when they’ve had too much to drink. I kinda assume he’s like Mrs Doubtfire without the crippling pain of divorce forcing him to be something he’s not. Again, I can’t prove any of that stuff to be true but I can’t not prove it either. Think about it.
“But at the end of the day, it was Connor’s decision that he felt comfortable at the number we ended up with and that’s what we did.”
You know who else is comfortable at that number? Me. Why? Because it keeps Connor in town until past my 40th birthday and that’s something to be grateful for. The tricky part, of course, is that the management needs to hold up on their end of the bargain and surround him with players that can compete. If they don’t, they will not only have disappointed fans of the team but they’ll also be disappointing Connor McDavid, and that’s just unacceptable.