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Steve Tambellini's Contract Extension: I Don't Understand the Length

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25:  Edmonton Oilers' General Manager Steve Tambellini speaks during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Edmonton Oilers' General Manager Steve Tambellini speaks during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, when asked about the term of his extension Steve Tambellini simply answered that it was a multi-year deal, leaving fans and the media to speculate on the length. Terry Jones and Jim Matheson are leaning towards the deal being for three seasons and considering how connected those two are I'm inclined to think that they're probably right. When the deal was announced I wrote that "logic would dictate that it can't possibly be for more than two years" so three years is a longer than I would have hoped for or expected.

However, as Jason Gregor pointed out this morning the term likely doesn't matter because "despite signing a multi-year deal ... Tambellini has one season to show improvement or he should be gone." As any regular reader of this site undoubtedly knows by now, I think Tambellini has a snowballs chance in hell of constructing a successful NHL team so I certainly hope Gregor is right but I still think the decision to go with a three year deal is more than a little strange. After the jump I'll explain why.

First and foremost it's simply not justified. The only season under Tambellini in which the team met expectations was 2010/11 when there were supposed to be awful and in fact were. Every other season in which the team's goals were either publicly stated or implied by spending to the cap were failures. So generously speaking (and I'm being very generous here) Tambellini is batting 1 for 4 and this somehow warrants three more years at the man in charge. That makes me wonder what amount of futility wouldn't have warranted a three year extension.

But if the term doesn't really matter why is a three year extension strange? Because (assuming that the contract is guaranteed) Daryl Katz will be paying for those three years regardless of whether Tambellini is the Oilers GM or not. It's not as if other teams would have been beating down Tambellini's door on July 1 looking to lock up the three time draft lottery "winner", his only option if he wanted to be an NHL general manager next season was to stay in Edmonton. If the Oilers had offered a one-year "we'll see how it goes" deal Tambellini would have taken it. Basically the Oilers held all the power in this negotiation and Katz ends up risking two full seasons worth of pay for no good reason. Of course Katz a very rich man and could afford to pay out a thousand year contract for Tambellini but regardless it seems strange to me that he would put his his money at risk like this.

In trying to understand why the Oilers would have given Tambellini a three-year deal the only thing that makes the slightest sense is, as Matheson and Robin Brownlee tweeted, that three years is how long the new coaches contract will likely be. But even that doesn't really make much sense if you think it through. Whomever the Oilers hire as their next coach, he will know that Tambellini is on thin ice and that one more lottery season finish will likely be the end of his tenure as the team's general manager. So why would that coach care if Tambellini is signed to a one, two, or three year deal, it's not as if those extra years for Tambellini provide the coach any additional job security.

In fact I wonder if Tambellini's continued presence as the Oilers GM might not hurt the team in their search for a new coach. Would a marquee candidate be willing to sign on here knowing that it might be a one and done situation or would the opt for a more stable situation where the general manager is a better bet to last beyond the end of next season? The Oilers are hopefully at the stage of the rebuild where the next coach they hire is the man who is able to take this team to the next level, if the Oilers can't land "the guy" does it delay the rebuild at all? Given these questions I still think one more year for both Tambellini and Tom Renney would have made the most sense.

To come back to the original point, the term of the extension probably doesn't matter but that doesn't mean it makes any sense either. I could understand a one or two year deal but not three. Unless Tambellini learned something from his negotiations with Eric Belanger last summer and told Kevin Lowe that he sees what’s happening in year two and three, and he wants to be part of that I can't really understand why this deal would be three years long.