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An Exclusive Interview with RJ Umberger

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10-27-2003, 05:52 AM
  #1
nazzy
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An Exclusive Interview with RJ Umberger

October 27, 2003 - RJ Umberger came into the past off-season with turning pro in his mind and leaving Ohio State University. As the time progressed, Umberger indeed made up his mind that turning pro would be the best option for him and hired agent Brian Lawton to start negotiations of a contract for Umberger. The days went by and there were no negotiations between the two sides. On August 18th, Umberger's former OSU teammate, Ryan Kesler--who was drafted 23rd overall in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft--received a contract for $825,000 at year plus bonuses.

Talks finally kicked off between Umberger's agent and the Canucks just a few weeks away from rookie camp. But the two sides were far apart and could not settle on a contract. Vancouver's rookie camp went on but there was no contract for the 2003 Hobey Baker finalist. Then training camp went on and the negotiations remained the same with described 'hopeless' by agent Brian Lawton of getting a deal done. To this day, there has been no contract for RJ Umberger. The six-foot-two centre has recently been practising with the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan to stay in game shape until the time comes.

Here's an exclusive interview with RJ Umberger on the real scoop of how the
contract talks have gone and his feelings on various matters:

Q/A Here

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10-27-2003, 06:04 AM
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Can they not just meet half way at 825k? It seems to me that Umberger is holding out because of principal - he's clearly insulted to get offered less than kesler. Although I personally find it to be silly, it would be a shame to lose him.

:moon: (sorry, just had to use the new smiley)

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10-27-2003, 09:29 AM
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Good job Nazzy. I think there has to be more here than meets the eye. Money-wise it is too close not to get done. Either the Canucks are not sold that Umberger is a very good prospect or Umberger is hoping that he can go elsewhere. In the end he is a an asset that shouldn't be just tossed aside. Canucks should be able to get better than the compensatory pick for him.

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10-27-2003, 09:32 AM
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Burke has never had particularly good things to say about Umberger. He is obviously not a valued prospect by Canucks managment. Either that or Burke is really intent on low balling this guy. I really would like to see Umberger in Manitoba at some point this year...

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10-27-2003, 10:11 AM
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Burke gets dissapointed with Umbergers play. His inconsitancy....

Why the hell doesn't he get pissed at Cloutier then?

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10-27-2003, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EnergizerScotty
Burke gets dissapointed with Umbergers play. His inconsitancy....

Why the hell doesn't he get pissed at Cloutier then?
or sopel for that matter

 
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10-27-2003, 10:31 AM
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Ya, or Sopel.

At least Sopel costs the Canucks goals, not games like Dan 'the man' does.

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10-27-2003, 01:14 PM
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RJ must think he's a lot better than he is, and he's obviously pissed Burke off. He says he wants to play but Kestler Wants to play... he's playing... Now it seems that RJ is making it a matter of principle.. and the principle seems to be he's not going to play until 2005, in the minors... learning how to play with the pros... hes 22 now... can you say oops there goes another principle... let's see 2 years at 750k = 1.5 MM, and 2 years of real competition... as opposed to 2 yrs @ 0 and no competition... hmmmm sounds like we got a winner here martha... Does he think that someone is going to offer him 1.3 MM per season just before the CBA expires, after he's been out of hockey for a year? I'm sorry but I'm really confused... someone help me with this 'cause it's not making much sense....

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10-27-2003, 01:22 PM
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As much as I like the way Burke manages this team, I'm not a fan of times like these when he risks losing a player for 50-100k. We could end up losing RJ and getting nothing in return, when we could just sign and trade him.

Same thing with the Scaeffer deal. He ended up signing for 50k more than we were offering...was it worth losing that player for a year? (even though it turned out great in us getting Salo)

I say sign RJ for what he's asking. We need more offensive players in our system.

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10-27-2003, 01:54 PM
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Umberger should just take the money. 1.5 million over two years (estimate) is still a lot more than the average joe earns over 10 years. If he doesn't sign he risks the chance of losing development and never hitting the jackpot. And besides, who says he'll magically get more as a UFA?

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10-27-2003, 01:58 PM
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If the Moose continue to struggle, it could be a smart move to sign Umberger and I wonder if it will create anymore urgency for Burke to sign him. Anyways, thanks for the comments.

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10-27-2003, 02:10 PM
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i think 900k is more than do-able by Burke.

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10-27-2003, 02:17 PM
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anybody know what happens if he doesn't get signed by june?

Does he become a UFA or does he re-enter the draft?

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10-27-2003, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Impossibles
anybody know what happens if he doesn't get signed by june?

Does he become a UFA or does he re-enter the draft?
He becomes a UFA.

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10-27-2003, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by nazzy
He becomes a UFA.

He'll be signed and / or traded long before that happens. There is no way Burke loses a first round pick by letting him walk away. I supsect either Pittsburgh or Columbus will want Umberger 'cause he's a local boy.

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10-27-2003, 02:54 PM
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This sounds rather suspect to me. I think RJ is in a snit about getting less than Kesler, and I imagine his agent tried to put the screws to Burke, and well Burkes not going to let that happen with any unproven rookie. My guess is its more about attitude than $ on both sides. Maybe RJ looks at the Canucks, and see's himself on the farm for years, while the Pens and possibly the Jackets seem more alluring for playing time. That seems messed up though, so who knows. I think any rookie who behaves the way Umberger is over amounts of money that will mean nothing in his overall career, is just being incredibly short sighted.

Peter S was a player I liked, and now I just feel unhappy that he's playing on a decent team. NOT saying that Burke is always right, but the contract he offer PS was decent, and is basically what he got in the long run anyway. Don't like owners who are greedy (TO, Boston, Chi), nor players either.

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10-27-2003, 02:57 PM
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So management has a low opinion of your pro ability ... and rather than play and prove them wrong, in which case you will be on your way to an improved contract at your first renewal, you sit out and prove nothing to nobody.

Matt Cooke is being paid $525 this year; he made $425 last year. He'll have a big increase next contract.

Umbergerer and Sopel might make a nice package ....

 
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10-27-2003, 07:56 PM
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If Umberger is still Canuck property after the deadline I'll be pretty shocked. And the more I read about him, the less I care. Get good value for him and move on, unless he comes to his senses.

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10-28-2003, 02:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobo
So management has a low opinion of your pro ability ... and rather than play and prove them wrong, in which case you will be on your way to an improved contract at your first renewal, you sit out and prove nothing to nobody.

Matt Cooke is being paid $525 this year; he made $425 last year. He'll have a big increase next contract.
Matt Cooke was a 6th rounder, big difference. And Cooke is *still* making peanuts in his *sixth* year as a pro, all because he had to start with a low salary.

If Umberger takes a lowball offer, it will have the similar effect of keeping his salary low for years, costing him millions over that time. He also loses out on his only chance at unrestricted free agency before he's 31.

This is the only time he will have leverage for years, he's smart to use it to his full ability.

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10-28-2003, 03:40 AM
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Burke should have known this was going to happen and after he tried to entice Kesler to come out of college early. What was the sense in that anyway? Kesler had nothing left to learn in college? I was waiting to see if Kesler would develop more of his offensive side in college, but Burke offers Kesler a fat contract to come out of college with the intention of offering RJ less. Burke caused this trouble unnecessarily. He could have just let Kesler stay for another year of college and allowed Umberger to develop further in the minors. If he didn't offer Kesler that contract, Umberger might have been signed. I think Burke has done a good job in a lot of areas... but until I get an adequate explanation, this situation stinks and I wouldn't do any less if I was RJ. This looks to be the simple case of player mismanagement.

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10-28-2003, 06:55 AM
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Various comments re: a few of the above points:

1)At the very least, if Burke can't sign or trade Umberger before next summer, the Canucks receive a compensatory 2nd round pick. While Umberger is a 1st rounder, obviously Canucks management aren't as high on this player as they were when they drafted him. A 2nd rounder in a deep draft may be better than the return they might receive via trade anyways. However, I agree with the overall sentiment here, Umberger will have been traded or signed by next summer most likely.

2)A lot of Moose/Canuck fans think a rookie pro player like Umberger will be the solution to Manitoba's current woes. I disagree. The reason the Moose are slumping is because of the lack of experience many of the young Canuck prospects have in playing AHL brand hockey. They'll get better as the year moves along, but I personally expected a long season for the Moose. Some people forget that other NHL teams have their talented prospects on the farms as well and that many of these opposing teams have superior farm systems to the Canucks. Also, most other AHL teams have more seasoned veterans than the Moose. Whether most of the league veterans are career minor leaguers is irrelevant, they know how to play the minor pro game well and will always be the best players in the AHL. For instance, when Eakins returns, he'll be one of the best Moose players, despite the much higher upside of the younger players.

3)As far as Kesler is concerned, he had some leverage when his agent formulated the contract. Kesler could have played Junior this year and became a free agent. Obviously the agent handled it well enough to not ruffle Burke's feathers (unlike Umberger's agent who had no leverage), and Kesler was signed quickly. Thus the higher offer to Kesler (not to mention he's the more surefire NHL prospect, albeit in a bottom six role).

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10-28-2003, 08:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PecaFan
Matt Cooke was a 6th rounder, big difference. And Cooke is *still* making peanuts in his *sixth* year as a pro, all because he had to start with a low salary.

If Umberger takes a lowball offer, it will have the similar effect of keeping his salary low for years, costing him millions over that time. He also loses out on his only chance at unrestricted free agency before he's 31.

This is the only time he will have leverage for years, he's smart to use it to his full ability.
I would hesitate to call him 'smart'.

Let's see, he took the college route - fine - but that still means he lost some pro years of developing. Now he's looking to sit out the entire year to become a UFA - another pro year lost. And next year may very well be lost to a lockout - potentially another year lost. And from all reports, RJ is at least one year of minor pro hockey away from the NHL. At this rate, he may be in the NHL at 25yrs old.

And I don't see teams offering him a heck of alot more when he is a UFA. A older prospect who just sat out a whole year is gonna be in high demand? And it's not like he's a bluechipper or even close to a sure-fire NHLer. Don't forget, all these teams have their own 1st round draft picks to worry about signing.

Personally, I think RJ is being pigheaded and somewhat silly. To be 'insulted' by Kelser's contract is immature. Sign the deal and prove the organization wrong. If they truly lowball you in the future, then you deal with it in the future - after you've already proven your worth around the league.

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10-28-2003, 09:00 AM
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3)As far as Kesler is concerned, he had some leverage when his agent formulated the contract. Kesler could have played Junior this year and became a free agent. Obviously the agent handled it well enough to not ruffle Burke's feathers (unlike Umberger's agent who had no leverage), and Kesler was signed quickly. Thus the higher offer to Kesler (not to mention he's the more surefire NHL prospect, albeit in a bottom six role).
I had heard that Kesler just had plans to return to college and play another year but Burke and company talked him into considering a different route and playing in the minors instead and that Burke initiated the negotiations with Kesler and his agent. Kesler had said that he hoped to be able to make the team but he wasn't counting on it and fully expected to return to college and lead his team there.l Burke could have done nothing for a year and signed him the next season.

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10-28-2003, 09:07 AM
  #24
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Originally Posted by Matty
I would hesitate to call him 'smart'.

Let's see, he took the college route - fine - but that still means he lost some pro years of developing. Now he's looking to sit out the entire year to become a UFA - another pro year lost. And next year may very well be lost to a lockout - potentially another year lost. And from all reports, RJ is at least one year of minor pro hockey away from the NHL. At this rate, he may be in the NHL at 25yrs old.

And I don't see teams offering him a heck of alot more when he is a UFA. A older prospect who just sat out a whole year is gonna be in high demand? And it's not like he's a bluechipper or even close to a sure-fire NHLer. Don't forget, all these teams have their own 1st round draft picks to worry about signing.

Personally, I think RJ is being pigheaded and somewhat silly. To be 'insulted' by Kelser's contract is immature. Sign the deal and prove the organization wrong. If they truly lowball you in the future, then you deal with it in the future - after you've already proven your worth around the league.
It works both ways really. Down the road, this could be regarded as a pig-headed blunder on Burke's part by wasting yet another prospect and possible tradeable commodity. Why can't Burke just sign him and trade him aferwards? Why waste his potential and thus RJ's value over a relatively small number? I mean, RJ was going to play in the minors anyway so it's not like he had to pay him an NHL salary.

as far as the moose slumping... there are a lot of new faces in the lineup but you never know what kind of impact a player like Umberger would have on the team. We know he can score prolifically in the College level which is a higher levell than juniors so it's possible that RJ could have made a significantly positive impact for the Moose had he played. It's really a shame but right now, Feds and Reid are expected to carry the offensive load and are arguably the only top line talents on the team. I think an infusion of another top line skilled player could very well have made a difference

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10-28-2003, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Waveburner
If Umberger is still Canuck property after the deadline I'll be pretty shocked. And the more I read about him, the less I care. Get good value for him and move on, unless he comes to his senses.

You're ready to blow off a prospect because he seemed upset in an interview about not being signed?

a) He SHOULD be upset -- he needs to play

b) This is a big kid with offensive game. Most prospects don't pan out, but some do. Let's let him have a few pro seasons before we give up on him.

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