Normally, NHL player agents go unnoticed and are out of the spotlight. We don’t know their names, or what exactly they do, but Jay Grossman is an exception to that. Being very active on Twitter and Facebook, he has made himself very accessible to hockey fans by giving information and answering questions. He works for Puck Agency, which maintains clients such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Pekka Rinne, while formerly representing stars such as Ken Dryden and Brian Leetch.
With Free Agent Frenzy right around the corner, I contacted Jay for an interview. Unfortunately, he was unable to comment on certain players that are not clients, but he still gave me some great information for my other questions. I would like to thank him for taking the time to conduct this interview, which is posted below:
GC: Veterans Alexei Kovalev (37) and Teemu Selanne (40) are free agents this summer. Do you think they will be returning, and if so, with whom?
JG: I can’t speak for those two, though they’ve both had great NHL careers, especially Teemu, but it is increasingly harder in this [Collective Bargaining Agreement] for players over the age of 35. Since those contracts count against the cap (regardless of circumstances I.e. injury, retirement etc.), it is hard for the salaries of those players to remain the same, not even to mention some time deserved increases. One thing I think needs to be addressed by the union in the upcoming CBA is greater protection for veteran players. In most unions, the people who have “paid their dues”, so to speak, get (and should get) their just rewards.
GC: What are your thoughts on the Atlanta Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg? What name do you think they will choose?
JG: I believe it’s unfortunate the league had to abandon Atlanta, as I think it can be a successful hockey market. Having said that, there is a ripe opportunity in Canada with the strength of the economy and tremendous interest in the game for the NHL to move a few more teams into places like Quebec, and a second team in Southern Ontario. The difficulty is in predicting the economic viability of these teams down the road, and avoiding a constant do-over in markets where the issues are temporary. I also believe the NHL has a great opportunity to expand into central Europe, taking it a step further, much like the NBA has done in China and MLB in Asia, Latin America, etc.
GC: Working as a player agent, how hectic is July 1st normally for you?
JG: Every year is different depending on the circumstances and which players are in what position. Certainly, not every year is like the last one with Ilya Kovalchuk going all the way out to completion on September 3rd! But, July 1st can be an exciting day, particularly as part of my job is to anticipate the state of the marketplace and proper fit for my client which I have discussed with him as the year progresses. When that materializes properly, as it did for us last year with Kovalchuk, Pekka Rinne, and Anton Volchenkov, there is a definite satisfaction.
GC: When one of your clients is about to get signed, describe the process the two of you have to go through in order to finalize the deal.
JG: Of course, that has changed over the years with jammed faxes close to midnight and the like. Now the process is more streamlined with e-mail signed contracts and scanners. Essentially, the club is responsible for printing the contract, we review it for any changes and then the player must sign and a mutually executed copy from the GM and the NHL is returned.