News - Don's dumb move

The problem with trading today for tomorrow

The boys in the room are pissed off.

Don Waddell shuffled Donald Audette off to Buffalo for — well, we won't know what he really got for years — and the Thrashers' rank and file are monumentally ticked as their season comes to an official end this week.

Losing is one thing. Watching your general manager trade your leading scorer for a player who may be good down the road is another.

Sure, it sounds good, to build a solid foundation for a two-year-old hockey club by acquiring prospects and draft picks for a player who would have been a free agent at the end of the season. That's the theory. The players are having none of it.

We aren't talking about tender feelings. We are, however, talking about a squad of professional athletes ranging from rookies with varying degrees of potential to veterans savvy enough to know what has really happened here. All of them needed more from their fearless front office leader than the shafting they got on trade day.

Let's take a look at how that happened. Start as far back as last season's trade deadline, when Waddell acquired Audette and Frantisek Kaberle from the L.A. Kings for Kelly Buchberger and Nelson Emerson. Audette's speed was immediately apparent, as was his confidence in his own abilities. If you didn't know how good he could be, all you had to do was ask him. He wasn't obnoxious about it, he simply thought a lot of himself.

That high opinion caused him to hold out two seasons ago when he was with Buffalo, which is why the Sabres were more than happy to trade him to the Kings in the first place. Initially he thrived in L.A., but last season he lost his ice time to Ziggy Palffy. That made him huffy, and that made the Kings willing to trade him to the Thrashers. Questions about the Thrashers signing him to a contract began immediately.

Waddell was cautious. He liked what he was seeing, he just wanted to be certain he'd be seeing more of the same in the future. Audette says that before this season began, he was willing to sign a multiyear deal averaging under $2.5 million a year. Waddell, understandably wanting to see more of Audette's productivity than the final month of the previous season, offered the minimum single-year, $2 million qualifying offer. Which guaranteed that contract issues would dog Audette and Waddell all year.

Thrashers coach Curt Fraser planned to spread his veterans around his lines this season, but early injuries forced him to send Audette out with Ray Ferraro and Andrew Brunette, where they immediately became the only line capable of scoring. Audette's goal total soared and — surprise! — so did his asking price.

Now the number was closer to a yearly average of $2.8 million. Audette was close to signing for that when the Chicago Blackhawks gave Steve Sullivan a three-year, $9 million deal. Sullivan, 26, has nowhere near the track record of the 31-year-old Audette.

Talks broke off until the night before the March 13 trade deadline, when Waddell offered two years at $3 million with two option years at $3.5 million. Audette had said all along that he wanted four years guaranteed, or three and an option for the fourth year. To Audette, Waddell's offer was insincere, since Waddell knew he wouldn't accept it.

Even so, Waddell wasn't planning to trade Audette to Buffalo, mostly because the Sabres weren't budging on the prospect he wanted, forward Kamil Poros. But at one minute before the 3 p.m. deadline, the Sabres agreed to part with him. The Thrashers also got a fourth-round draft pick.

Frankly, it's irrelevant whether Poros will be good in the future. It's irrelevant that the Thrashers aren't playoff bound. It's irrelevant that fans are irate that the team's All-Star is jettisoned.

Nobody wants another overpaid athlete, and Waddell is phobic about not paying a player one penny more than he thinks that player is worth. But the players who are left are worth something, too. They have the right to want to win now.

What has Don Waddell bought with the money he saved by not overpaying — if that's what it would have been — for Audette? A locker room full of angry, dispirited players. I don't call that a good deal.

Bad sign -- The Braves put 12 pitchers on their opening day roster, leaving off the amazing Travis Wilson, who hit .396 this spring while playing just about every position there is. That's not the move of a manager who has a lot of faith in his staff beyond Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Burkett.

"I know I was fouled. Everybody in the gym knows I was fouled. Everybody watching TV knows I was fouled. People in England know I was fouled. If Ray Charles was watching the game, he would know I was fouled." — Lorenzen Wright, on the pivotal foul that wasn't called in the Hawks' 115-112 overtime loss to the Celtics.

This week's law-enforcement pin-up boy -- Cecil Collins, 24, (formerly of the Dolphins, needless to say) draws a 15-year sentence for burglary for breaking into a neighbor's apartment. He says he just wanted to watch her sleep.

Law enforcement honorable mention -- Todd Marinovich, forgotten but not gone, pleads no contest to felony heroin possession. He'll fit in drug treatment around games for the L.A. Avengers of the Arena Football League.??

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