Flyers GM hints at wrongdoing in Leafs-Lindros situation
By Al Strachan, SLAM! Sports
NEW YORK -- The Eric Lindros trade talks have moved to another level -- a lower level.
Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke admitted yesterday that he has softened his demands on the Lindros trade front, but at the same time strongly suggested that he suspects the Toronto Maple Leafs of unethical dealings.
Clarke implied that he thinks the Leafs and the Lindros family conspired to create the situation that exists today.
Clarke doesn't include his friend Pat Quinn, the Leafs general manager, in his innuendoes.
"I know Pat wouldn't do anything wrong,"
Clarke said, "but something we can't put our finger on is going on.
"The last time I talked to Pat, I said, 'Pat, from our side, there's something very suspicious. Eric said he wouldn't play in Philadelphia in June, but he never said it was only Toronto. All of a sudden, December comes along and Lindros says, he'll play only in Toronto.'
"I said, 'If you were sitting in my seat, you would wonder what the hell is is going on. Why did this come out of the blue?' "
If Clarke is certain that Quinn is free of complicity, is he saying people above him -- people like Leafs owner Steve Stavro and governor Brian Bellmore -- must have influenced Lindros' stance?
"They might have," Clarke said. "We don't know. But it has pretty much tied our hands totally and I think it has pretty much tied Pat's too."
Whether or not Clarke's suspicions have any merit, he now has retreated from his earlier stance that Lindros must be viewed as a healthy superstar in any trade.
He now concedes that Lindros' health -- his history of concussions -- affects his value. Even so, Clarke said, the price remains high.
"We know that his value isn't the same as it would have been a couple of years ago,"Clarke said. "But we're not going to give him to any team to help them and not help ourselves.
"We're going to get players. We know that we're not going to get full value and there has to be some type of arrangement that if Lindros does get a concussion, then there's something for the other club involved.
"We're not against doing something like that. But we've got to make sure that if you get a player like that and he plays 10 years for you, then we get decent value for him."
When Clarke was in Toronto in November, he insisted that as far as the Flyers were concerned, Lindros was one of the top five players in the game and had to command an appropriate return.
Yesterday he has backed off that stance.
"Lindros is one of the top five players in the game," he said. "If you're going to get that guy, I'm not going to ask for the top player on your team, but we've got to have some guys who are better than the ones we are using.
"We're going to have to put somebody on our team if we trade him. Sure, there are going to have to be some future draft picks because we will take less than what his full value will be. So if he turns out to be perfectly healthy, and plays a long time, then we should have future picks, because he's worth more than one or two players if he's healthy.
"If he isn't, and he gets hurt before a certain length of time," Clarke said, "then the team that gave us the two players should probably get something back from us.
"What we've rejected is what Toronto tried to offer us last summer -- a deal based only on future picks and how many games Lindros plays and how many goals he gets and stuff like that. We rejected it last summer. We're rejecting it now."
Clarke wants decent players now with the promise of draft picks down the road. If Lindros does not stay healthy, then the picks -- and perhaps others -- would be returned.
"There are ways of structuring a deal that offer some safety net for the other team," he said, "but we can't take the whole load. If we just trade him for future picks, then in our opinion, we're taking the whole load. It will never work."
Clarke insisted that none of this matters to the Leafs. After all, the Flyers chairman, "Radio Free" Ed Snider, said last week that he has broken off talks with Toronto.
"If Pat calls me, I'll certainly talk," Clarke said, "but I think Pat knows how Mr. Snider feels."
But no matter what Snider says, Lindros says he'll go only to Toronto.
"I don't think that any of us understands how Eric can pick the team he wants to go to," Clarke said. "When he's 31 and he's a total free agent, if he wants to go to Toronto, then go. But if he picks his team today, then he ties everybody's hands."
And in the meantime, if Lindros doesn't change his mind?
"Then he won't play again," Clarke said.