Never quite a done deal

JODY VANCE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:07 AM ET

Perhaps I am naive or perhaps I was brought up to be a woman of my word. But I remember a time when a handshake was as good as gold in deal-making.

This world where a deal isn't a deal until the ink hits the paper seems somehow corrupt to me. Somehow, if it's not written in stone it isn't legal. Why isn't your word worth as much as that piece of paper?

One of my favourite Wayne Gretzky stories is how his management deal with Michael Barnett (his agent and best friend) at IMG had no paper at all -- ever. The Great One "shook on it" and millions of dollars changed hands on that alone.

Gold.

Apparently, in today's world of sports deal-making, a handshake means very little and in some cases, even when terms have been agreed to in writing you may not be getting what you bargained for.

For example, this past weekend, when free agent Michael Nylander and his agent Mike Gillis were wheeling and dealing with the Edmonton Oilers, GM Kevin Lowe thought he was well on his way to landing the coveted player. He had a signed agreement from the agent stating that terms were acceptable. All that was needed was pen to paper on the player contract.

Under the assumption that they had their 34-year-old prime UFA all sewn up, Lowe and the Oilers stopped shopping.

Imagine the shock just hours later when word came through public channels Nylander signed long-term with the Washington Capitals. As if Edmonton fans hadn't been through enough.

This is reminiscent of the last Blue Jays' off-season when the club thought they had sewn up Rod Barajas. In fact a two-year deal worth between US$5.5 and $6 million had been inked, all the parties needed was to complete the standard physical.

Barajas, who changed agents on the fly, shocked Jays brass when he cancelled his trip to T.O. to see team doctors and instead voided the deal on the advice of his new rep. He ended up signing on with the Phillies for $2.5 million for one year, while the Jays were left to scramble. Luckily, gamer Greg Zaun wanted to return to the team and a deal was done.

Some might say, "blame goes to the agent" -- I say that's a load of Paris Hilton. The player has final say and the player is only as good as his word.

Jody Vance is a long-time sportscaster and personality with Leafs TV. Her column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours.


Videos

Photos