ELEVATING THE Q.O. DISCUSSIONAgents for Comeau and Hillen explain decision

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5:57 pm – As we reported exclusively last night, Blake Comeau and Jack Hillen declined their Qualifying Offers and remain restricted free agents without much leverage. Some readers wrote off the story as a non-issue, the result of 24/7/365 coverage (you mean like a real major league sports team? Thanks!). Guess we’ll see if this turns out to be much ado about nothing.


Way too easy to jump on Blake and Jack for rejecting their QOs. Yes, I was a bit surprised, but in an attempt to take the conversation deeper and understand the process I reached out today to their agents.


Kurt Overhardt, the agent for Comeau, began our phone conversation by stating that he almost never discusses his client’s contract negotiations in specifics. However, he understood that I was trying to write a balanced business tale, so he took me through the mechanics of passing on QOs not just on behalf of the Islanders forward but for many of his clients over the years.


“The fans should understand that the Qualifying Offer is simply a mechanism,” said Overhardt, based out of Colorado. “It is in place as a way for teams to retain the rights to their young players. It is purely systemic, nothing more than that.


“As agents, we expect teams to negotiate in good faith. The teams have the responsibility of evaluating their players and placing a value on them. What we did by exercising our right to pass on the Q.O. is the norm as much as the exception. I’ve done the same with many players, including Brandon Dubinsky with the Rangers. Again, the player’s agent and the team must negotiate in good faith.”


After Overhardt mentioned “good faith” a second time, I asked him to step away from his policy and speak about Comeau and the Islanders. Do you expect Garth Snow and the Islanders will negotiate in good faith, Kurt?


“I have the utmost confidence they will,” said Overhardt. “Garth and the Islanders have a very competent management team in place. I’ve worked with them plenty before.


“Something you have to remember about the Islanders. They’ve done such a good job of drafting the last few years, they’re going to be faced with a lot of situations like this. That’s a good thing. I’m confident we’ll work out a contract that’s fair for the player and the team.”


Neil Sheehy, Hillen’s agent, was not reluctant to discuss his position in passing on the QO.


“We’ve had discussions with Garth Snow about Jack,” said Sheehy. “Garth is an honorable guy. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to work something out.


“There are two sides to every negotiation. Both sides should have a say. There’s a history of working well with the Islanders, from Jason Blake to Jack Hillen and Kyle Okposo. The key is doing it together. I’m optimistic we’ll work something out.”


ETC: As reported by capgeek.com, forward prospect Trevor Smith signed his qualifying offer.


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