Jay Feaster. The man who won the Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The man who dismantled Tampa Bay’s Cup winning team. The man who is now, in a bizarre turn of fate, our GM for the time being. I mentioned in the Darryl Sutter piece yesterday that Jay Feaster is "a largely unknown quantity despite several years as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning" as well as numerous articles written for The Hockey News. And as strange as that may seem, it’s true.
Jay Feaster got his start as the assistant to the president of the Hershey Bears back in 1990, after having worked with the team as a consulting lawyer (his JD is from Georgetown; if nothing else, we know he’s intelligent). Not long after he became the GM for the team (http://flames.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=534055), led them to a few division titles and a Calder Cup in 1997. One year later he’s with the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Assistant GM, working for Jacques Demers and then Rick Dudley on the contractual and legal parts of the business (something Darryl Sutter never had a firm grasp on) until both had departed, leaving Feaster as the GM in February of 2002. And this is where the mystery begins.
Shortly before he took the reins of the Lightning, they traded a fifth round pick to the Florida Panthers for star defenseman Dan Boyle. This would later be found in the dictionary under "robbery". While this was technically during Rick Dudley’s reign, the fact that he was on the hot seat at the time indicates Jay Feaster probably had a not-insignificant hand in the trade. Still, that’s only speculation. What about the trades we know Jay Feaster made?
Jay Feaster made a pretty decent amount of trades in his tenure in Tampa (all trades are from Wikipedia,I may be missing some): two in his first partial season, three in his first full season, four in his second, four in his third, then ten in his fourth, and nine in his fifth (counting the offseason before his resignation). And although he’ll be remembered for the 2 big ones (we’ll get to those in a bit) 99% of them were minor in nature. A typical trade by Jay Feaster was like this: Tampa Bay Lightning acquires Ryan Munce for a 4th round pick for the Kings. What were the exceptions? Well, using players who were and are regular NHLers and 1st round picks to judge, here’s the bigger trades Jay Feaster made:
To TBL: Chris Dingman, Shane Willis
To CAR: Kevin Weekes
To TBL: Darryl Sydor, 4th round pick (Mike Lundin)
To CBJ: Alex Svitov, 3rd round pick (Andrei Plekhanov)
To TBL: Vaclav Prospal
To ANA: 2nd Round Pick (Brendan Mikkelson, bizarrely enough)
To TBL: Marc Denis
To CBJ: Fredrik Modin, Fredrik Norrena
To TBL: Shane O’brien, 3rd round pick (Luca Cunti)
To ANA: Gerald Coleman, 1st round pick (Wild: Colton Gillies)
To PHI: Vaclav Prospal (expiring contract)
To TBL: Alexandre Picard (D), conditional 2nd round pick (converted when PHI made 2008 conference finals) (Richard Panik)
Clearly, in retrospect at least, none of these trades were entirely unfair to the Lightning; if anything, most of them favored the Lightning (Svitov for Sydor especially). But what about the two big trades? The ones Jay Feaster is rightly or wrongly remembered for? Dan Boyle and Brad Richards? Well, it’s not pretty.
If you’ll recall, around 2007-2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning were going through some ownership difficulties, with Palace Sports and Entertainment looking to sell. So in the early spring of 2008 they found a potential buying in OK Hockey LLC, a group run by Oren Koules. OK Hockey’s condition? Active involvement in the trade deadline. Oren Koules- a former hockey player himself wanted to be extremely involved in the team and the transactions. On the 2008 trade deadline, Koules and his partner Len Barrie pushed Jay Feaster to make any trade he could get to get Brad Richards off the pay roll. And so he did, in a trade that saw a few pieces coming back, but with the centerpiece being Mike Smith, who at that point looked to truly be a future #1 goalie. This is an excellent piece on the deal, and how much Feaster hated making it, so I’ll move on to Dan Boyle.
Following the Brad Richards trade, Jay Feaster was free to lock up #1 defenseman Dan Boyle at a pretty affordable six year, $40M contract. Not cheap, but he’s one of the best defenseman in the game. So what happened? Well, OK Hockey stepped in again. In summary, they decided that they didn’t want to pay Boyle, so they forced him to waive his NTC by threatening to waive him and allow the Thrashers to pick him up. At that point, all value is shot, and Feaster took the best deal he could find. And then resigned.
The fact is, Jay Feaster made a lot of minor trades which didn’t really affect the status of the Lightning, a few decent sized trades that went pretty okay, and two terrible trades with a figurative gun to his head. His drafting up until 2008 doesn’t have the greatest record, but that’s nothing new to Flames fans. One thing I’ve heard from Lightning fans is that he restructured the scouting part of the organization prior to that year, allowing them to get better reports and more accuracy, which makes sense for a lawyer who relies on scouts rather than his own eyes.
A lot of criticism towards him is based on his writing for the Hockey News however, particularly this piece. Strangely enough, I can agree with the premise of the article. It’s just that some of the points Feaster goes out of his way to make are so completely unrelated to his actual point (that San Jose doesn’t need more scoring and does need more sandpaper) and in some cases a little bit bizarre.
It’s almost as if he’s selling himself and is trying to show future potential employers that "Hey- I don’t take no crap from quote-unquote star players". And having been given a lot of credit for the first Vincent Lecavalier contract resolution back in the early 2000’s- that may be right. He just has the subtlety of Andre Roy in how he goes about it.
In summary, Jay Feaster is largely coming in as an unknown quantity. He’s clearly very intelligent, and by all accounts, very friendly and open with the media. However some of his trades can be questionable, and at other times he seems almost reluctant to do anything at all. What does this spell for the Flames? Hard to say- but as a stop-gap, I certainly have no problem with Jay Feaster in the GM chair.
On a side-note, though you only see two among the trades I listed, Jay Feaster is clearly a friend of Brian Burke due to the multitude of trades the two had made together. I would not be surprised to see more deals with the Leafs GM. He also speaks very highly of Burke in his writing.