On one level, BDC, I get what you're saying, and why you're worried. On another though, your concern is indefensible, and I don't choose that word lightly or to provoke you. Let me explain what I mean (warning: Rem-length post to follow ).
As you have assessed what is happening, I wonder if you're yet put yourself in Dundon's place. In case you haven't, consider:
You've just bought a franchise which, other than falling pretty much back-asswards into a Cup a decade ago, has been a chronic underachiever for the vast majority of 25 years under the guy you bought it from. When you took over, the guy in the GM's chair refused to make deadline deals that might have reversed that trend, despite you telling him you'd pony up the cash. So you showed him the door. We can argue about how classily it was done, but former franchise player or not, what matters in Real Business is "What have you done for me lately?" In terms of success at the level of the org where he was charged with producing it (and yes, despite some great draft moves), the answer in Ronnie's case was an unqualified "zilch."
(Digression: Whether Ronnie learned his passive-at-the-deadline approach from JR or not--because it may have been on El Cheapo [PK], JR nonetheless abandoned [or was forced to walk the plank of] the ship that he navigated into mediocrity--at the exact moment he realized PK was serious about selling. We'll never know which [abandoned or plank] for sure, but knowing that PK doesn't have a proactive managerial bone in his body [outside of full-on retreat, i.e., fleeing the franchise's former home in the middle of the night], my money is on JR deciding to get out while the gittin' was good. In other words, before he'd have to answer to a new sheriff, who might actually force him to defend his hare-brained moves. Which, it's turned out, is exactly the kind of sheriff TD happens to be. End of digression.)
So Ronnie is shown the door, and TD doesn't mince words: He's not going pay people just because they're hockey guys. People are going to have to earn their keep. Which is perfectly reasonable, given that neither of the last two GMs--the guys at the top of the hockey operations ladder--had, over the prior decade. Waddell quickly makes it extremely clear that he doesn't want the job, but TD twists his arm into taking it--and lo and behold, DW does a great job, and is nominated as GM of the year.
Now remember, you're looking at things from TD's perspective.
You tell DW: "You have a home here. We'll figure out the contract. If I wanted to fire you, you'd have known a year ago. But if you want to check out other pastures, that is your right and I encourage you to do it." That is how highly successful managers all over the Real Business landscape behave, and TD, like his also-successful-prior-to-sports-ownership buddy, Mark Cuban, is clearly trying to bring that same ethos to an industry sorely in need of it. And he pretty much says so, in just that many words.
So, what's happening now--whether Waddell's ask is too big for TD's liking (doubtful), or DW, as you suggest, is being "allowed" to leave, as the last vestige of the old management group (also doubtful)--really doesn't matter. TD has been very clear from Day One that he is going to run things differently.
So what is happening? Here's my belief.
By staying with the org, DW tacitly accepted TD's approach... and guess what? IT WORKED. But if DW thinks that one year of success should qualify him as GM for life (remember, he's 60 years old), he needs to see that TD is telling him exactly what he told the last guy in the org who tried to parlay a good year into a big contract: "Go ahead, see what else is out there." (I refer, of course, to one Petr Mrazek.)
TD said he'd do things differently, and he is. But he never said he wouldn't pay market rate. Per Luke's (silly little) blog post, that's what the hockey world mocked him as doing, but what he's said all along is that he's not going to pay GMs (or anybody else) like other teams do. That may seem like the same thing (it clearly does to Clueless Luke) but in fact, it's very different. TD is saying, "Just because you're a hockey guy and other owners have all agreed to ask 'how high?' whenever their hockey-guy GM tells them to jump doesn't mean I'm going to."
TD has said any number of times that he intends to spend money on the guys who actually go out and play the games. Luke can call the current Canes front office dysfunctional all he wants--some guys will write anything to get eyeballs in the off-season, and Luke has proved summer in and summer out to be one of them. But just because that earns him his keep with some newspaper company doesn't give him prescience with me. If Luke thinks this Canes FO, which got the team to the dance in its first full year, is so dysfunctional, exactly what the hell would he call the one that preceded it, which failed to do so for eight straight years?
When Real Businesses which have failed chronically are bought, the entire management team is very often let go, and overnight. If the Canes had been behaving more like a Real Business instead of buying into the absolute hokum that "sports is different" over the last decade, PK might still be the owner, and he might have more than one Cup to show for his quarter century in this league. If I were TD, that's sure how I'd look at it, as I think any fresh set of eyes that has been crazy successful in Real Business would.
So he set out to cut through the excuses and BS by telling everyone, "Prove that you deserve to be here." And he has freed everyone--including his goalie, his star of the future, and his heart-and-soul guy (McGinn)--to explore their options. And the result in each of those cases? Right: They came back, and Dundon paid them what the market (or a market mechanism, in McGinn's case) said they are worth, totally debunking the whole "He's not willing to pay market rate" BS that Luke and others, even now, continue to spread.
All of which indicates to me that the DW situation will play out one of three ways:
- The Wild make an offer that TD thinks is fair, he matches it, and we're good to go.
- The Wild hire Guerin (or another), and DW re-ups with a nice raise over what he got last year, but nothing ridiculous. And again, we're good to go.
- The Wild make an offer that TD thinks is unfair, shakes DW's hand and wishes him luck, and elevates the next cowboy up, likely Dudley, to GM.
If scenario three plays out, everybody else moves up a rung, too (just like a Real Business). So Krepelka gets Senior VP Hockey Ops, Yorke is his Junior, and we bring in (or bring up from CLT) someone for the Player Personnel job.
(Digression: I'm not as convinced as others here that Tulsky, a total analytics guy with a BA and 12 years in chemistry, and no sports management credential, isn't best suited to exactly what he's doing, which he also seems to love to no end. Meanwhile, the hockey world is teeming with guys who'd love the player personnel job with this org, given what we've got in the NHL and on the farm.)
I'll say it one last time: TD said he'd run this org like a Real Business, and that's exactly what he's doing. I'm fine with it, because we've got 25 years of PK to prove that his way doesn't work.
(Sorry this was so long. It was lot more fun than what I'm supposed to be doing!)