Self-awareness isn’t a particularly common trait in society, but it’s even less prevalent in the world of professional sports. After all, these are grown men playing a child’s game for a ridiculous amount of money and they are paid that handsome sum to believe in their abilities to the fullest.
Perhaps it is a savvy agent’s job to reign those dreams into realistic free agent goals, but sometimes that bravado can land them in athletic unemployment. Marginal former Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja admitted to MLive’s Ansar Khan that he might have dropped the ball when he rejected Detroit’s offer, looking for greener pastures.
The Red Wings offered Lilja a one-year deal for $1 million to return for a sixth season. He continued seeking a better deal on the market. When Detroit signed Ruslan Salei on Aug. 9 to a one-year, $750,000 contract (with another $350,000 in potential bonuses), the door was closed on Lilja’s return.
“We talked for a bit (with Detroit), I don’t think anything really came out of it,” Lilja said. “I was waiting too long myself, or I don’t really know what happened. And then they signed Salei and that window closed. That’s decisions you got to live with.”
“Of course, I regret it (not signing with Detroit),” Lilja said. “Now that we got here yesterday, got into my house — we’ve been here five years, it feels like home. The kids like it here. I think I was looking for something else, I guess.”
I hate to say it, but when injuries limit you to a season in which you play only 20 games and compile just two points, you might want to go ahead and take that $1 million offer.
When it comes to this year’s free agent market, greed might be good, but timing and self-awareness are much better. Lilja and other depth players are finding out the hard way.