Maine Hockey Journal

Penner heading to Oil Country??

Portland, Maine – Brian Burke returned to Anaheim on Sunday to contemplate with ownership, what could be the most important decision he’ll make to date as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last four days, Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, lobbed a fireball in the direction of Orange County, signing power forward Dustin Penner to an offer sheet worth 21.25 million over five years.

Burke has indicated that he doesn’t know when a decision will be made, but regardless of the outcome Burke made it known he wasn’t a happy person with Lowe, someone who is a close friend of Burke – or I should say was a friend of Burke.

Burke referred to his old pal as gutless and classless during a conference call on Friday, which lasted a little more than 15 minutes.

“Kevin Lowe has been in Penticton,” said Burke. “I certainly think this could have waited until Monday. I think it was a classless move, timing-wise. I was not notified of this until Dustin Penner’s agent faxed it in. I would have thought Kevin would have notified me. I thought that was gutless.”

Well Burkie, did you think that Lowe was going to take out a full-page ad? Last time I checked, if a business was going to practice a hostile takeover of another business, (which essentially this is) they don’t call to let you know about it.

Also, what does the British Columbia Hall of Fame have to do with this? Should an NHL team just stop and close shop because another NHL executive is receiving an award? I wouldn’t think so, but that’s why I’m not an NHL general manager.

It’s normal and expected that would be Burke upset with Lowe, but not for the reasons he claim. I’m happy for Brian Burke and his induction into the B.C. Hall of Fame, he deserves all of the accolades, but I could care less when it comes to the in-and-out dealings of the NHL.

Burke was doing little more than his typical grandstanding, trying to rally the troops back in Anaheim. He needs to put on the war paint in order to show the faithful of Anaheim that they are truly upset about this, which I’m sure he was angry, but I doubt to the extent he showed Friday night.

The Ducks’ GM also showed his displeasure with Lowe accusing him of offering not just once, but twice, inflated salaries to players who Burke argues if they are really worth it.

With that said Burke he doesn’t have an issue with group II offer sheets.

“I have no problem with offer sheets. They’re part of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. But in my opinion,” said Burke, “Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it’s an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job. Offer sheets are a part of the CBA and I have no problem with that. If you can identify a player and pay him appropriately and make him an offer, that’s fine. At some point, the deals you make, the offers you extend, whether the team matches it or not, impacts all 30 teams, including your own.”

Burke fired a few salvos of his own toward Lowe saying that he’s a man fighting for his job, but I’m left to ask a few important questions. Isn’t that what a general manager is expected to do? Isn’t it the goal of the general manager to put the best team possible on the ice for his team? Is a general manager not fighting for his job everyday?

Kevin Lowe is not at fault for making the offer; he’s only doing what is at his disposal within the CBA for acquiring players. Fair or not, it’s in the CBA and if Brian Burke is ok with offer sheets, then why be upset at Kevin Lowe for doing the same.

Burke doesn’t like the value of the contract, feeling Penner is being overpaid. Again, what does Burke expect Lowe to do? If he offers a contract that’s fair marker value as Burke put it, then it would be matched in a nanosecond. So then, why even make the offer sheet to begin with. This is an unfortunate result of restricted free agency because a contract will always be over-inflated.

Also, who is to say that Lowe feels like he’s overpaying Penner to play in Edmonton?

Burke signed Bertuzzi to a two-year worth eight million dollars. Bertuzzi is seven years older; he’s never been to a Stanley Cup final, let alone win the Stanley Cup so despite the fact that Bertuzzi’s been in the league 10 years longer, who’s to say who is worth more. Let’s not forget the fact that Todd Bertuzzi has played only 15 regular season games since 2005-06, when a certain incident occurred as well as being plauged by injuries during that timespan.

Penner was seventh in scoring for Anaheim on a team that includes Teemu Selanne, Andy MacDonald, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.

So what does Burke do?

If he matches, he’ll put himself over the 50.3 million dollar salary cap, forcing him to make several moves to get under the cap, of course pending Scott Niedermayer or Teemu Selanne possible retirement.

If he doesn’t match, he’ll receive a first, second and third round draft pick from the Edmonton Oilers as compensation.

It would be a great way to rebuild a depleted farm system after what happen last season in Portland.

“I think from a tactical standpoint, it’s pretty clear form the steps we’ve taken and the unique circumstance we’re in with two marquee players being undecided, we put ourselves in this situation,” said Burke. “We’re aware of that. Did we actually make ourselves a target? We spent hours on that. We felt protecting Scott and Teemu and their decisions and the promises we made to them was paramount. I’m not going to change my position with those two players. I told them they earned the right to take their time with that, and I’m going to stick to that. I haven’t placed a call to Finland (Selanne’s hometown) or Cranbrook (Niedermayer’s hometown).”

What many feel is Burke’s strong point, (character) may actually be the reason why he’s in this mess to begin with. If Burke was a little more forceful with Niedermayer in his decision about retirement, then he might know whether he can match without having to make other adjustments to his team or he could have really been beating down the door with Penner’s agent Steve Kotlowitz, who is ironically from Edmonton, trying to get a deal done.

Only one offer between the two parties was exchanged, which leaves one to question to the motivation to get Penner signed in a timely fashion.

“David McNab (Anaheim Assistant GM) does that for us,” said Burke. “I believe he had one discussion with Dustin’s agent and he said he wanted to wait for a period of time.”

Burke knew Penner was an restricted free agent without any arbitration rights so it can be assumed that Burke was going to low ball him with a take it-or-leave it offer and instead Penner hit the jackpot – or he maybe better put, he struck oil.

While a decision like this will affect all 30 NHL teams, it will have a direct effect on the Ducks AHL affiliate.

For every move the Anaheim Ducks make, it affects the Portland Pirates in multiple ways.

Players who would have been in Portland are now playing for the Ducks because they are cheaper options toward the cap. Player like Drew Miller, Ryan Carter and even Petteri Wirtanen will now have a chance to play in Anaheim next season, especially if Penner’s offer is not matched.

It will make training camp in Anaheim that much more exciting, but nerve wracking as the Ducks attempt to assemble a quality team in Portland, trying to rebound from a disastrous season when they missed the playoff last year.

NOTES: Janet Marie Smith was in Portland last week for the first time since being hired by Cumberland County Commissioners, Civic Center Trustees, Portland City Council and Portland Pirates to come up with a plan for renovation of the 30-year old building that the Pirates currently call home. Smith was the lead architect in the renovations with Fenway Park as well as the construction of Camden Yards in Baltimore, Turner Field and Phillips Arena in Atlanta. She’s expected to have a plan for the all parties involved with in two to three months.

Last week, the Ducks also announce the signing of Dan LaCouture to a one-year, two-way deal worth $495,000. He could be a depth player in Portland, but with the Penner situation, he could very well find himself playing in Anaheim.

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