The Anaheim Ducks GM didn’t mince words in his first public comments on the US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet the Edmonton Oilers tabled to the 24-year-old forward on Thursday.
Burke said he wasn’t actually angry at the fact there was an offer sheet, but rather the amount of money offered – Penner will go from making $450,000 a season to $4.25 million a year.
“I have no problem with offer sheets, they are part of the CBA,” Burke said on a conference call. “I think it’s a tool certainly a team is entitled to use. My issue here is this is the second time this year in my opinion Edmonton have offered a grossly inflated salary for a player, and it impacts on all 30 teams and I think it’s an act of desperation by a general manager who is fighting to keep his job.”
The way it all came down also bothered Burke.
“I was not notified of this until an agent faxed it into us,” he said. “I thought Kevin would have called me and told me it was coming. I thought that was gutless.”
Oilers spokesman J.J. Hebert said Friday night that Lowe was aware of Burke’s comments but would not respond. Lowe will wait to comment after the Ducks decide whether or not to match.
Burke was also disappointed with the timing of it – Burke was entering the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton, B.C., on Friday night.
“Kevin Lowe has been in Penticton this week,” Burke said. “Tonight is the induction ceremony for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame and I certainly think this could have waited until Monday. I don’t think it shows a lot of respect for the B.C Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I think it’s a classless move timing-wise.”
The Ducks have until next Thursday to either match the offer or accept the compensation – a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a third-round pick.
Burke would not say which way he was leaning.
“That’s a fair question, the only reason I can’t answer that is because I haven’t conferred with my owner yet,” said Burke, who plans to meet with Ducks ownership on Sunday to discuss their options.
Burke said talks with Penner, a restricted free agent, had not really gone anywhere other than to say Anaheim’s offer was nowhere close to Edmonton’s package.
It is the second time in three weeks that the Oilers have gone after a restricted free agent, trying but failing to get forward Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres on July 6. The Sabres matched Edmonton’s $50-million, seven-year offer.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier knows what Burke is going through.
“I still don’t believe that this will be an effective way to acquire players,” Regier told The Canadian Press on Friday. “There will be circumstances where the odd offer sheet will not be matched but I think it’ll be driven because of cap issues.
“But generally, and I may end up being wrong, but I’m in the camp where I don’t thinks this is going to work.”
The Oilers went after the right team. The defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks stand at around $48 million under the $50.3-million salary cap and the Penner signing would push the Ducks over although a team is allowed to be over the salary cap by 10 per cent until Oct. 1.
So Anaheim can match the Penner offer and then figure out later how to get under the cap.
The Ducks would save $6.75 million under the salary cap if defenceman Scott Niedermayer does decide to call it quits and signs his retirement papers. But Anaheim would much rather have its Conn Smythe Trophy winner back in the lineup and find another way to cut payroll. Burke said he hadn’t spoken to Niedermayer recently.
Not counting against Anaheim’s salary cap right now is veteran winger Teemu Selanne, who is an unrestricted free agent. He has yet to decide whether or not he’ll retire and his agent Don Baizley told The Canadian Press on Friday that there was still nothing new on that front. The Finnish Flash has previously said he would only return to the Ducks if he does decide to keep playing. Selanne earned $3.75 million last season.
The six-foot-four, 243-pound Penner, a native of Winkler, Man., had 45 points (29-16) in 82 regular-season games while adding eight points (3-5) in 21 playoff games for the Cup champions in 2006-07. He had seven points (4-3) in 19 regular-season games in his rookie campaign in 2005-06, while also adding nine points (3-6) in 13 playoff games.