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Burke still smarting from Penner deal but can use the picks at trade deadline

It's been six months since the Edmonton Oilers acquired Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks via an offer sheet, but Brian Burke still hasn't let go.

When asked during an NHL conference call Wednesday whether he could complete a deal with Oilers GM Kevin Lowe before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, the Ducks GM didn't hesitate.

"I don't talk to him so it would be hard to make a deal," Burke said. "I guess our right-hand men could make a deal. But no, I have no intention to speak to him so it would be real hard to make a deal. I'm not sure how you would do that."

Penner officially became an Oiler last Aug. 2 after the Ducks - up against the salary cap - decided not to match the US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet Edmonton handed him July 26.

Burke lashed out at Lowe during a July 27 conference call that still resonates.

"I have no problem with offer sheets, they are part of the CBA," Burke said that night. "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 Oilers also made winger Thomas Vanek an offer sheet last July but the Buffalo Sabres matched the $50-million, seven-year deal.

Burke said Wednesday he still feels the same away about it.

"What happened last summer, people have to understand this - I didn't pull an Irishman last summer and just fly off the handle," said Burke. "We got the offer sheet on Thursday and I didn't speak to the media until Friday. My comments were very carefully measured and considered and I stand by them 100 per cent today.

"What Edmonton did last summer was eliminate the second contract in the NHL."

Burke feels the offer sheets to Vanek and Penner - both young restricted free agents coming out of entry-level deals - has affected the way teams are now doing business. Penner went from making $450,000 to $4.25 million.

"You typically have a guy in the entry-level system, he comes out of entry-level and he's got no salary arbitration rights so you still have some control over what he's paid," Burke said. "And then he gets arbitration rights and you hand him the hammer and he's got the hammer for the rest of his career. And that's fine.

"Now we're all paying guys right out of entry-level, we're paying him that third contract right away because one team extended two offer sheets in one summer."

Burke re-signed Ducks star Ryan Getzlaf to a $26.625-million, five-year contract extension in November, a deal that kicks in next season after Getzlaf is done his three-year, entry-level deal. Burke has yet to sign Corey Perry to an extension. He will be a restricted free agent July 1 after completing his entry-level deal.

Lowe did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday. But it's worth repeating that the Oilers were well within their rights in the collective bargaining agreement to put out offer sheets on restricted free agents. It's just something that doesn't happen very often.

The Penner deal, meanwhile, could help Anaheim at the trade deadline. The Ducks received Edmonton's first-, second-, and third-round draft pick in 2008 as compensation. The first-rounder could be a high one depending on how the Oilers finish out the season.

"I've been asked repeatedly over the last couple of days, is the Edmonton pick in play, and the answer is yes," said Burke.

He likely won't deal it for a rental player - a player slated for unrestricted free agency at season's end.

"We think there's seven players in this draft and then there's a drop-off," said Burke. "If it looks like it's going to be a top-seven pick, then it's not going for a rental. It could go in a hockey deal, but it's not going for a rental."

That pick sets the Ducks apart from other contenders because it's higher than the first-round picks those teams would naturally hold.

"If Boston was offering its first-round pick right now, where would that be, 16th or 17th?" Burke said. "Whereas the Edmonton pick ... and again, I'm not putting up bulletin-board material for the Edmonton Oilers, they've managed to win some games, they're playing well despite some real serious injuries and God bless them. But that pick could be a considerably higher pick than 16th or 17th or 18th.

"And that's where I think we have an edge if we're willing to deal that pick for a rental - but if it's high enough I'm not dealing it for a rental."


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