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Ducks decline offer sheet, Dustin Penner signs with Edmonton

After adding forward Dustin Penner to his lineup Thursday, he thinks he's done his job. Penner officially became a member of the Oilers when the Anaheim Ducks declined to match a US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet.

Even though some like Ducks GM Brian Burke questioned the move, Lowe didn't see the need to make any apologies.

"There's almost some insinuation from managers that because we're friends we shouldn't be doing this to one another," he said on a conference call. "I think our responsibility is not to one another, but is to our fan base and our ownership."

Penner is the first restricted free agent to find a new home via offer sheet in a decade. Tampa Bay declined to match a Philadelphia offer to Chris Gratton in 1997.

When the Oilers tendered the offer to Penner last week, Burke lashed out at Lowe and called it "an act of desperation" by a GM "fighting to keep his job."

He wasn't feeling any better about it on Thursday.

"We do not believe these salaries make sense," said Burke. "If I think they don't make sense and I match them then I'm just as dumb as the team that extended the offer."

Burke claims not to have a problem with offer sheets being part of the collective bargaining agreement. He's just worried that this contract will inflate those of other players down the road.

The Ducks will receive a first-, second-, and third-round draft pick in 2008 as compensation.

"We're going to take three draft picks back and given Kevin's recent performance, I expect them to be excellent picks," said Burke.

The two general managers seemed to take this personally.

Lowe won't be picking up the phone and talking to Burke anytime soon.

"I have not (called him) and I don't plan on it," he said. "I'm not in the business of trying to make friends. Never have, never will be."

Said Burke: "It's not a priority for me to mend this fence."

After earning $425,000 last season, Penner signed the offer sheet with Edmonton last Thursday for a contract that will average $4.25 million per year.

Anaheim had a week to match that offer and waited right until the deadline had passed before announcing it was letting the 24-year-old leave.

Burke says he was presented with trade offers that would have allowed him to shed salary and fit Penner under his cap, but couldn't justify any of the moves.

Penner was anxious in the last 24 hours before learning his fate. Heading to a new city with a handsome new contract, he isn't concerned about the extra expectations that are sure to follow.

"The pressure that I receive from the media and fans won't be near the pressure of what I put on myself," said Penner. "I know myself I didn't peak this last year as a player in Anaheim.

"I don't know what my potential is, but I think in the next five years I'll find out."

Penner scored 29 goals and had 16 assists for 45 points in his first full NHL season. He had another eight points (3-5) in 21 post-season games while helping the Ducks win the Stanley Cup.

The native of Winkler, Man., was an undrafted U.S. college player who signed with Anaheim as a free agent in 2004.

Some mixed emotions came with leaving the organization.

"You definitely grow attached to the team that first gives you an opportunity to get into the league," said Penner. "And Anaheim did that. . . .

"I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me."

He'll face a different sort of challenge now. After making it to the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Oilers finished 12th in the Western Conference last season.

Lowe didn't want to see that happen again and set out to be aggressive this summer. After he was unable to make a trade at the NHL draft or sign a big-name forward through unrestricted free agency, he looked towards the crop of restricted free agents.

The Oilers first signed Thomas Vanek to a $50-million, seven-year offer sheet, but the Buffalo Sabres matched it.

Then they went after Penner.

"Restricted free agent offers were another part of our planning process all along," said Lowe. "Based on the reaction of some of the managers and some of the people in hockey, (it was) a very unpopular route.

"From our perspective, it was a very necessary one to improve our hockey club."

Burke took issue with the money Lowe offered to both Vanek and Penner and claimed that other general managers felt the same way.

Lowe earlier said that he had received calls from GMs who supported his actions.

"I find that incredibly difficult to believe," said Burke. "I'd like him to identify the GMs who said this made sense because the sentiment I've received has been 180 degrees diametrically opposite.

"I find that hard to accept."

It doesn't matter now. Penner is a member of the Oilers and he's looking forward to joining the team.

"I'm excited to be in a position where I become accountable to be a go-to guy," he said. "Hopefully I can do that. I'm excited at the challenge."



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