They're at it again. Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe nearly set the city of Buffalo on fire when he attempted to sign Sabres restricted free agent Thomas Vanek to a seven year $50 million dollar contract. The Sabres warned Lowe (and any other GM who would dare) repeatedly that they would match any offer made to Vanek, especially after losing they're top two guys in Drury and Briere via the unrestricted route.
Kevin Lowe attempted to call Darcy Regier's bluff except that Regier wasn't bluffing at all and a preturbed Sabres front office called a press conference almost immediately after Edmonton had signed Vanek to the massively insane offer sheet to say that they were indeed retaining their (hopeful) soon-to-be superstar winger.
Kevin Lowe, not satisfied with doing nothing on the unrestricted free agent market has again gone diving in head first into the restricted pool, this time signing Anaheim Ducks winger Dustin Penner to a five year $21.25 million dollar offer sheet. Again, the Oilers are obliterating the salary market in order to get some action going and maybe score a player - but right now, it seems more likely that Kevin Lowe is just being an agitator and gunning for guys that teams would rather not lose and upping the ante to put the uncomfortable bite on these franchises finances for the years to come.
It had been theorized to me that this was what Lowe was doing with the Vanek signing - blow up the salary market on one guy to really put the screws to teams they'll be competing with later on in the unrestricted market. It's an interesting theory, but imagine if the Sabres had not bothered to match Vanek's offer and if they were also foolishly saddled with this latest Penner deal. You'd have a combined 12 years and $70+ million dollars tied up in TWO players.
Now, I know that Edmonton may be getting sold to a Canadian billionaire not named Jim Balsillie away from their current gang of 34 owners and that he's promised to spend up to the heights of the salary cap to bring a winner back to the Canadian Rockies hinterlands of Alberta. That said, even I'd think that a shrewd businessman like Daryl Katz wouldn't go quite this hog wild, especially for a guy like Dustin Penner, who is mainly making his bank based on the success of the Ducks last season and his relative youth (He's currently 24 years-old and his stats for 2006-07 are: 82 games; 29 goals 16 assists for 45 points with 58 PIM and -2 ).
Is $4+ million dollars the going rate for a third line winger these days? Jeez, financial hard times have really struck the NHL once again. I haven't seen this foolish of a deal since the Bruins negotiated against themselves for the right to pay Martin Lapointe $5 million a year and take him away from the Red Wings, the same "fiscally irresponsible" Detroit Red Wings whose final offer to Lapointe that off-season was for $3.5 million per year.
If Edmonton were really out to screw with the other teams in the NHL, and mind you testing Brian Burke's nerve I am all for, but why not take a shot at a guy that would both fit into the Edmonton system instantly and thrive all the while really putting the screws to a stingy, joyless miser? Of course, I'm talking about the Oilers making a run at restricted free agent Zach Parise from the Devils.
Parise is clearly a budding young offensive star who will unfortunately be stifled if he's made to stay in New Jersey under the iron fist of hockey's Third Reich led by Heir Lamoriello. What good is it to have an up and coming young guy like Parise in a nothing place like New Jersey, where the fans could give a crap else and the team's management has been actively been hating their own fanbase and market for the last 15 years? It serves no purpose and Kevin Lowe would be doing the league a favor by trying to sign Parise to an obnoxious offer sheet that Lou Lamoriello would be tested to the "n"th degree as to whether or not to match.
Then again, Lamoriello would call in one of his favors from Asleep At The Wheel Bettman and find a way to circumvent the rules and regulations once again. Jim Fahey and Alexander Korolyuk agree at least.