The Edmonton Oilers were up to something two days ago, something that the casual fan would write off as being a depth trade or, in some people's books, not important at all.
The fan with a keen eye would've noticed this the second he read it.
"Oilers acquire D Allan Rourke and a 2008 3rd round pick from the Islanders for a 2008 2nd round pick."
Casual fan's view: "Blech, who the heck is Allan Rourke and why did Lowe give up a second rounder to get him?"
Keen-eyed fan's view: "Wow, Lowe is gearing up for something big. Now that he has his first four round picks back (which you need to submit and offer sheet to an RFA), he could probably sign a restricted free-agent by giving him an offer sheet...mmmm, Thomas Vanek."
Who do you think made the fairer and more accurate point?
The keen-eyed fan did.
Today the Edmonton Oilers did something so big that just a few teams have done in the past...and that was sending an offer sheet to a prized restricted-free agent and signing him.
That restricted free-agent, folks, turned out to be the Buffalo Sabres' sniper, Thomas Vanek.
Vanek accepted the offer sheet from the Oilers and signed a 7-year/$50 million contract with them while Darcy Regier was pouding his head on the other side of the border.
The Sabres had a whole 7 days to match the offer or receive the Oilers' upcoming FOUR first round picks as compensation but turns out they didn't even wait an hour to do so and 19 minutes later, Sabres GM Darcy Regier called a press conference to announce the team had matched Kevin Lowe's offer sheet of 7 years at $7.2 million per season and that they would be retaining him.
Hard blow to Oilers fans, who were likely holding their breath for a whole 19 minutes, but in the end, reason prevailed.
Why do you think it took Regier only 19 minutes to realize he needed to match the Oilers' offer sheet? Because he lost his top players only a few days before, Chris Drury to the Rangers and Daniel Briere to Philadelphia, and there was no way he'd lose his team's top goal-scorer, top scorer and captain all in the same week.
Lowe took a good chance and put up almost half of the next decade's farm in the air by signing Vanek to an offer sheet, but I guess it was worth it, risking the Oil's four first round picks over the next 4 years...it's not as if the Oilers are abundant in top players anymore, and besides Ales Hemsky, who do they really have that can lead their team like Vanek could?
Petr Sykora? Signed a nice fat $6 million per year contract down in Pittsburgh
Jarett Stoll? He may never play hockey again
Fernando Pisani? Come on, his 2006 playoff run is all he's got.
Shawn Horcoff? His 2007 season was expected to be a follow-up of his previous marvelous season, too bad it wasn't.
So as you can see, this was also an act of desperation on Kevin Lowe's part, and even if he just came up empty, he should feel proud he's the only general manager in the game bold enough to have a player of Vanek's calibre sign a contract with the Oilers, even if it was for only 19 minutes.
"Obviously, the terms are pretty great, and we felt it was something Thomas wanted to do,'' said Vanek's agent, Steven Bartlett, adding that he also received offers from other teams.
Hey, look at the bright side, he was an Oiler for a bit over 19 minutes!
The last time this happened was around this time of year last offseason, when the Canucks matched the Flyers' offer sheet of $1.9 million over one year for Ryan Kesler.
The terms of Vanek's deal per TSN:
The deal will pay Vanek $5 million in the first two seasons, and $6.4 million in each of the following five seasons. The contract will also pay him a $5 million and $3 million signing bonus in the first two years.Cheers!