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01 August 2007

Caught in His Own Duck Trap, Will Burke Lowe-r “The Finger”?

They say “it’s lonely at the top”. This certainly appears to be the case for general manager, Brian Burke, of the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, who appears to have gotten tangled up in a Duck trap of his own making. Not knowing the status of returning/retiring stars Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, combined with tight salary cap numbers, the Ducks inadvertently left duckling, Dustin Penner, ripe for poachers. Enter Edmonton general manager, Kevin Lowe, whose final bazooka shot in this year’s RFA hunting season, is a bulls-eye aimed right at the beak of Penner.

Burke has publicly ripped into Lowe for what he calls “an act of desperation by a general manager who is fighting to keep his job". Burke’s beef seems to be more about the amount of the Oilers offer sheet to Penner (reportedly 5 years for $21.25 million), as opposed to the act of trying to snatch the young Duck from his Anaheim nest. Burke complained that “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”.

It’s amazing to me how times have changed, when in the past, it was always the big market teams – led by the fiscally irresponsible Rangers – who were accused by small market teams, like Edmonton, of inflating player salaries by overpaying for talent. Now, the new salary cap system creates the opportunity for a small market team - whose obscure northern location is as inviting to free agents as a bad case of Pneumonic Plague - to turn the system upside-down (or at least sideways) and grossly overpay for a player who has scored all of 45 points in his fledgling 82 game regular season career.

Regardless of which frozen pond (Edmonton’s or Anaheim’s) Penner ends up skating on for the next 5 years, there are two certainties: 1) he will be earning an average of over $4 million per year, and 2) his contract, inked in unchartered waters, will have a rippling effect on future RFA contract negotiations between NHL teams and their young, potential stars.

Burke isn’t tipping his hand on which way is leaning on this issue – other than to indicate that he must confer with ownership before making the call. No matter the outcome, this should certainly be an amusing week for all of us as the Thursday deadline approaches for the Ducks final decision. Something tells me that, regardless of when Burke and the Ducks make up their minds, this one is going to go down to the final minutes - partially because this ordeal has gotten so personal between Burke and Lowe that Burke has even ripped Lowe for the timing of his attempted heist. Burke said "I thought Kevin would have called me and told me it was coming. I thought that was gutless…I think it's a classless move timing-wise”.

Brian, maybe it’s just me, but I never knew that there was a polite way to forcefully clip a Duck’s feathers. But it’s another thought that I have that really has me eagerly anticipating the Thursday Duck-Oiler shootout. Given the bad blood that has developed between Burke and Lowe, I keeping wondering whether the “Dustin Duel” will end up like the infamous “Sakic Skirmish” of 1997, when Rangers general manager, Neil Smith, unsuccessfully attempted to pillage the cash-strapped Avalanche with a front-loaded RFA offer to Joe Sakic.

That week-long event climaxed with Colorado general manager, Pierre Lacroix, sending a last minute fax to the Rangers (just to stick it to Smith), indicating that they had matched the offer sheet to Sakic. As an appreciative gesture to Smith and the Rangers for further f__king up their financial affairs, Lacroix’s fax included the legendary 1976 picture of vice-president, Nelson Rockefeller, “Giving the Finger” to a group of political hecklers in New York.

As D-Day approaches, we can only wonder whether Burke will handle his hardship with humility and class, or whether he will strike Kevin with a Lowe blow. Let’s all keep “The Fingers” crossed.

Courtesy of The Hockey Humorist -

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1 fanatics have replied:

Anonymous said...

Edmonton is a small market team only insofar as how much they typically spend on payroll... in terms fo revenues any team that can comfortably be assured of being top 10 in the NHL in revenues since the lockout is most assuredly not "small market".

They have plenty of money, just not always the willingness to utilize it.

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