The public spat between Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke has supplied hockey fans with some welcome summer entertainment, but the NHL isn't amused by their antics.
The rival general managers were warned Monday to quit taking shots at each other or face significant fines, with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly delivering the message during a conference call with Edmonton's Lowe and Anaheim's Burke.
"We felt for a host of reasons it was important to bring the parties together and make it clear to both organizations that public comments disparaging the other were bad for the business and would no longer be tolerated," Daly told the Canadian Press.
When reached by e-mail Monday, Burke declined to comment.
An Oilers spokesman said the team considered the matter closed and would not have any comment.
The feud began last July when Burke criticized the five-year, $21.25 million US offer sheet Lowe lavished on restricted free agent Dustin Penner, which the Ducks elected not to match.
The offer sheet — the first to result in a player leaving his team since Tampa Bay centre Chris Gratton signed a five-year, $16.5 million deal with Philadelphia in 1997 — was one of two put out by Lowe last summer. The Oilers GM also inked Buffalo's Thomas Vanek to a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet that the Sabres later matched.
'Wizard of Oz'
Burke rekindled the war of words last week, blaming Lowe and the Penner offer sheet for spiralling salaries for young restricted free agents such as Anaheim's Corey Perry, who signed a five-year, $26.625 million extension on Tuesday.
"You go right now from entry level to what used to be the third contract, thanks to two offer sheets from Kevin Lowe," Burke told the Los Angeles Times later last week.
Lowe shot back in separate interviews Friday with Edmonton radio station The Team 1260 and Hockey Night in Canada Radio.
"The Wizard of Oz. He's back at it again," Lowe said on HNIC Radio. "When you pull back the curtain there's not much substance there.
"I know that [the Ducks] are in a pretty pathetic hockey market and they can't quite get on the front page of the news, and maybe that's part of it; I'm not sure. It's getting to the point where I think everybody in hockey is a little sick and tired of it."
Pleased with Penner
Lowe also defended the contract given to Penner — a 23-goal scorer in his first season with Edmonton.
"I really marvel at the year that Dustin had," Lowe said. "Under all the scrutiny, all the attention he garnered, he hung in there.
"We'd like him to be a little grittier and a little more aggressive, but in terms of overall production, we had hoped he'd be sort of a 25-goal scorer plus over the length of his contract. He was pretty close to that last year, and I suspect he'll be close to that this year and in future years.
"Twenty-five-goal scorers get four millions bucks in the National Hockey League, pretty plain and simple."
Lowe also denied starting the trend of escalating salaries for players emerging from their entry-level deals.
"I can look back to [Columbus's] Rick Nash getting that big contract out of his entry level, and then [Boston's] Patrice Bergeron, and then [Atlanta's Ilya] Kovalchuk.
"In the old system, teams were overpaying or paying a lot of money for the 31-year-olds who were unproductive, [and] not producing up to that level. I really feel that if you're going to pay the big money, it's the 23- to 29-year-olds that deserve the money."