Oilers GM Lowe fires back at Ducks' Burke

Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe shot back at the Anaheim Ducks' Brian Burke on Friday on Hockey Night in Canada Radio after Burke's recent comments blaming Lowe for his role in escalating NHL player salaries.

Kevin Lowe isn't taking the high road in his public back-and-forth with rival NHL general manager Brian Burke.

Lowe, the Edmonton Oilers' GM, fired back at the Anaheim Ducks executive on Hockey Night in Canada Radio Friday after Burke's latest claim that some of Lowe's moves have helped escalate NHL player salaries.

"The Wizard of Oz. He's back at it again," Lowe said. "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."

Burke resurrected his year-long feud with Lowe on Thursday after re-signing Anaheim forward Corey Perry to a five-year $26.63-million US extension. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Ducks GM claimed that a pair of offer sheets doled out by his Edmonton counterpart last summer set the tone for the madness of this year's market.

Over $300 million US in contracts were inked on July 1 — the first day of free agency — alone, including Chicago's $57.12 million, eight-year deal with defenceman Brian Campbell, and the New York Rangers' $39-million, six-year pact with defenceman Wade Redden.

'Inflated prices'

"They're all being re-signed at inflated prices," Burke told the Times. "Everything I said a year ago has come true. Every single word.

"Most [general] managers don't like starting fights with any other managers .… Thanks to the Edmonton Oilers, the second contract [for players] has disappeared.

"You go right now from entry-level to what used to be the third contract, thanks to two offer sheets from Kevin Lowe."

Burke, reached by the Canadian Press Friday night, declined to respond to Lowe's comments, which the Oilers GM rehashed in an interview with Edmonton sports station Team 1260.

Burke's comments to the Times referred to two moves from last July, when Lowe made waves by inking Buffalo restricted free agent forward Thomas Vanek to a seven-year, $50-million offer sheet, which the Sabres matched. Just weeks later, the Oilers signed Ducks forward Dustin Penner to a five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet, which drew Burke's ire based on the potential inflationary ripple effects the offer could have across the NHL.

Lowe defended the contract given to Penner — a 23-goal scorer in his first season with Edmonton — Friday on HNIC Radio.

Penner hung in there

"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."