Rising star Corey Perry is just now entering his prime years as an NHL player and he’s already a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Perry could have been, and should have been, an Edmonton Oiler.
In fact, Perry was an Oiler on paper in December of 2003, dealt to Edmonton with a first-round draft pick by Anaheim GM Bryan Murray for Mike Comrie — with the proviso by GM Kevin Lowe that Comrie and agent Ritch Winter work out a contract with Murray and that Lowe would have the opportunity to speak to Winter and Comrie before signing off.
After Winter and Murray came to terms on a two-year contract at $1.65 million a season, Lowe picked up the phone and informed Winter there was a condition to completing the trade — that Comrie make a payment of $2.5 million to the Oilers to "top up" the transaction.
The deal came undone, Perry stayed in Anaheim and later in December Lowe dealt Comrie to the Philadelphia Flyers for Jeff Woywitka and draft picks that turned into Rob Schremp and Danny Syvret.
If Lowe only knew then what we all know now.
Fans will never forget the first three months of the 2003-04 season and the bitter split between Comrie and the Oilers. I won’t because I was the beat man at The Sun in those days and it was my job to be all over the story as it developed.
I remember the frustration in Murray’s voice when I spoke to him on the phone after breaking the news about Lowe’s request for that $2.5-million rebate to complete the trade. It’s probably the best deal Murray never made. Quite the opposite, it turns out, for Lowe and the Oilers.
I guess it’s Perry’s hat-trick for the Ducks in a 6-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday that’s prompted me to pick at that old scab today rather than keep kicking away at the dead horse that is Edmonton’s fifth straight season out of the playoffs.
Perry, 25, has 50 goals and 97 points and is a lock to be one of the top three vote-getters for the Hart Trophy this season. Nothing Lowe got from Philadelphia, or in any subsequent trades with the assets culled from it, even comes close.
When critics of Lowe, now insulated in the position of president of hockey operations while Steve Tambellini takes the heat, talk about the worst moves he made during his tenure as GM, they often cite the return he got in the Chris Pronger trade.
I always think back to the undone Perry deal, and what Lowe’s demand for that $2.5 million has ultimately cost this franchise. I’m not sure what the answer is exactly because it’s impossible to know how things would have played out, but, at best, it was not Lowe’s finest hour. I think it was his worst.
While it’s fine and good Lowe and Comrie patched things up on a personal level to the point where Mike came back for an underwhelming encore tour of duty with the Oilers, that’s cold consolation for long-suffering fans here and now.
But I digress. Let’s get back to debating how much the Oilers should offer Ryan Jones in a new contract, or whether they should draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Adam Larsson or . . .
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.