Edmonton Oilers Retrospective: The Dustin Penner Offer Sheet
Photo credit:Edmonton Journal
By Cam Lewis10 months ago
Kevin Lowe badly needed to make a splash in the summer of 2007.
Following the Oilers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, things quickly started to spiral downward in Edmonton. Chris Pronger requested a trade shortly after the team’s Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and Ryan Smyth was dealt at the 2006-07 trade deadline as he and Lowe couldn’t agree on a contract extension.
The Smyth-less Oilers completely imploded down the stretch, as the team went 2-16-1 following the trade and finished sixth-last in the league standings. To make matters worse, fans in Edmonton had to watch as Pronger lifted the Stanley Cup in his first season with his new team, the Anaheim Ducks.
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The biggest priority for Edmonton that off-season was replacing Smyth’s offence, as he had led the team in goals in each of the previous four seasons. The Oilers made a call to Smyth’s agent when free agency opened on July 1 but he wound up signing a five-year, $31.25 million deal to join the Colorado Avalanche.
The Oilers appeared to have landed a big fish in free agency shortly after when reports came out that they signed Michael Nylander to a multi-year deal. Nylander was coming off of a season with the New York Rangers in which he set a career-high with 26 goals and 83 points and the Oilers received confirmation from his agent, Mike Gillis, that an agreement had been reached. A few days later, the Washington Capitals announced they had inked Nylander to a four-year deal worth $19.5 million, and it turned out that he had never actually signed the contracts that the Oilers had sent over.
Having missed out on the marquee forwards available during free agent frenzy, Lowe turned his attention to another avenue. The Oilers inked restricted free agent Thomas Vanek, who was coming off of a breakout 43-goal season with the Buffalo Sabres, to a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet. Having just lost a pair of key forwards, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, in free agency, the Sabres quickly matched Edmonton’s offer.
The Sabres were livid about Lowe’s move. Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said it was “an exercise in futility” and Larry Quinn, a minority owner of the team, stated that “if there’s ever an opportunity for us to put an offer sheet on [an Edmonton] player, as long as we’re alive, we’ll be very comfortable doing that.”
Despite the threat, Lowe kept scouring the market for restricted free agents. Late in July, the team inked Anaheim Ducks forward Dustin Penner to a five-year, $21.5 million offer sheet. Penner was coming off of a breakout season in which he scored 29 goals and also added eight points in 21 games for the Ducks during their Stanley Cup run.
While the Sabres had all kinds of salary cap room to match the Vanek offer, the Ducks were pressed tight against the ceiling with other financial commitments and couldn’t afford to match. Ducks general manager Brian Burke was furious with Lowe, stating that the move was “gutless” and “an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job.”
The following summer, Burke again took shots at Lowe in a radio interview, claiming that his signing of Penner was escalating salaries for young players around the league. Lowe responded in a radio appearance of his own by calling Burke a “moron,” a “media junkie” and that he “destroyed” the Vancouver Canucks during his time with the team.
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Years later, Burke revealed that the beef between the two got so bad that he offered to fight Lowe in a barn in Lake Placid…
[The feud] got to the point where Kevin challenged me to a fight on a radio interview. So I’m like, that’s not really how you challenge a guy to a fight. If you wanna challenge a guy to a fight, you pick a place and a time and you show up.So I called Glen Sather and I say look, this guy went on the radio and challenged me to a fight. I’m gonna be at Lake Placid at the U.S. Junior camp. I gave him three dates. I told him I’d rent a barn. I picked the address and the time and I’d fight Kevin Lowe.It got to the point where Gary Bettman called me and said ‘I heard you guys were thinking about having a fight. If you do, I’m going to suspend you both indefinitely.’ That’s how crazy it got between me and Kevin. He’s as stubborn as I am. There’s no doubt in my mind that if we bumped into each other right around then, we would’ve fought. No question. He’s not afraid of me. We would’ve fought, for sure.
As compensation for losing Penner, the Ducks received Edmonton’s first-, second-, and third-round selections in the 2008 NHL Draft.
With the first one, they traded down to select Jake Gardiner, who Bruke wound up trading for when he was the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The second was used on Justin Schultz, who wound up signing with the Oilers after finishing his incredibly successful NCAA career with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. The third also has an Oilers connection, as the Ducks shipped it off to the New York Islanders in exchange for defender Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Penner, meanwhile, was an up-and-down player for the Oilers, sometimes looking like a dominant power forward while also leaving a bit to be desired as he would disappear for games at a time. He scored 23 goals in his first season in Edmonton, dipped down to 17 goals the following season, and then popped off with a career-high 32 goals in 2009-10.
At the 2011 trade deadline, the Oilers were fully engaged in tanking mode, so they shipped Penner off to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for prospect Colten Teubert and a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. The Oilers wound up using that pick on Swedish defenceman Oscar Klefbom.
While Teubert never panned out, Klefbom emerged as a top-pairing defender for the Oilers, playing a significant role in the team’s return to the playoffs after a decade-long absence in 2016-17. The deal also worked out for the Kings, as Penner was part of Los Angeles’ first-ever Stanley Cup Championship in 2012.
It was quite a bit of drama, but the Dustin Penner offer sheet wound up being a very worthwhile move for the Oilers.
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