How Corey Perry Almost Became an Edmonton Oiler 20 Years Ago
By Cam Lewis26 days ago
Those who follow the Edmonton Oilers are very familiar with Corey Perry.
Having spent the first 14 seasons of his NHL career in the Pacific Division with the Anaheim Ducks, Perry has 52 points across 66 games against the Oilers, the second-most of any opponent he’s faced.
Known as “The Worm” for his willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice, Perry made himself Public Enemy No. 1 during Edmonton’s second-round loss to Anaheim during the 2016-17 playoffs with agitating play and clutch scoring, the epitome of a player you hate to play against but would love to have on your team.
Earlier this week, the long-time foe became a teammate, as Perry inked a one-year contract to join the Oilers for the rest of the 2023-24 season. Now in the latter stages of his career, the 38-year-old Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner will finally suit up for the team that nearly traded for him when he was still a prospect.
Just over 20 years ago, the Oilers had a deal worked out that would have resulted in Perry being traded to Edmonton for disgruntled forward Mike Comrie. Before getting into what happened, let’s back up for some context.
Edmonton Journal Clipping From December 31, 2000
The Oilers selected Comrie in the third round of the 1999 NHL draft, a couple of years after they acquired his older brother, Paul, in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two Comrie brothers were well-known around Edmonton not just because of hockey, but because their father, Bill, was one of the co-founders of The Brick, a furniture company that wound up selling for $700 million in 2012.
Comrie made a name for himself as a top prospect when playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1996-97 and followed that up in 1997-98 with one of the best seasons in the league’s history. Playing for the St. Albert Saints, Comrie scored 60 goals and 138 points over 58 regular-season games and added 48 points in 19 playoff games.
After scoring 44 points in 42 games as a freshman at the University of Michigan in 1998-99, Comrie was selected by his hometown club with the No. 91 overall pick in that summer’s draft. Comrie had first-round talent but he fell to the Oilers in the third round because other teams were worried he wasn’t big enough to have success at the NHL level.
Comrie spent one more season with Michigan and then joined the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League for the 2000-01 season. He scored a whopping 79 points over 41 games for the Ice and then inked an entry-level contract with the Oilers in late December.
Using a loophole that had previously been established by defenceman Mike Van Ryn, Comrie signed a contract worth much more than other players who were breaking into the league. Since Comrie left American college and played a season in the WHL as an over-ager, he was considered a free agent and wasn’t bound to the $1.13 million maximum base salary that had been set for drafted players that year. His deal with the Oilers was worth $10 million over three years, with roughly $7 million of that money coming through bonuses.
Comrie scored 22 points in 44 games after joining the Oilers for the second half of the 2000-01 season and then broke out in 2001-02 with 33 goals and 60 points, good for the team lead in both categories. He followed that up in 2002-03 with 20 goals and 51 points, though he drew some criticism after scoring only one point in six playoff games.
The three-year, entry-level contract Comrie signed with the Oilers came to an end that summer and he sought a significant raise as a restricted free agent. Comrie rejected Edmonton’s qualifying offer, which would have seen him earn a standard 10 percent increase on his $1.13 million base salary from the previous contract. He then requested a trade when he was held out of the team’s training camp in the fall.
The Oilers had a deal in place with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in December that would have seen Corey Perry and a first-round pick in the 2004 draft sent to Edmonton in exchange for Comrie. The deal fell through because Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe wanted Comrie to reimburse around $2.5 million to the Oilers from the bonus money he had earned.
Edmonton Journal Clipping From December 11, 2003
Both sides were criticized during this ordeal. Comrie was called a “spoiled brat” for abandoning his small-market, hometown team over money despite being the heir to an incredible fortune while Lowe and the Oilers were referred to as “vindictive” for throwing a wrench into a deal that appeared to be a win for everyone.
A few days later, Comrie was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defence prospect Jeff Woywitka along with a first-round pick in the 2004 draft and a third-round pick in the 2005 draft.
Edmonton used those two picks on London Knights standouts Rob Schremp and Danny Syvret, who never panned out as NHL regulars. Woywitka wound up being the best part of the return for the Oilers, as they eventually moved him to the St. Louis Blues as part of the package that landed them Chris Pronger, who led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in his one and only season in Edmonton.
Meanwhile, Comrie played only 21 games for the Flyers before getting flipped to the Phoenix Coyotes later that season. A few years later, Comrie was again on the move, this time to the Ottawa Senators, who were gearing up for a deep playoff push.
The Sens cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs before losing in five games in the Stanley Cup Final to the Anaheim Ducks, the team that Comrie was nearly traded to four years earlier.
For the Ducks, not making that trade with Edmonton worked out very nicely. Perry scored 17 goals and 44 points in the regular season as a sophomore in 2006-07 and added six goals and 15 points in 21 games during the team’s Stanley Cup run. The first-round pick they were going to send along with Perry for Comrie was kept and used on defenceman Ladislav Smid, who the Ducks later traded to the Oilers to acquire Pronger, a critical part of their championship blueline.
For the Oilers, Perry became one of the ones who got away. As he won the Stanley Cup, Rocket Richard, and Hart Trophy with the Ducks over the years, many Oilers fans wondered if he could have had the same success in Edmonton and what it would have meant for the team.
Regardless, here we are now. Over 20 years later, Corey Perry is an Oiler and the team is pushing for the Stanley Cup. If they get the job done in the spring, we’ll never have to talk about that Mike Comrie trade again.
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