KEVIN LOWE & FREE AGENTS- DUSTIN PENNER & THOMAS VANEK
WHAT’S LOWE DOING?
Only two years removed from a year long lock-out, it seems one GM in particular is making the NHL take a backwards step. Kevin Lowe, GM of the Edmonton Oilers, has tendered offer sheets to two young players both of whom are restricted free agents: Buffalo Sabres’ Thomas Vanek for seven years, $50 million, and to Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks for five years at $21.25 million. These offers are coming from the GM of one of the teams which most needed the lock-out. Such small market teams had difficulty keeping up with the high spending teams such as Philadelphia, New York, Detroit, Colorado and Toronto.
Only a few years back, another of the small market teams, the Buffalo Sabres, filed for bankruptcy. They are one of the teams who benefited the most from a yearlong lock-out. It brought more parity to the league and helped bring Buffalo out of the league’s seller and catapult them to the top of the league, winning the President’s Trophy. This summer, the Sabres lost both their co-captains to free agency: Daniel Brière to the Flyers and Chris Drury to the Rangers. They could ill-afford to also lose their best young player, Thomas Vanek, so they had to overpay to keep him.
The reason there was a lockout in the first place was because owners were complaining that players were making too much money. Who is paying these players? They sure aren’t paying themselves. The owners and GMs are to blame for what happened three years ago and they will be to blame for what will happen in a few years unless this madness stops. If Lowe keeps this up, his team will find itself where it was in 2004: fighting to keep its head above water.
The players whose contracts are coming to an end next summer will use these examples of ridiculous offer sheets as bargaining chips. Dustin Penner, for instance, should have received a contract of between 1.5 to 2.5 million dollars a year. Any player in that position next year will figure that they should also get Dustin Penner type money.
Restricted free agents will pray to God that other teams tender them offer sheets. Whether or not the team who owns the player’s rights matches the offer, the player is more than likely to get a hefty raise. GMs will have to negotiate with their restricted free agents to be before their contracts expire and vultures from all over the league swoop down on their young stars and attempt to snatch them away.
In a few years, when the Collective Bargaining Agreement nears its expiration date, I hope the GMs around the league take a good look in the mirror while they struggle to prevent another catastrophe.