Penner strikes Oil

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Dustin Penner is already living his dream and now he's about to become a rich man.

The only question is, will the pride of Winkler be rich with the Anaheim Ducks or be looking for a new place to live in Alberta as the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers?

Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe sent shockwaves through the industry yesterday by signing Penner to an offer sheet of five years and $21.25 million USD.

The Ducks, who are currently just $2 million under the salary cap ceiling and still waiting for Conn Smythe MVP Scott Niedermayer and sniper Teemu Selanne to decide whether they'll return next season, have six more days to either match the offer or take the compensation in the form of draft picks.

This is the second time this summer the Oilers have offered a large sum of money to a restricted free agent.

The previous time, the Buffalo Sabres quickly matched the seven-year, $50 million USD offer for Thomas Vanek -- though they were none too happy about it.

We can't imagine Ducks general manager Brian Burke being happy either, but he was not talking to the media yesterday. Neither was Lowe or Penner.

Penner's agent, Gerry Johannson, had little to offer when contacted by the Canadian Press.

"We're going to wait and see what happens here in the next seven days before we make a comment," Johannson told CP.

Look for the comments to start flying fast and furiously once the Ducks decide what route they're going to go.

Despite inching close to the salary cap, the prevailing feeling is that the Ducks will match and retain Penner rather than lose him in exchange for a first, a second and a third round draft pick.

Anaheim can always deal a player if they have to in order to free up cap space.

There's also a chance the Ducks could decide the price is too high and allow Penner, 24, to walk, considering Anaheim has power forward Bobby Ryan, a 2005 first round (second overall) pick, in the system.

Regardless of how this plays out, Penner's life is about to change dramatically.

Not only is he about to be paid like a star after making the bare minimum of $450,000 last season in the final year of his entry-level contract, the expectations are about to rise as well -- though that shouldn't be a problem for a guy with his work ethic.

Much of the past 10 months must have felt like a fairy tale for Penner, who is the ultimate underdog story as a kid who went from been cut by his hometown junior club to attending junior college in Bottineau, N.D. to making the University of Maine to signing as a free agent with Anaheim.

During his first full season in the National Hockey League, Penner had 29 goals and 45 points in 82 games and made a statement playing on a line with first round picks Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

When the playoffs began, Penner continued to warrant significant ice time and grew one of the most impressive playoff beards on his team.

Along the ride, Penner accepted a pass from his childhood idol (Selanne) and scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.

By the time the playoffs were over, Penner (who had three goals and eight points in 21 Stanley Cup playoff games) was skating around the ice at the Honda Center with the Stanley Cup held high above his head.

Now he's about to find out what the Ducks think of him and soon after, he'll be watching his bank account grow to levels he never dreamed of.

That's what you call a reward for all your hard work.


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