Ducks wearing target?

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke doesn't believe Dustin Penner is worth $4.25-million per season for the next five years.

At least that's not the figure the Ducks had in mind prior to the restricted free agent signing an offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers.

"I'm not sure the offer we discussed was presented to the agent or not," Burke said. "You can ask the agent that or ask (assistant GM) David McNab that. But was the offer close to the one he got (from the Oilers)? The answer is an unequivocal and instantaneous 'No.' "

Burke held a conference call yesterday to discuss the Oilers $21.25-million offer to Penner. Burke didn't come out and say the winger wasn't worth that much money, but his feelings towards the offer seemed clear.

Either way, Burke is going to make Oilers GM Kevin Lowe sweat it out.

And while they're on ice, the Oilers aren't talking.

It's the second time in three weeks the Oilers have gone after an unrestricted free agent, making a five-year, $50-million offer to Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek at the beginning of the month.

The Sabres matched the offer immediately.

Burke is taking his time to ponder whether a second-year player who collected 45 points in the regular-season and eight points in the playoffs should become the highest-paid forward on his team.

Edmonton Sun readers were divided pretty evenly last night when the question was raised in an on-line poll.

"A decision at this level, obviously I have to talk to my boss (CEO) Mike Schulman," Burke said. "I've e-mailed him extensively on what the compensation is. But I've not had a chance to sit down with him to talk about this which we will do Monday morning.

"I'm not going to rush this for anyone's benefit. The deadline is Thursday and we'll have a decision made by Thursday."

If the Ducks decide not to match the offer, they'll get the Oilers first, second and third-round draft picks next year in compensation.

If they do, then they'll be giving Penner, 24, an astronomical raise.

Neither option seems too appealing.

Complicating the issue is the fact Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are unrestricted free agents next year.

Getzlaf out-scored Penner during the regular season, while Perry finished a point back. If Penner is getting over $4-million next year, what will the other two be asking for the following season?

The Ducks were in a precarious salary-cap position this summer, still awaiting decisions by Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne on retirement.

Niedermayer is set to make $6.75 million next season. With Penner's contract, that would put the Ducks above the $50.3-million cap. Selanne is an unrestricted free agent who made $3.75-million next year.

"I think from a tactical standpoint it's pretty clear ... with regard to two marquee players being undecided, we created this situation and put ourselves at risk," Burke said. "That will be part of our post-mortem: Did we make ourselves a target?"

Burke said the move by the Oilers not only affected the two teams, but the rest of the league as a whole.

If signing restricted free-agents to offer sheets becomes a trend then what reason would promising, young players have to re-sign with their current teams when their salaries could be seriously increased with an offer-sheet?

Centre Jarret Stoll and newly acquired defenceman Joni Pitkanen fit into that category.

"I'll leave that to you," Burke said. "I think the answer to that is apparent."


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