SUN Hockey Pool

Take your picks

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Agents for 2003 draft picks Marc-Antoine Pouliot, J.F. Jacques and Troy Bodie submitted counter-proposals yesterday in response to the Oilers' initial contract offers on the weekend.

"We're just looking over those and we'll respond accordingly," said assistant GM Scott Howson.

All 2003 picks have to be signed by Thursday or they re-enter the 2005 draft on Saturday.

But unlike previous years when negotiations went right down to the wire (or in 2002 when they couldn't agree to terms with Matthew Lombardi and he went back in the draft, and was selected by Calgary), losing any member of this trio is highly unlikely.

If they go back in the draft they come out under the new collective bargaining agreement system that maxes their salary at $850,000 and their signing bonus at $255,000.

Under the hybrid system that affects Pouliot, Jacques and Bodie, they could earn up to $942,000 (the old rookie cap less a 24% rollback) and a signing bonus of up to $850,000.

MORE WIGGLE ROOM

Not that they'd get those numbers, but there's a lot more wiggle room now than there would be Sunday morning.

FREE AT LAST: When open season on free agents begins Aug. 1, nobody knows for sure how the first few hours, or even the first few days, are going to play out. It could be a wild free-for-all like bargain-hunters elbowing for position at a Boxing Day sale, or it could be dead silence as general managers micro-analyse cap space and unrestricted free agents try and grasp this newer, cheaper market. "That's the million-dollar question," said GM Kevin Lowe.

"You don't really know if it's going to be like past years, where it turns into a frenzy. Right now we don't really know how many players are available, or how many teams are looking for what. I guess we'll have a better sense of that once the buyouts are done."

Rather than rest Edmonton's 2005-06 fortunes on such an unpredictable environment, Lowe would probably be better off filling his wish list, for a puck moving defenceman and big centre, via trades before Aug. 1.

That way he wouldn't be at the mercy of a free agent free-for-all that could very well leave him empty-handed.

"I sure hope that teams don't go crazy on Aug. 1," he said. "I hope they show some patience, because that will impact the market."

WELCOME MATT: Matt Greene, the six-foot-three, 225-pound defenceman selected in the second round in 2002, will probably forgo his final year of college eligibility and turn pro for this season.

SECOND THOUGHTS

He and his agent will evaluate the marketplace and decide from there, but they said midway through last season that he was having second thoughts about staying in college, and when long-time North Dakota coach Dean Blais left to become an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets it probably cinched his decision.

He's the Oilers' best defenceman not currently in the NHL.


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