Wish list tossed out

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

The Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpentier heavyweight match in Jersey City, New Jersey, becomes the first million-dollar gate in boxing history.

The last time the Edmonton Oilers had a trade of this significance, Glen Sather got fleeced by the New York Rangers and his team spent a decade trying to recover.

Mark Messier for Bernie Nichols, Louie DeBrusk and Steve Rice doesn't sound any better today than it did then. But The Moose wanted to star on Broadway and Slats, wanting to do right by a long-serving warrior, bit the bullet and granted his request.

The lopsided deal sucked the life from a team that was one year removed from the Stanley Cup final. They didn't get close again until 15 years later. Kevin Lowe can't afford to make the same mistake with Chris Pronger. And he says he won't. He doesn't care where Pronger wants to go or whether it'll be a soft landing when he gets there. He isn't keeping the defenceman's camp up to date on negotiations and he had a one-word answer when asked if one of his priorities is making sure Pronger is happy.

"No.''

This is about making the Oilers happy, he said, and absolutely nothing else.

"I'm actively pursuing a trade, because of the request. I want to respect that there has been a request, but we have to be careful too that we don't set a precedent that every request for a trade is granted immediately or easily.''

He can't. This is the biggest trade he's ever had to make and the most important trade the Oilers have been involved in since Messier. With several glaring holes to fill on the Western Conference champions' roster, including the crater Pronger leaves behind, Lowe knows full well this deal could have an enormous impact on his team for years to come.

"It's really important that we do well in this trade,'' he said. "We're not going to be forced to make a deal that's not a very good deal for the Edmonton Oilers.''

There's no reason they shouldn't. With Zdeno Chara, Ed Jovanovski and Wade Redden off the market, Pronger's value shot up yesterday. And with salaries and the salary cap rising, his four-year, $6.25-million-a-year contract has suitors drooling.

"It's hard to imagine his value being even more, but I think with the numbers that I'm hearing (Chara getting $7.5 million and a no-trade clause), Chris's contract becomes that much more valuable, no question.

"There's probably not a team in the league that wouldn't be interested, but in terms of stepping up there's been offers from six or eight teams. But none of them is significant enough at this point.''

The asking price is high, indeed. And what further complicates matters is that he's dealing with a moving target. A day ago he might have needed a starting goalie in a trade, now he doesn't.

"That's what makes (a trade) difficult, trying to envision many different scenarios,'' said Lowe. "What makes (the free agent market) difficult is not knowing exactly what we're going to get back when we move Chris Pronger. Trying to put the puzzle together is a little more difficult.''

All of this over a guy who signed a four-year contract extension when he came here. You can imagine how thrilled Lowe is to be embroiled in all this.

"His agent had suggested (earlier in the season) that there might be a concern, but it was always my hope that things would change, based on the hockey. That it would be a great spring in Edmonton and it would be exciting and who wouldn't want to be here? But apparently that isn't the case.

"When I talked to Chris at the year-end meetings, the door was left open (that they might change their mind), but then the official request came a few days later.''

What followed were rumours and ugliness, fuelled by a public that demanded and deserved answers and a defenceman who wouldn't give them.

"I certainly understand people being disappointed,'' said Lowe. "I'm disappointed. The organization is disappointed. But I think when people take it too far, it doesn't reflect well on the city. That's equally disappointing. We have to be professional about this.''


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