Was Nylander deal done?

Oliers GM Kevin Lowe thought he had Michael Nylander signed on Monday. (Sun Media/Robert Taylor)

Oliers GM Kevin Lowe thought he had Michael Nylander signed on Monday. (Sun Media/Robert Taylor)

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Edmonton fans were waiting for the Oilers to make big free agent news. But nothing like this.

Can you sue to get a free agent hockey player you believe you already had acquired?

Is that what the Edmonton Oilers plan to do to get Michael Nylander, er, back? Will NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman become involved to force the "return" of Nylander to the team?

Would the Oilers really want Nylander here after this? Would the Washington Capitals be forced to provide player compensation to Edmonton? Was the agent negotiating with the Oilers and the player with the Capitals?

All sorts of questions have suddenly been created by a stunning statement released by the team late yesterday afternoon.

The Oilers claimed they had a done deal with Nylander's agent and indicated they are attempting to take unprecedented action to do something about it.

"The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club is compelled to clarify the unfortunate and unprecedented circumstances surrounding the Edmonton Oilers and Michael Nylander," the statement began.

"On Sunday, July 1, 2007, Kevin Lowe, Oilers General Manager, and Mr. Mike Gillis, Certified Agent for Michael Nylander, negotiated and agreed to a multi-year NHL Standard Players Contract, starting in 2007/08. Mr. Gillis confirmed same to the Oilers in writing.

"The Oilers then proceeded with preparations to announce Mr. Nylander's contract agreement on July 2, and concurrently continued with the process of negotiating with other free agents based upon Mr. Nylander being an important roster ingredient for the future.

"However, while the Oilers were expecting the returned, signed agreements from Mr. Nylander and Mr. Gillis, the Oilers discovered through public announcements made mid-afternoon on July 2, that Mr. Nylander had subsequently entered into a long-term contract with the Capitals.

"The Oilers can find no precedent for such conduct in our history. The Oilers are examining and pursuing every course of action available in the best interest of the team and our fans. For legal reasons, the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club will not be discussing the details any further at this time."

At least we know now why a staff member said Lowe was so livid when the Capitals announced the signing of Nylander; he didn't trust himself to talk to anybody in the media, including this columnist who was parked outside the office at the time.

The immediate effect of the statement is likely to move much of the fan frustration directed at Lowe in the last few days to a new target.

Lowe has been under heavy pressure to produce a free agent signing after dealing Ryan Smyth at the trade deadline and trading captain Jason Smith in a deal with Philadelphia for defenceman Joni Pitkanen on the first day of the free agent frenzy.

Nylander, 34, signed for $19.5 million US over four years with the Capitals. The Oilers' contract offer was believed to be a four-year deal as well, worth $22M, according to reports.


Videos

Photos