A Lowe blow

JORDAN HEATH-RAWLINGS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

A while back, as the Maple Leafs were floundering at the end of another wasted, directionless season, I wrote in this space that I would pay a lot of money to join a hockey pool with GM John Ferguson Jr.

That still holds, even after JFJ made a decent deal for Vesa Toskala. By the same token, however, I would pay an equally inflated sum to avoid having Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe competing in my fantasy league.

Lowe is bad enough as a cutthroat NHL GM. As a fantasy manager, without the hindrance of his players' real-life feelings and desires to consider, he would be a monster.

Everybody has dealt with friends and competitors who treat their fantasy hockey the same way Lowe has treated this NHL offseason: Examining the rules for the slightest loophole, offering trades they fully don't expect to succeed (hoping that someone will blindly accept) and treating the waiver wire like it is his own, personal farm team.

I can picture Lowe now, up late at night on his computer, systematically picking up every decent free agent available and then dropping them, so they have to clear a two-weeklong waiver period before anyone else can take a crack at them; sipping coffee and delving deep into the Yahoo rules and regulations, looking for anything to give him that edge.

Those characteristics may make him the biggest jerk in a fantasy league, but as the man at the helm on an NHL club that's had more than its share of problems acquiring talent, his nasty strategies are an asset.

The Oilers got a whole lot better on Thursday when the Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke declined to match Lowe's expensive offer sheet to promising young forward Dustin Penner. So regardless of criticism from his peers, his efforts have paid off.

Driving up prices in order to pry away talent may not be the nicest way to conduct business, but for the Oilers, with cash to spend and few available free agent bodies left to spend it on, it's one of Lowe's only options.

Burke, and Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier, still bitter after Lowe forced him to pay Thomas Vanek US$7 million per season, can cry foul all they want, but Lowe's strategy is perfectly legal under the NHL's bargaining agreement. All the GM is trying to do is improve his team and preserve his job.

The other GMs can simply put up or shut up.

At least in a fantasy league, the other owners can band together and kick out an underhanded manager. All the NHL GMs can do is hope that Lowe's plan fails and he loses his job. But if the offer sheets that he's sending out result in a quality player or two suiting up for the Oilers, that's not likely to happen anytime soon.


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