July 2, 2008
Edmonton buzzing over HossaRumoured offer of $9-million a season for nine years is both exciting and concerning
By TERRY JONES -- Sun Media
On a day when the Edmonton Oilers had two more birds in hand, it was the one in the bush that had everybody buzzing.
The team which will welcome new owner Daryl Katz with a massive press conference at centre ice in Rexall Place this morning ended Free Agent Frenzy day yesterday causing a crazy combination of excitement and concern by being rumoured to have the highest bid on the table for the most prized player available.
While general manager Kevin Lowe said "the numbers are a little bit inflated" when it comes to the reported $9 million a year deal over a rumoured nine-year term for 29-year-old Slovakian Marian Hossa, in the same breath he added: "Daryl said from the outset he'll do whatever it takes and spend to the cap."
The excitement comes from a community unaccustomed to being in the bidding for the most sought-after player in the Canada Day craziness. The fear comes from paying that kind of money to a player who is recognized as more of a follower than a leader, especially if the deal takes him to age 38. That's the kind of insanity which history suggests more teams live to regret than not.
When asked if the Oilers had their final offer on the table to Hossa, who will get up this morning on the other side of the Atlantic and consider it, along with at least three other offers, Lowe said "no comment."
Who knows? Maybe the deal is done and is on hold for the press conference.
Lowe would not discuss the offer other than to say "we still have our lines in the water and let's leave it at that."
There's some speculation the Oilers' pitch is simply to offer $1 million more than anybody else.
How much of this is about Katz and his making a big splash is part of the concern.
"Daryl is real excited about (today's) announcement and ecstatic about the deals so far," said Lowe, adding that he and Katz had several conversations during the day.
While a Hossa signing would certainly bring on a great debate in both directions, there's no debate (other than on the lack of toughness left in the lineup) with Lowe's other deals on the long weekend.
While he opened with the trade which brought defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky from the Los Angeles Kings for Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, when the other skate dropped and Joni Pitkanen went to Carolina for Erik Cole, the instant reaction around the hockey world was that Lowe improved his team on successive days.
Another deal sending Raffi Torres to Columbus for Edmonton product Gilbert Brule didn't much move the dial on the trade-o-metre.
Lowe basically admitted in not so many words that the Pitkanen-Cole deal was essentially in place to allow him to pull the trigger on the Visnovsky trade.
"A lot of work goes into doing deals with one player linked to doing another deal."
As most fans are aware, the Oilers have had Cole on their radar for some time.
"We set out to get another top six forward," said Lowe of the 29-year-old six-foot-two, 205-pound left winger who has averaged 27 goals a year for the past three years and has one year at $4 million left on his contract before unrestricted free agency.
"Erik is a wonderful person. He has a big body and he fits well into our game plan and team scheme. It's important to fit into our team."
Torres's stock had dropped dramatically the past two seasons, while the 21-year-old Brule has been a bust so far since he was picked sixth in the 2005 entry draft.
"Gilbert was a high draft choice and has probably not achieved what he hoped to achieve to this point," said Lowe. "But we've had pretty good success with young guys from other teams and we're going to do everything we can to make him an NHL player."
As for toughness, Lowe said: "we're still analyzing that. I'm not saying we don't do anything."
But he did add that the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings "didn't seem to have a lot of that."
The bottom line is that Lowe provided plenty in the way of Canada Day fireworks.
"I believe we're considerably better than we finished off last year," he said. "The best way to gauge it is with the reaction of our other players. They're pretty excited."