Lowe's decision tough

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Kevin Lowe traded Ryan Smyth on Mark Messier's great day to effectively turn a great story into a sidebar.

And Lowe couldn't bring himself to be on the ice to turn the chants of 'Mooooooose' to 'boooooooooos.'

The Oiler GM normally handles the introduction of his former teammates at a banner raising. But he handed the duties to coach Craig MacTavish after doing the dirty deed with Smyth. He was not even on the ice with Oiler executives or any of the 15 former teammates of Messier.

Lowe sent Smyth to the New York Islanders for a first round draft choice and a pair of former first round draft choices, minor leaguer Robert Nilsson and graduating junior Ryan O'Marra.

But after Messier's banner had been raised Lowe received a huge vote of confidence from Messier himself.

No. 11 said he wasn't disappointed with what happened - which took away from the ultimate moment of his homecoming - or the fact his former Oiler glory gang roommate decided not to be the one to introduce him and signal the banner to be raised.

"First of all I'm never disappointed in Kevin," said Messier when it was over.

"In fact, I'm really proud of Kevin.

"Anybody in his position has to make tough decisions. I've stayed with Kevin the last three days. He has to divorce himself of the emotional aspect and do what's best for the team."

Lowe said he knew the initial reaction of the fans was going to be negative because of the emotions involved.

"I know it's not a popular move," said Lowe. "But, in the same breath, this isn't a popularity contest. We're trying to win Stanley Cups."

He called it "the most difficullt" deal he's ever done.

"Ryan meant so much to this organization. He represented the team and the city so well on and off the ice. He was a big fan favourite. That made the decision even more difficult. But it was a decision to bolster the team. We hope our fans and our players understand.

"I want to be very clear that making this trade today is a hockey decision. It was not financial.

"The CBA we operate with in the NHL today means you need to have a sound hockey strategy and stick to it.

"Today we turned a page for sure - but this is not as much about the Oilers today as what we continue to do as part of an overall game plan. I want everyone to know that our decision was much more to do with a plan than a reaction. It's about having a sound strategy for the future."

Lowe said he thought all along he was going to get a deal.

"We really stepped up,'' he said of trying to bridge the gap guessed to be a half million or more a year 48 hours prior to the deadline.

"We reached out pretty significantly on all fronts. Eventually we finally realized financially it wasn't going to get done."

Lowe said he was prepared to do what he felt he had to do at the last minute if he didn't have a deal in hand for Smyth, the 12-year veteran who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"We were not out there shopping him. We had to be prepared in case something like this happened."

Several NHL general manager expressed surprise Smyth had been dealt and disappointment they weren't given a chance to get in on the bidding.

Lowe said they knew what they'd be looking for and who had the players and draft choice they could deliver. He said it was a very short list.

Asked about the possibility of signing Smyth to return to Edmonton when he becomes a free agent July 1, Lowe said, "I can't comment on that. He's now the property of the New York Rangers."

Lowe admitted the obvious, that he took "a pretty important piece of the team from them."

Asked what he could promise the fans in terms of adding free agent talent in the off-season to replace Smyth, if that's the way it works, Lowe was vague.

"You never make any promises in this business."


Videos

Photos