Never at a loss for words, Brian Burke was in extraordinary verbal form yesterday in lashing out at fellow NHL general manager Kevin Lowe.
The issue was the offer sheet the Edmonton Oilers and Lowe extended to restricted free agent Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks.
"It was an act of desperation by a general manager fighting to keep his job," Burke, the Ducks' general manager, said bitterly during a conference call. "It speaks for itself."
On Thursday the Oilers tendered an offer sheet to Penner calling for a five-year deal worth $21.25-million (all figures U.S.). He is a restricted free agent who earned a base salary of $450,000 last season.
Anaheim has seven days to match the offer or accept compensation, which under the collective agreement calls for one future first-round draft selections, a second-rounder and a third-rounder.
Burke was steamed because he had no notice from Lowe. And the offer came on the eve of Burke's induction into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton, B.C.
"I think it's a classless move, timing wise," Burke said from Penticton. "It could have waited until Monday and showed no respect for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame.
"I was not notified of this until the agent [Gerry Johannson]faxed it into us. I thought Kevin would have called me and told me it's coming.
"I thought that was gutless."
Burke indicated he will have meetings with Anaheim ownership and other management tomorrow and Monday before announcing a decision about matching or accepting compensation.
"I have no problem with offer sheets," Burke said. "They're part of the [collective agreement] It's a tool teams are entitled to use.
"My fear is that it's the second time this year, in my opinion, Edmonton has offered a grossly inflated salary for a player. It impacts on all 30 teams, including [Lowe's]own."
Lowe hasn't commented on the Penner offer.
Earlier this month, the Oilers signed Buffalo winger Thomas Vanek to a five-year, $50-million offer sheet, which the Sabres matched to retain the 43-goal scorer.
The Oilers also were rebuffed by unrestricted free agent Michael Nylander, who withdrew his acceptance of a deal with Edmonton and subsequently signed with the Washington Capitals.
Edmonton did sign high-scoring defenceman Sheldon Souray for $27-million over five years, luring the unrestricted free agent from the Montreal Canadiens. Burke admitted the Ducks are in a difficult situation regarding the salary cap in that the Stanley Cup champions are waiting to learn if veterans Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne will rejoin the team or retire.
"From a tactical standpoint, it's pretty clear with the steps we've taken in the unique circumstances we're in with regards to two marquee players being undecided, we've created a situation and put ourselves at risk," Burke said. "We're acutely aware of that."
Burke indicated the Ducks had preliminary negotiations with Penner's agent. Penner, 24 and undrafted, scored 29 goals last season during his first full NHL campaign.
The power forward performed well in the playoffs alongside linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, both of whom could become restricted free agents next summer.
"It should be pretty clear why I'm irate," Burke said, adding he won't take the full seven days to make a decision on Penner just to be spiteful.
Lowe was in Penticton all week to watch his son at hockey school, but Burke said he hadn't crossed paths with the Oilers GM, once considered an ally on league matters.