The deal is done.
Only it isn’t.
The Mighty Ducks have agreed to the terms of a trade that would bring Edmonton forward Mike Comrie to Anaheim. Duck General Manager Bryan Murray has worked out a contract with the unsigned Comrie.
Yet Comrie is not a Duck.
As a condition of the trade, Edmonton General Manager Kevin Lowe added a demand of $2.5 million, to be paid by Comrie, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
The source said that Comrie will not pay the Oilers, at least at this time, and is seeking legal advice on the matter.
In the past, professional players have bought out their contracts or have had contracts restructured to accommodate a trade, as the Boston Red Sox are attempting to do with Texas Ranger shortstop Alex Rodriguez. But a player being asked to pay to be traded is believed to be unprecedented.
The Ducks have not been asked to pay the money, either by Comrie or the Oilers. Murray declined to comment, but a source close to the team said the Ducks would not get involved in the money dispute between the Oilers and Comrie.
Comrie has not filed a complaint with the NHL players’ association, but union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said, “We are monitoring the situation.”
League officials declined to comment.
Murray, looking to pep up the Duck offense, expressed interest in Comrie last month but refused to part with a player currently on the team. The Oilers had asked for rookie Joffrey Lupul and later requested center Andy McDonald.
The two sides came to terms this week, with the Ducks agreeing to send to Edmonton prospect Corey Perry and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Comrie. Murray also worked out a contract with Comrie that will pay him about $1.5 million a season.
But Lowe made it clear no trade would occur until Comrie paid what seems to amount to an exit fee. Comrie had a base salary of $1.025 million the last three seasons but made $5 million in bonuses.
The speculation is that the financially strapped Oilers could use the $2.5 million to bring in a player that could help the team this season.
“I think we’re fairly close [to a deal] with the team, but in our minds, this is not fair market value, so we asked Mike to top up this particular deal,” Lowe said. “Not on all deals or any deals, but this particular deal, so we could get to a point where we felt we had something that addressed our needs this year and in the future. If he was willing to do that, fine. If not, we would sit and wait until we got the deal we needed.”
Animosity between the Oilers and Comrie has steadily increased since he refused the team’s $1.13-million qualifying offer. The 23-year-old Comrie was barred from training camp because he was not under contract, having rejected the 10% raise the Oilers were required to offer under the collective bargaining agreement. Comrie, in turn, demanded to be traded.
Comrie and Lowe met last week, but nothing changed. Comrie again made it clear he wanted to leave Edmonton.
“This is not about vindication, it’s all about the Edmonton Oilers trying to get a deal that addressed today and tomorrow,” Lowe said.
Lowe, a former Edmonton defenseman, once forced the Oilers to trade him. As a restricted free agent, he sat out nearly half the 1992-93 season before being traded to the New York Rangers.
Comrie is a 5-foot-9, 175-pound forward with proven scoring abilities. He scored 53 goals in the last two seasons with the Oilers. The trade also would give the Ducks added depth up front. That will allow Murray to explore other moves, which may include adding a defenseman or a power forward.
Perry, a 6-2, 185-pound forward, was the second of two first-round picks by the Ducks in last June’s draft. The Ducks took forward Ryan Getzlaf, who nearly made the team in training camp before being sent back to juniors, and then selected Perry with a pick they acquired from the Dallas Stars.