The feud between Ducks General Manager Brian Burke and his Edmonton counterpart, Kevin Lowe, that has simmered for a year is at full boil again.
Largely staying quiet for a year while Burke repeatedly criticized his decision to tender lucrative offer sheets, Lowe shot back, calling Burke a “moron” following comments made by the Anaheim GM to The Times earlier this week.
In an interview with an Edmonton radio station late Friday, Lowe sharply responded to Burke’s assertion that the offer sheets the Oilers gave to Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner last summer have driven up the salary structure for young restricted free agents.
Buffalo matched the Oilers’ seven-year, $50-million offer sheet for Vanek, but the Ducks passed on Edmonton’s five-year, $21.2-million offer for Penner. The Ducks have signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to similar five-year extensions worth nearly $26.6 million.
Lowe finally countered Friday, saying Burke should blame those who handed out contracts to Columbus’ Rick Nash, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk before the 2004-05 lockout.
“I mean, if he wants to debate what our offer sheet did to them or to the salaries, any time,” Lowe said in the interview with Edmonton sports station Team 1260. “I’m sick and tired of it. I know everybody is. I know our peers are like, ‘Well, that’s Burkie.’
“The guy is an absolute media junkie and I guess he’s achieving what he wants because he gets his name in the headlines. But the reality is, I hate the fact that my name is linked to this.
“He won a Stanley Cup? Great. I’ve won six Stanley Cups, you want to count rings? Who cares? It’s just a little pathetic that he carries on.”
In a conference call with local reporters Wednesday, Burke spoke on the state of young players getting large contracts, saying, “They’re all being re-signed at inflated prices. Everything I said a year ago has come true. Every single word.
“You go right now from entry-level to what used to be the third contract, thanks to two offer sheets from Kevin Lowe.”
Lowe also sharply criticized the Southern California market, saying that Burke’s statements are largely designed to drum up local interest in the NHL.
“He’s a moron, first of all,” Lowe said. “Secondly, he really believes that any news for the NHL is good news. Thirdly, he loves the limelight and I don’t think anyone in hockey will dispute that.
“Lastly, he’s in a pathetic hockey market where they can’t get on any page of the newspaper let alone the front page of the sports, so any of this stuff carries on.”
Lowe said he shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the recent rise in salaries.
“In the old system, teams were overpaying or paying a lot of money for the 31-year-olds who were unproductive, [and] not producing up to that level,” he said. “I really feel that if you’re going to pay the big money, it’s the 23- to 29-year-olds that deserve the money.”
In the interview, Lowe diminished Burke’s impact in the Ducks’ winning the Stanley Cup title in 2007, saying that Anaheim simply had the best package among several teams when he traded Chris Pronger to the Ducks, and called Bobby Ryan a “questionable” No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft behind Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby.
Burke, who is spending the holiday weekend with his family, declined to address any of Lowe’s comments.