Ducks decline offer sheet, Dustin Penner signs with Edmonton

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After adding forward Dustin Penner to his lineup Thursday, he thinks he's done that. Penner officially became a member of the Oilers when the Anaheim Ducks declined to match a US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet. Even though some like Ducks GM Brian Burke criticized the move, Lowe didn't feel the need to make any apologies.

"There's almost some insinuation from managers that because we're friends we shouldn't be doing this to one another," he said. "I think our responsibility is not to one another, but is to our fan base and our ownership."

Penner is the first restricted free agent to find a new home via offer sheet in a decade. Tampa Bay declined to match a Philadelphia offer to Chris Gratton in 1997.

When the Oilers tendered the offer to Penner last week, Burke lashed out at Lowe and called it "an act of desperation" by a GM "fighting to keep his job."

Lowe won't be picking up the phone and talking to Burke any time soon.

"I have not (called him) and I don't plan on it," Lowe said on a conference call. "I have one responsibility and one responsibility only - and that's to the Edmonton Oilers fans and the Edmonton Oilers ownership.

"I'm not in the business of trying to make friends. Never have, never will be."

The Ducks will receive a first-, second-, and third-round draft pick as compensation.

After earning $425,000 last season, Penner signed the offer sheet with Edmonton last Thursday for a contract that will average $4.25 million per year.

Anaheim had a week to match that offer and waited right until the deadline had passed before announcing it was letting the 24-year-old leave.

Penner was unsure which way it would go and was anxious in the last 24 hours before learning his fate.

Heading to a new city with a handsome new contract, Penner isn't concerned about the extra expectations that are sure to follow.

"The pressure that I receive from the media and fans won't be near the pressure of what I put on myself," he said. "I know myself I didn't peak this last year as a player in Anaheim.

"I don't know what my potential is, but I think in the next five years I'll find out."

Penner scored 29 goals and had 16 assists for 45 points in his first full NHL season. He had another eight points (3-5) in 21 post-season games while helping the Ducks win the Stanley Cup.

The native of Winkler, Man., was an undrafted U.S. college player who signed with Anaheim as a free agent in 2004.

Some mixed emotions came with leaving the organization.

"You definitely grow attached to the team that first gives you an opportunity to get into the league," said Penner. "And Anaheim did that. . . .

"I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me."

He'll face a different sort of challenge now. After making it to the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Oilers finished 12th in the Western Conference last season.

Lowe didn't want to see that happen again and set out to be aggressive this summer. After he was unable to make a trade at the NHL draft or sign a big-name forward through unrestricted free agency, he looked towards offer sheets.

The Oilers first signed restricted free agent Thomas Vanek to a $50-million, seven-year offer sheet, but the Buffalo Sabres matched it.

Then they went after Penner.

"Restricted free agent offers were another part of our planning process all along," said Lowe. "Based on the reaction of some of the managers and some of the people in hockey, (it was) a very unpopular route.

"From our perspective, it was a very necessary one to improve our hockey club."

Penner is looking forward to joining the Oilers.

"I'm excited to be in a position where I become accountable to be a go-to guy," said Penner. "Hopefully I can do that. I'm excited at the challenge."


Michelle Jay/NWHL

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