EDMONTON - After a hectic off-season of trades, offer sheets and signing free agents, Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe has taken his turn on the receiving end of the pen.
Lowe and the Oilers announced Saturday they have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension, a deal that will take the native of Lachute, Que., through the end of the 2011-12 NHL season.
"By what we saw the other night on the ice, it looks like the future looks pretty bright for the Oilers, so I'm pleased to be a part of it," said Lowe, whose team opened the season with 3-2 win over San Jose Thursday.
Lowe, 48, who took over from Glen Sather as GM in June 2000, is in the final year of a four-year contract. The extension begins at the start of the 2008-09 campaign.
"He seems really happy with four years because it gives him stability to do some planning longer term," said Cal Nichols, team governor and chairman of the Edmonton Investors Group.
"Certainly, we're happy with the four years because we also want the stability. He's become a pillar in the community and, I think, it would be hard to imagine, at this point in time, anybody else but him doing the job."
Lowe drew the ire of Anaheim GM Brian Burke for tendering Dustin Penner a US$21.25-million offer sheet in the wake of a 2006-07 season in which the Oilers fell out of Western Conference playoffs with a 32-43-7 record.
"I always put my heart into it and try to do what is best for the team and the city," said Lowe, who declined to comment and fuel verbal sparring with Burke that has been ongoing since the Penner offer. "I'll continue to do that for these next number of years, as long as they'll have me, anyway."
In a television interview last week, Burke, characterized Lowe's offer sheet to Penner as "colossal stupidity" and accused him of running the Oilers "into the sewer." In the summer, he called the Penner signing, "an act of desperation by a general manager who is fighting to keep his job."
Nichols takes a different view.
"Never, ever, once in the almost 10 years I've been going to governors meetings have I been more proud walking into a room with Kevin Lowe," said Nichols. "He's got the history. He's got the presence. He handles himself very well, so I've got no issues there. I don't want to talk about other general managers. Obviously, I have some strong feelings about it, but I think today is for talking about Kevin Lowe."
Burke chose not to take any jabs when contacted about Lowe's new deal.
"It's good news for our group whenever a manager receives a contract extension," Buke told The Canadian Press.
In addition to Penner, Lowe acquired Joni Pitkanen and Geoff Sanderson in a trade with Philadelphia. He got Sheldon Souray, Dick Tarnstrom and Mathieu Garon via free agency. He also pitched a $50-million offer sheet to Buffalo's Thomas Vanek, which was matched by the Sabres.
Those acquisitions aside, the Oilers begin this season amid a significant youth movement. Prospects Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Kyle Brodziak are on the roster.
"I think the Oilers are in great shape as we saw the other night with the young guys," Lowe said. "Our leaders are still relatively young . . . I sense a lot of good things happening to this organization in the next couple years.
"I really believe we're rearmed in terms of manpower and reloading. We have to make that tough climb back up the hill again."
The Oilers have made the playoffs in three of Lowe's six seasons since he took over from Sather, including the team's roll to the 2006 Stanley Cup final and a Game 7 loss to Carolina.
In Lowe's lone season as head coach, 1999-2000, the Oilers made the playoffs with a 32-26-16-8 record and were eliminated in the first round by Dallas. He spent the previous season as an assistant coach to Ron Low.
Financial details of the extension were not released, although Nichols said the deal calls for a base salary and incentives.