Is Mike Comrie about to sign with the Oilers?

By Jeff Bromley
That, in a nutshell, is the million dollar question both in Edmonton and Cranbrook this week. With the
January 1 deadline looming for the Oilers to sign the WHL’s leading scorer if they want Comrie to play for
them this season, a report in both Edmonton daily newspapers suggest that a counter offer was tabled by
Mike Comrie’s agent Rich Winter on Boxing Day and, if accepted by the Oilers, would have the Kootenay
ICE captain in Oiler colors by the week’s end.

The deal, sent to Oiler G.M. Kevin Lowe by Winter, encompasses a three-year pact for the NHL’s rookie
salary cap maximum ($1.025 million per season) would also include a lucrative bonus structure that could
push the total money to somewhere in the neighborhood of between $10-$11 million over the three year life
of the contract.

So the jousting continues. Will he or won’t he? At this point it appears that Comrie is leaning more to the
will side. They countered with an offer that is acceptable to Mike Comrie. If Lowe signs off on it, Comrie is as
good as gone. The puck is squarely in the Oilers end. Is the deal imminent? That all depends now on Oiler
G.M. Kevin Lowe.

But there still remains many questions. Number one that list is the one seemingly everyone is asking: Why
would Mike Comrie give up the chance at unrestricted free agency in June by signing with the Oilers right
now? I’ve said it before in this space and I’ll say it again, why would you give up the bargaining leverage
you have when thirty teams are bartering for your services as opposed to just one? And what of the Oilers
and their financial picture? If Kevin Lowe did accept the aforementioned terms, or a slightly altered version
thereof, what would the contract do to the Oilers so-called conservative, small-market salary structure? What
does that say to the players who’ve had long, drawn out negotiations and hold-outs in search of a better
contract? A Canadian small-market team isn’t supposed to be throwing that kind of money at an unproven
prospect.

What about the atmosphere in the dressing room? The Edmonton press has all but hailed Mike Comrie as
the second coming and the savior of the franchise. Already dubbed a replacement for Oiler captain Doug
Weight if he heads out of town via his unrestricted free agency status Weight will have at the end of next
season, how many noses will be out of joint in the dressing room as Comrie’s contract would put him at least
in the top five earners on the club with out having played a shift in the NHL?

On Hockey Night in Canada this past weekend, a Toronto hockey writer said that Comrie would be an “idiot”
and that “his agent should be shot” if he signed with the Oilers before testing the free-agent waters in June.
An idiot? Hardly. If Mike Comrie wishes to sign with the Oilers for an agreed contract then so be it. He’s an
Edmonton boy and if he wants to play for the home town team, fine. Comrie’s older brother Paul plays for the
organization, his family has extensive roots in the Edmonton community, if the money’s right, why not? It’s
comments from guys like this that give the press a bad name. Personally, I still wonder why he wouldn’t wait
but signing for a possible $10-$11 million over three years? Idiot is not the first word that comes to mind.
Depending on how the bonus structure is laid out, with that kind of cash on the line, shrewd is the word I’d
use.

One way or another, it is best that this issue be settled soon. From the perspective of the Kootenay ICE the
only thing this whole drama can be only described as is a distraction to the club. The ICE still have a WHL
championship to defend and are in hot pursuit of another. The sooner this thing is solved the better.

Another NCAA defection? – There is rumblings, however slight, that Calgary native Dany Heatley will leave
the University of Wisconsin and join the Red Deer Rebels after the World Juniors in Russia. Last season
Matt Pettinger went to the Calgary Hitmen after the WJC’s from Colorado College in a move to improve his
draft status. In Heatley’s case, he was a number two pick overall by the Atlanta Thrashers at last year’s NHL
Draft, so the reasoning is still unclear unless following the footsteps of Mike Comrie and Mike Van Ryn to
take advantage of a shorter signing window is foremost on his mind. Although this conjecture is somewhat
premature, the thought of Heatley in an already powerful Rebel line-up is a scary one indeed

McCarthy Update -All ICE fans who think that Steve McCarthy’s return to the Kootenay’s is a foregone
conclusion after the WJC’s should think again. BlackHawk G.M. Mike Smith has stated that he will send
McCarthy to their AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va. for a fourteen day condition stint even though the nineteen
year old is too young to play there on a full-time basis. The knee injury and subsequent scope surgery on
Alexander Karpovtsev is supposed to keep him out of the line-up for three weeks. If that time frame becomes
longer, look for McCarthy to stay up and get a longer look….. Up next for the ICE at home is the Brandon
Wheat Kings in for a double header on Friday and Saturday.