Forget Gary Bettman: Brian Burke vs Kevin Lowe Good for NHL

Ian FroeseCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2008

There is no doubt that the argument between Anaheim GM Brian Burke and his Edmonton counterpart Kevin Lowe is pretty childish. Burke has claimed that the NHL’s skyrocketing salaries are due to Lowe’s contract offers to Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner last summer, while Lowe has recently turned the tables by throwing some harsh comments at his Anaheim Duck colleague.

In truth, both look pathetic. To Burke, it’s not completely Lowe’s fault that over $300 million entered the wallets of some NHL players. Or that somehow a player’s salary can increase at the same time that his productivity is decreasing (cough, cough, Mats Sundin.)

Although, Lowe has to hold some of the blame. $4.25 million a year for Dustin Penner is probably double what he deserves. That historic offer to a restricted free agent means that they are no longer untouchable.

And then you have Lowe’s insults at Burke that have been stolen straight from a crayon-filled elementary school textbook, such as hilarious one-liners like “an underachieving wannabe” and “a moron.” My younger brothers' insults surpass that.

But regardless of what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says, this quarrel is a good thing for the league—since it’s indirectly throwing a spotlight on the other 28 GMs. Hopefully they are looking at this unfolding drama and telling themselves to keep the checkbook under control, so they don’t become the third wheel in this dispute.

For example, Toronto’s interim GM-for-life Cliff Fletcher is, with any luck, regretting his decision to give defensemen Jeff Finger $14 million for four years. I would tell you more about this player, but not even Colorado GM Francois Giguere knew about this guy.

In addition, the Rangers’ man-in-charge Glen Sather has to be wishing that everyone forgets the $6.5 million that he is sending Wade Redden’s way.

Overall, player salaries are once again spiralling out of control. I’m hoping that Burke and Lowe’s argument is a wake up call to the rest of the league to keep the salaries down, and avoid another lockout.