The $21.5 Million Dollar Hicke

This is Ernie Hicke. The only time he ever gets mentioned now is in regard to Guy Lafleur and the ill-fated trade Oakland made to improve themselves for 70-71.

The actual trade is rarely (if ever) listed, so allow me the honor:

May 22, 1970: Montreal trades LW Ernie Hicke, their 1970 1st rd pick (C Chris Oddleifson) to Oakland for the Seals’ 1971 1st round pick, D Francois Lacombe and cash.

Hicke scored 22 goals as a rookie on a terrible team (there really is no current comp for the Oakland Seals, they were the Arizona Cardinals of the NHL. If they had landed Gretzky they’d have converted him to defense). He wasn’t a bad hockey player really, and I think it’s unfair that the only time he gets mentioned is in regard to the Lafleur deal.

After all, he didn’t make the trade. Frank Selke Jr made the deal. No one remembers that, though.

Dustin Penner is a better player than Ernie Hicke was, and fact is Edmonton is unlikely to win the draft lottery allowing the Anaheim Ducks to draft John Taveras (should he become eligible) or Steve Stamkos. It is at the very least a stretch to compare the two situations, but I think we can safely call it a “small Hicke” or “Hicke light” at this time.

I would be thrilled if Dustin Penner rolls off several seasons of 35+ goals and the Oil finish in the playoffs. It would make me very happy if Anaheim drafted a dud with the first, second and third round picks. I am not one of those who laughs when Burke says things like “we’re taking back 3 picks and given Kevin’s recent performance I expect them to be excellent picks.” In an industry rife with bullies and assholes, Brian Burke is the king of the hill.

But I don’t like this deal. I just don’t. It’s not close to full value, and it absolutely reeks of despair on Kevin Lowe’s part, brought into even greater focus because it is giving off a strong and foul order the day it was completed. IS Dustin Penner a better player than Raffi Torres? Jarret Stoll? By how much?

The number of things that have to go right in order for the Oilers to get to even on this deal are massive, and I suspect you could not find an oddsmaker on the planet earth that would give you a fair shake on a bet this works out.

We are lost. Our money and our assets do not give us 100 cents on the dollar, and so we are left to overpay mid-level talent in the hopes they counter trey established wisdom and over one hundred years of the game’s history.

Glory is farther away than ever, the game plan askew. The men in suits have gone mad.

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31 Responses to "The $21.5 Million Dollar Hicke"

  1. godot10 says:

    You are forgetting that Montreal had to make a second trade, basically give Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles, to insure that California finished last.

    The Oilers aren’t remotely a lottery team, unless they get critical injuries again. There weren’t remotely a lottery team last year until they got critical injuries.

  2. godot10 says:


    I would rather pay a 28-year old Dustin Penner $4.25 million than a 35-year old Ryan Smyth $6.25 million.


    The Oilers still have a 1st and a 2nd round draft pick next year.

    Penner has a better chance of being an impact player, and an impact player soon, than any player they draft next year.

  3. danny says:


    Penner at most, in a perfect Burke world makes about $1.8M more than he would have. The chances that any of those 3 draft picks ever give the Oilers 30 goals in a season for anything less than $4M is a long shot at best.

    I think you have your odds grossly misjudged.

    If Penner is a 30 goal scorer for Edmonton this season, Anaheim has a long way to go to ever catch up. Odds are firmly against it I would imagine?

    In the 2003 entry draft, a total of 11 players taken in the first round have scored 30 career NHL goals. They are all due for new contracts next season.

    Madness :)

  4. Anthony K says:

    it’s funny, everyone is freaking out about this deal. Yes, the oilers may get a top 5 pick…but they are coming off a year where they had 3 first rounders.

    Also, Penner is not chopped liver. When RFA started, everyone included him as an up and coming star. Granted, not on the level of some of the other guys, but a young solid player none-the-less.

    The Oil caught the shaft early on with the Nylander situation. By the time that came to pass, all of the worthwhile FA’s were off the board. Lowe needed to get a front of the net presence, and with Penner, he has that.

    Also, how long does it take the typical 1st rounder to mature, if he ever does? 2-3 seasons?

    Lets not lose sight of the fact that we got a good player here. Everyone is discounting that.

  5. Dennis says:

    Wrong hill to die on, my friend. Where were you when the Oilers dealt off Pronger for Lupul, Smid and picks? THAT was the real day the music died. And the mistreatment of 94 didn’t help either.

    Did Burke really make that quote about Lowe though? It would be pretty funny if he did and I really wouldn’t be able to debate it. Lowe fucked up so much last season, he deserves every barb he gets. It’s rich that it comes from that fuckhead Burke, though. We handed that fat Irish idiot a Cup and he still wants more.

    Certainly one of the most hateful guys in hockey.

  6. IceDragoon says:



    Go get a Sleeman. (cream ale?)

    And pencil in a day at training camp with me.

    It’s all good.

  7. Lowetide says:

    $9.65M on Souray and Penner, Louise. There’s simply not enough Sleeman’s (draught, btw, in case you wanted to pack something in the trunk for that adventurous car ride). :-)

    Today Lowe said something like “we had Penner on our list” after Vanek or some such. I’d love to know how far down the list he was, but it sounded like he was implying Penner was next up.

    Anyone else hear that?

  8. IceDragoon says:

    The cap will continue to rise.

    MacT wants him.

    Draught it is. Only, you don’t have to ride with me, unless you’re requesting my designated driver services after TC and lunch.

  9. Lowetide says:

    Louise: We should do that (TC), and I’ll buy lunch (which if the right people read this thread could cause a stroke). :-)

    I don’t know Louise, the Oilers now have two guys signed for 5 bullets that aren’t “complete players.”

    That is going to require the rest of the roster to outplay those two, and eventually they’ll need to be rewarded.

    Beginning with Pitkanen and Staios.

    As an aside, and I’m not trying to trap anyone here just looking for opinion, where would Penner rank in terms of 07-08 value among Oiler forwards?

  10. Lowetide says:

    I meant “Pitkanen and Stoll.”

  11. rickibear says:

    Anaheim will suffer the Stanley cup Fall that is now a result of the extended playoff run.

    If Selanne, Niedemeyer, and Penner are gone they have to replace 37% (94/254)of their goals.

    Which teams Draft pick will be higher Anaheims Edmonton pick or Edmonton’s Anaheim pick.

    We may yet be in the lottery if things go bad for Anaheim.

  12. IceDragoon says:

    You’re on. As soon as TC dates come out we’ll set it.

    Those two guys both have great character and want to improve. Bonus… they get MacT & co to help them.

    Too soon to tell where Penner ranks. Barring another amazing leap in his progress, he’s obviously overpaid this year. But, he’s a free agent signing and an overpay is expected.

    Players know this. If they want money over all else, they’ll follow the bucks, regardless. If they want to stay on their team, they’ll sign a respectful hometown deal. KLo has to be on top of things.

    Oh, and… Don’t forget Pouliot. If he proves he can handle some heavy lifting, some smart GM might be tempted. er… He’s too young for arbs, right?

  13. Lowetide says:

    Suspect they’d be able to match Pouliot and one of Stoll/Pitkanen, obviously depending upon performance.

    As for 07-08, I’m hoping now that Craig Simpson quits and the Oilers get a PP like San Jose’s.

  14. IceDragoon says:

    Horcoff was just on 630 ched. Baseball talk was on 1260.

    He sounds thrilled.

    Looking forward to playing with Penner & says he is a hard guy to play against.

    He’s salivating over the added puck movers.

    Really seems to like Souray, who is already working out with Chad & the boys in SoCal.

    Apparently, Sheldon is very impressed at the shape our boys are in.

  15. IceDragoon says:

    Just listening to theteam1260 replaying the phone conference. KLo did, indeed, say that Penner was next on the list after Vanek.


    Coaching can’t give the PP players more skill. I think the PP was designed around Ryan Smyth anyway, so changes are definitely in order. But, we’ve gained some significant PP talent upgrades.

    Coaching can make a huge difference on the PK, tho. This was also Simmer’s domain.

  16. Lowetide says:

    Louise: Two things Penner will bring to that line are the ability to dig in the corners and he’s also so bloody big that means all kinds of trouble down low.

    MacT is more involved in procurement this summer so I’m hoping you’re right and Penner will be an outscorer and have a major impact on the PP.

  17. Whitewoody says:

    I totally agree. 4.25 is pretty expensive per year. Maybe 3.2 mill. Penner might work great but might not. It is a big risk.

    Parise only got 3.1m per yr. I just don’t think we have the firepower. We should do better than last year but we need to rebuild. Or i think we could just be an average team.

  18. oilerdiehard says:

    A bit too over the top on the doom and gloom for me. I feel it is overstated.

    I just wanted to throw in here, I love reading your stuff though LT and this blog is just fantastic.

    Icedragoon thank you for coming in here and being the voice of reason. I look forward to your return to HF, we miss you.

  19. danny says:

    PJO – thanks for the link. It covers all of the thoughts Ive had on the topic regarding money. Its a compelling argument, and it doesn’t even touch on the diminishing return of draft picks once the RFA cost moves closer to the UFA amounts. And it will surely do so.

    I think people are very gun shy after the Lupul debacle, and rightfully so… but as stated in that article, Penner’s +/- hits came in the first half of the season, which he played with marchant. He fared quite well the final stretch with Perry/Getzlaf.

    If Penner is a 30 goal guy in Edmonton, the money and picks make it an excellent deal.

    It’s not really fair to critique this deal based on your perception of the other signings and where you think the draft pick may be. Under the old CBA yes… but not this one IMO.

  20. Lowetide says:

    danny: Let me ask you something: How many goals do you think another winger would have scored on that line? I’m not saying Penner can’t score, but this was a perfect storm for him.

    Soft minutes, two very good linemates and he took advantage. I’m not disputing that he has talent, I’m not disputing the value of an offer sheet, I’m not disputing that giving up a 1st rd draft pick has less value than it did before the new CBA.

    I’m saying that this player, given that money, in a draft year as splendid as the once coming, is not close to being good enough and this smells badly of a GM attempting to do a make good on a very difficult season where pretty much every decision turned to mush.

    The arguments on Eklund’s blog put a brave face on the argument and give those who already like the deal another reference point.

    But it doesn’t change the fact that the Edmonton Oilers got a rather inexperienced player who has certain obvious strengths and other areas that will make him less than a complete player.

    And for that they gave up a ton of money that could have gone elsewhere (including our own rfa’s next summer) and a first round pick in a very deep draft.

    I’m astounded Kevin Lowe spent this much money on Dustin Penner and Sheldon Souray.

  21. Ribs says:

    “The number of things that have to go right in order for the Oilers to get to even on this deal are massive, and I suspect you could not find an oddsmaker on the planet earth that would give you a fair shake on a bet this works out.”

    Sounds like Oiler hockey! Damn the odds!

  22. Big T says:

    Next year we have only about $16.5MM to pay 12 players incl.

    Stoll ($3.0MM plus)
    Pitkanen ($3.0MM plus)
    Pouliot ($1.5MM)
    Grebeshkov ($1.5MM)
    Smid ($1.5MM)
    Thoreson ($800K)

    and the entire 4th line plus two extras (minimum $4.0MM)

    TOTAL of $16.3MM not including the two ‘pluses’ of Stoll and Pitkanen.


  23. danny says:

    I wont deny at all that there are question marks surrounding the player. I’ve said such many times about Parise as well.

    The question here is alternatives?

    Throwing in the towel and not signing Souray/Penner?

    I might have been OK with that, but even without Souray added, and teh chances of a top 8 pick in a deep deep draft… your returns chances of ever scoring 30 goals in any type of storm, 4-5 years from now isnt a given. 2003 was a ridiculous draft talent wise, and one of the best from there is hardly a notch ahead of Penner, and arguably operated in a perfect storm last season (Parise).

    Then again I know you arent a fan of Parise but the point remains… the best possible outcome of keeping that draft pick, is that we have a Milan Micaelek, or Nathan Horton 4 years from now. Hortons cap hit has never been cheap, and is currently about the same as Penners.

    I’m not sure the flip side is any better on keeping the pick for the near or distant future, I know we are a better team with Penner next season.

    I just hope ID is right and that they wanted this guy. I too am gunshy after the Lupul mess, but I would hope the resolve of MacT and Lowe after such is indication we can put more faith in Penner. Unless they are actually idiots.

    I hope the EIG didn’t pressure Lowe into making moves to put on a brave front for the ownership struggle, because if that did carry an impact then I think maybe hockey sense possibly did take a back seat… i dont buy that Lowe is desperate to keep his job though.

  24. oilerdiehard says:

    LT – But it doesn’t change the fact that the Edmonton Oilers got a rather inexperienced player who has certain obvious strengths and other areas that will make him less than a complete player.

    This is something I have a bit of a problem with. This statement seems to just assume he is never going to become a more complete player. Was Ryan Smyth a complete player his first couple seasons? I remember a lot of talk about Stoll will never get it and will never improve against tough comp. etc…

    From what I have seen the kid has a lot of tools and some smarts and seems hard working. Putting him IMO miles ahead of Joffrey Lupul, where you are at a loss to even know where to start with his game.

  25. rickibear says:

    Look at the video of Penners ev goals. 3 were just at the end of the power play. So he really had 17 ev and 12 PP goals. In the EV goal videos you see alot of Marchant, Shannon, and Thorton. Holy S*** he scored 17 EV strength goals with a large amount of time with that group.

  26. Barry says:

    Wow, all this talk of car rides and hickies, lets get back to hockey shall we?

    Lowtide, I am with you – to an extent. $4.25 M is an overpay this year – but so what? It is not like that extra $1.9 M is really keeping the Oilers from the Cup.

    The problem the team has is attracting anyone here. I think that Lowe correctly realizes that if he goes into full blown rebuild mode (to get in a lottery pick position that you dream about) it is going to become impossible to attract anyone here even for an overpay. The Oil are going to become the Devil Rays or Oakland Seals for awhile. That can do real damage to a fanbase and a team rep around the league.

    They had money, brought in Souray and Penner and now there is a decent core. A bit of development from the rookies and sophmores and they are a playoff team. A lot of development and some chemistry (say Nilson & Shrempt continue to develop on the farm together and get called up in Decemeber) and who knows?

    The cap will keep going up and in 3 years Penner is a decent bet to be paid what he is worth. Plus Souray is front loaded.

    The money doesn’t worry me.

    The draft picks hurt more but again it is not fatal. They still have a 1st and 2nd next year. Maybe they unload Rollie at the deadline for another low 1st. The odds of all 3 picks making the NHL, nevermind being Penner are slim. Say one turns out to be Penner.

    Look at it as a trade. An overpriced Penner for a cheap Penner in 5 years.

  27. Dennis says:

    Yeah, I think he’d better be an outscorer too but there are of course levels of outscoring. Some people compare Penner to 94 but 94 could do it playing against anyone and if we replaced 94 with Penner and had him play the same tough opp, how do you think it would shake out?

    Not well is my guess.

    So, now, a lot of responsibilites lands on 16 and 78′s lines and personally, we’re gonna need plus/minuses from the Penner/Horc-hemsky line like the ones Vanek posted if we’re to make the playodds.

  28. ClaytonMagnet says:

    Some thoughts:

    - Oiler draft picks since 1996: 116

    - Top 5 established drafted players so far since 1996 (IMO): Hemsky, Horcoff, Stoll, Pisani, Comrie

    - Some of the top players the Oilers passed on but could have had since 1996 (IMO): Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Havlat, Brad Richards, Regehr, Chara, Kaberle, Briere, Visnovsky, Cam Ward, Afinogenov, Gagne, Patrice Bergeron…

    - Number of other NHL teams that passed on at least one player from the above list: 30

    - Total number of Oiler draft picks since 1996 to score 29+ goals: 1 (Comrie, 30g, 05-06 in PHX)

    - My point: The draft is a complete and total crap-shoot. Anyone that claims it isn’t, either has the number one pick in Tavares’ draft year, or is a Red Wing fan. If history tells us anything, it’s that every draft year has a lot of high-ranked players who flop, and a number of sleepers who make it (just ask LA, who drafted Tom Glavine the pitcher five rounds before they picked Robitaille in ’84). And, historically, some teams seem to consistently draft above average, some (like Edmonton) consistently pick guys like Jani Rita over guys like Martin Havlat.

    Now, I know that Lowe’s draft record is still a question mark due to the fact that most of his picks are still developing… and we’re all high on Gagne, Schremp, Nilsson… But that’s my point. Out of our current crop of prospects, the odds are very, VERY slim that one or more will become an ‘elite’ level player, or even just a really good one. And just because next year is a supposedly deep draft, doesn’t guarantee a thing.

    Say what you want about Penner, but think of it this way; if Penner was drafted by Lowe, we’d be calling KLo a genius, and we’d love us some Penner, because he would’ve been one of those 8th round sleepers. And show me one draft year in the last 13 where one of the top three Oiler picks ended up a better player than Penner already is. Hemsky probably, Stoll hopefully, Horc maybe. But, going by what the Oilers historically do, I’d trade our top 3 picks for Penner. Hell, I’d trade every 1st and 2nd round pick we made from ’95 to ’00 for Penner.

    But that’s just one weirdo’s opinion.

  29. IceDragoon says:

    I look forward to your return to HF, we miss you.

    Thank you for your kind words, Oilerdiehard. I’ve missed you guys, too.

    Life is coming back into focus, tho. If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll see you there soon.



    As Dennis says, there are different degrees of outscoring. :-)

    I understand the trepidation. We sucked last year, and we had Smytty for most of it. People seem to forget, tho, that we were playing many of those rookie minutes, you kindly revealed to us, after his departure. iow – The royal flush was not all about losing him.

    The ’07-’08 D isn’t perfect, but they’re older and can move the puck.

    I think you’ll see much better buy-in from the wingers and that will make a huge difference, imho. Failure is one **** of of a motivator.

    You know there’s no one I’d rather have on the ice than Ryan Smyth. He just plugs himself in and goes against any and all comers. Freaking incredible instincts. Last year? Not so much. I think a solid team game will easily replace that Smytty.

    No lottery pick for Burkie methinks. ;-D

  30. Number 75 says:

    Speaking of Ernie Hicke he was on the ice last night helping to coach my sons mighty mite team the Ca. North Stars. He did a great job with the kids which at that age can be like hearding cats. He was very corgial and very direct with the kids, thanks again Ernie.

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