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Oilers watching Ducks' success closely
Edmonton gets another first-round pick if Anaheim reaches final-- thanks to the Chris Pronger deal
 
Jim Matheson
The Edmonton Journal

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The further the Anaheim Ducks go in the playoffs, the better the draft fortunes of the Oilers ... but are Edmonton fans ready for the sight of Chris Pronger, seen here celebrating a post-season goal, sipping from the Stanley Cup?
CREDIT: Reuters, File
The further the Anaheim Ducks go in the playoffs, the better the draft fortunes of the Oilers ... but are Edmonton fans ready for the sight of Chris Pronger, seen here celebrating a post-season goal, sipping from the Stanley Cup?
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ANAHEIM - Members of the Edmonton Oilers staff are undoubtedly torn by the Anaheim Ducks' playoff success so far.

They would like Brian Burke's team to win the Western Conference and get to the Stanley Cup finals for first time, which would get the Oilers an extra first-round draft pick in 2008 as part of the complicated Chris Pronger trade puzzle last July.

But when all is said and done, they may not want to watch Pronger lift the silver mug over his head. That might be too much to bear after the way the star defenceman left town last summer.

Still, the draft pick sweetener makes things interesting.

If the Ducks do win the West this year, in 2008 or '09, the Oilers get the extra first-round pick. They already have Anaheim's choice this June as a piece of the Pronger deal, so if the Ducks knock off either Detroit or San Jose in the West, the pick flips to 2008, not '07.

And the scouts say next year's draft crop could be on par with 2003, when the Ducks got Ryan Getzlaf 19th and Corey Perry 28th.

Burke certainly remembers his conversation with Oilers GM Kevin Lowe when he was trying work the complicated deal.

"Kevin said, 'Burkie, I'm handing you a ticket to the finals.' I told Kevin, 'OK, if that's true, I'll put another first (rounder) up,' '' said the Ducks GM.

" I was happy to do it at the time, and I'll be happy to do it if we get there. It would be arrogant for me to look too far ahead, but, trust me, if we get to the finals we will happily forfeit that first-round draft choice in 2008. That would be a pretty good trade-off.

"I'm sure the Oilers are cheering for us to go as far as we can go."

Burke is aware that teams have to build through the draft to stay ahead of the curve in today's tightened economic world. The 2008 draft list has been compared to the terrific 2003 pool that was so high-end that 21 players out of the top 30 are regulars in the NHL now. Not just Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter and Dion Phaneuf, who went in the top nine, but Zach Parise, Brent Burns and Mike Richards much later in Round 1. Unbelievably, Patrice Bergeron (45), Matt Carle (47) and Shea Weber (49) were mined, too.

"It (2008) is one of those draft crops that come along only every five or 10 years. We'd like them to win (West) this year, for sure," said Oilers head of scouting Kevin Prendergast.

"In the cap system, draft picks are vitally important, valuable assets. You just don't throw them away. But Kevin Lowe drove a very hard bargain to get Chris," said Burke, who also gave up a second-rounder in 2008, at the time, for Pronger.

"We were getting a player who was signed for another four years, though ... you could be a GM for 20 years and not get a chance at a player like Chris Pronger. He eliminates everybody. Teams try and chip the puck down the wall on a cycle, and he knocks the pucks out of the air. He's physical. He's the whole package.

"Having Chris and Scott Niedermayer on the same team ... they're like Rolls- Royces. We all know that's a great car, but when you have one (or two) and drive it every day, you sit back and say 'you know what? This IS a great car.'

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