While big-name free agents were being scooped up to much fanfare, the Kings quietly, and wisely, signed a pair of steady scorers in center Michal Handzus and left wing Ladislav Nagy (right). The veteran duo played well together in St. Louis and then in Phoenix, and have also starred, along with L.A. defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, on the Slovak national team. The Kings lured Handzus with a four-year deal (worth $16 million); Nagy signed for one year at $3.75 million.... One of the more intriguing behind-the-scenes developments at the June 22 entry draft came about because Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky and his friend and former teammate Oilers G.M. Kevin Lowe coveted the same high-scoring winger, 17-year-old Kyle Turris. As Gretzky, holding the No. 3 pick, waited nervously, Lowe, who had the sixth pick, aggressively tried to trade up to the Flyers' spot at No. 2. When Lowe was unable to complete a deal, a visibly relieved Gretzky nabbed Turris (below). The framework for an Edmonton-Philly trade had been built, however, and on July 1 the Oilers sent forward Joffrey Lupul and defenseman Jason Smith to the Flyers for defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Geoff Sanderson.... Edmonton also caused a lot of grumbling when it offered a seven-year, $50 million contract to Sabres restricted free-agent Thomas Vanek. During the 2004--05 lockout many owners and G.M.'s believed that one of the teams they were fighting to save was the tradition-rich but cash-poor Oilers, who kept losing players to wealthier clubs. With the offer to Vanek, Edmonton behaved much like the big-market bullies who hoarded talent under the previous CBA. Buffalo matched the deal—instead of taking four Oilers first-round picks—but the damage was done. The Sabres could not afford to let Vanek slip away, and now they have far more money tied up in one player than they would like.
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