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Edmonton Sun

Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson and agent Peter Semonick began negotiating a contract for Joffrey Lupul yesterday. To hear both parties tell it - sans details of what will most likely end up being a two-year deal, of course - talks went well.

"I thought it was a positive discussion with a lot of ideas exchanged," Howson said. "We were both open and frank with what the issues and challenges are to getting a deal here."

Lupul, 22, the key player in the Pronger trade with Anaheim, scored 28-25-53 in the final year of his first NHL pact, one that paid him $900,600 in 2005-06.

The Fort Saskatchewan native also made plenty of noise in the playoffs, adding nine goals in 16 games before the Oilers overcame Anaheim in the Western Conference final.

"We're on good terms and we're talking back and forth," Semonick said. "We'll continue with that."

Best bet is it'll take $3 million to $3.5 million to ink Lupul for two years because such a deal takes him a season beyond arbitration. If two years isn't do-able, think in terms of $1.1 million or so for a one-year pact.

LEGAL CHALLENGE? Howson spoke with agent Don Meehan about Alexei Mikhnov again yesterday, but, there's still work to do to get the Oilers first-round draft pick in 2000 out of Russia and into training camp next month.

While Mikhnov sidestepped the transfer fee mess clogging up the works by using a labour loophole to free himself from his deal with Yaroslavl - he gave the club two weeks' notice of his intent to resign as an employee June 30 - it might take more than a contract to get him here.

Meehan and the Oilers are willing to hammer out a one-year contract, but they also know Yaroslavl could hold things up by launching a legal challenge.

ON THE TUBE: The Oilers will have 19 nationally televised games this season, with 15 on CBC and four on TSN. The Oilers season opener against the Calgary Flames will be telecast on CBC Oct. 5.
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