Oilers lock up key young performers
EDMONTON -- The two spent weeks talking contract -- an ongoing dialogue that was interspersed with long discussions about how they wanted to become the cornerstones of the Edmonton Oilers.
So after Taylor Hall signed his seven-year, $42-million extension, it wasn't going to be long before Jordan Eberle was also locked up by the Oilers.
"We want to be here. We want to be the core guys who help the team win," Eberle said Thursday, soon after it was announced he had agreed to a six-year, $36-million contract extension.
"We wanted to sign for similar numbers and similar years."
Eberle likened it to the five-year contract extensions Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009 when they were coming out of their entry level deals.
"It signifies we want to be here for a significant amount of time and that we see the direction that the team is going, and that's forward. I think this year is definitely going to be a big year for us. We still have a lot to prove," Eberle continued, "and team-wise we haven't done much so that's our focus right now."
Eberle, Hall's on-ice teammate and off-ice sidekick, led the Oilers with 34 goals and 42 assists last season and, with just 10 penalty minutes in 78 games, was a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy. General manager Steve Tambellini figures the 22-year-old winger is just starting to make a statement with his game.
Drafted 22nd overall in 2008, Eberle, put up 43 points in his first season in 2010-2011.
"Obviously there's a lot of pressure that goes along with (the new deal), but at the same time I'm going to go out there and do the same thing I've been doing," said Eberle. "I've had the best summer of training, maybe the best I've had in a long time. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or if I've found my man strength but I'm a lot stronger than I've been so I'm excited for the season."
Both extensions kick in after the 2012-2013 campaign and will take the two wingers past unrestricted free agency (providing the structure doesn't change in the new collective bargaining agreement after the old one expires on Sept. 15). Both extensions came on the heels of the six-year $34.35-million extension Jeff Skinner signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. Skinner was in the same rookie class as Hall and Eberle in 2010-2011, taking the league's rookie of the year honours at season's end.
Both also set a benchmark for future extensions for the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, who like Hall, were selected first-overall, as well as defenceman Justin Schultz, the sought-after college free agent who signed with the Oilers on June 30.
"Another significant day for the Oilers," said Tambellini. "Both he and Taylor want to be here; they want to be in Edmonton.
"This sends a message to not only the league but our players, that some of our best young players are so committed to being here in Edmonton. That's the important part for me ... and they're both a huge part of what we need to have in place in order to grow and sustain some success here.
"They are different types of players but they complement each other. I have no doubt they're going to be growing as we go forward."
What Tambellini wouldn't do, was put his young players in the same category as Toews and Kane, or Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. At least not yet. As for the contracts, he said it made more sense to get deals done now, with numbers that made sense, rather than wait until the new collective bargaining agreement's hammered out.
"We have two of our young star players locked up and that feels pretty good right now," Tambellini continued. "(Through the summer) we've accomplished what we've needed to do, to this point."
"We had been talking to each other, about what we want to do," Eberle said, "and I don't think there's any other way to put it other than we're excited to be here and with the direction the team is going."
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