Player rep heads for Europe

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

Even as the NHL lockout dragged from weeks to months and teammates signed to play with teams in Europe, Edmonton Oilers' NHLPA player rep Steve Staios counted himself among a distinct minority who believed there was a chance to save the season.

Yesterday, with 11th-hour meetings between the NHLPA and representative of the owners convening in New York, Staios agreed to terms on a contract with Lulea HF of the Swedish Elite League.

Time to quit dreaming and play hockey - somewhere.

"My optimism has dwindled," Staios said.

"I think the writing's on the wall with some of the comments that have come out that the league will make one more proposal, but that it'll include a salary cap.

"We're not going to negotiate on that."

Staios, 31, has been weighing offers for weeks but said last week he didn't want to commit to a team if the possibility existed the NHL season could be saved.

Despite meetings between the team reps and the union Wednesday in Toronto and yesterday in New York, he's finally decided that possibility is remote, at best.

"They're willing to shut down the season and not negotiate off their hard-line position," said Staios.

"I've been hoping that wouldn't be the case, but I don't really see it changing."

On the heels of Marc-Andre Bergeron signing with Brynas of the SEL and Ty Conklin signing on with Wolfsburg in Germany earlier this week, Staios becomes the 11th Oilers player to sign in Europe.

"I've been looking at a lot of options," Staios said.

"I just thought the time was right. I've been dragging out this decision on whether to go, but I think it's time to get playing again."

Staios will leave for Sweden on the weekend.


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