'Bye Brew, hello Chris

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers said goodbye to a friend in Eric Brewer, but at the same time welcomed a star attraction in Chris Pronger.

"We pretty much got the best defenceman in the league," said Georges Laraque of Chris Pronger. "The No. 1 thing about Chris is that he is going to sell tickets. No one has seen a player of his calibre in this city since Wayne Gretzky.

"It's nice to not just talk about him being the best player, but also being on a team that can afford him. The other thing this is going to do is attract other players. When they see we got a big name like that, they're going to be like, 'Wow, these guys are serious.'

"That shows the unrestricted free agents that this team is willing to spend the money and that we want to win."

WITH, NOT AGAINST

Laraque is eager for the opportunity to play with the four-time all-star and not against him.

"If you ask me which defenceman I don't like to play against, it's him," said Laraque. "He's big and mean. He's good with his stick. I like to play in the corners but against him it's not easy."

Steve Staios will certainly miss his former blue-line partner in Brewer, but the exchange of talent is something no one would pass up.

"This guy is the real deal," Staios said of Pronger.

"I always felt this team was a playoff contender and I wouldn't want to put all the pressure of a team's success on his shoulders but with him and the team that will be around him, we certainly have the makings of a great team.

"He's a proven guy who has the type of star power that we definitely needed. He's got a uniqueness on the ice that he can move the puck, play the game smartly, and he's an incredible passer, but he also adds that edge - that toughness and grit - that is difficult to find."

After watching top-notch teammates like Doug Weight and Bill Guerin leave for prospects, those who were left behind are now seeing a new era dawning.

REGROUPING, REFOCUSING

"We went through those days when we kept seeing our friends moved, but this is now about regrouping, refocusing and moving forward," said captain Jason Smith, a willing participant in sharing the leadership duties with Pronger, who wore the 'C' in St. Louis.

"Any time you add a player as key as Chris with the success he's had at a playing at a high level and for as many years, you welcome the leadership role and experience he brings.

"It's something very positive that we can add to the group of guys we have like Ryan Smyth and Steve Staios to the younger guys like Shawn Horcoff. I think he'll jump right in and fit in."

Give credit where credit is due, figured Staios.

"The Oilers were able to position themselves well for when the CBA was worked out and they are taking advantage of the new climate," he added.


Videos

Photos