Clock is ticking on Horcoff

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

If the Edmonton Oilers and Shawn Horcoff are going to come to terms on a contract and avoid facing off in an arbitration hearing Thursday in Toronto, it will likely happen today.

Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson and agent Pat Brisson talked yesterday and will get together on the telephone again this morning in an attempt to strike a deal. If they can't, both parties will concentrate on preparing their arguments for a showdown in Hogtown.

"It's an important day for an early settlement," Howson said. "You can always settle when you get to the hearing, but if we're going to settle early we're going to settle (today)."

Horcoff, 26, who earned $800,000 in 2003-04, and Brisson were tendered a qualifying offer of $710,000. Brisson and Howson are now talking about the possibility of deals for one or three years.

A two-year deal isn't in the cards - that would take Horcoff to the end of the 2006-07 season, when he qualifies for unrestricted free agency. The Oilers either want a one-year package and a chance to sign Horcoff again next summer or a contract that takes him past free agency.

"We both have to move full steam ahead here and prepare for arbitration if we can't get something done," Howson said. "We have to settle this or start preparing our briefs. They're due on Tuesday."

WAIT AND SEE

Mike Peca will need a new contract after this season, one in which he'll earn $3.99 million, but the Oilers aren't in any rush to begin talks with agent Don Meehan about tying Peca up long-term before he's taken his first shift here.

Having done a five-year extension with Chris Pronger, the new CBA dictates the Oilers have to be prudent in committing to multi-year deals for players like Peca and Ryan Smyth, who is also represented by Meehan, because the salary cap will come down from $39 million if revenues drop. Tampa Bay is already in a cap bind in signing Martin St. Louis after inking Vincent Lecavalier to a four-year pact worth $27.5 million.

THE NAME GAME

Florida has a surplus of centres with Joe Nieuwendyk, Jozef Stumpel, Chris Gratton, Stephen Weiss and unsigned Olli Jokinen.

Given GM Mike Keenan's preference for veterans - he inked Stumpel on Wednesday and Gratton Aug. 12 - you have to wonder if Weiss might be the odd man out. If he is, GM Kevin Lowe will be quick to pick up the telephone and see if there's a deal to be made.

THE DOTTED LINE

-- Nothing new on Smyth's situation, although radio show host Bob Stauffer of Team 1260 created a buzz on Wednesday by suggesting No. 94 will be traded by the start of the season.

Lowe, meanwhile, said Wednesday he's confident he'll get a deal done with Smyth and Meehan. The parties already have a one-year deal on the table for slightly more than Smyth's $2.698-million qualifying offer, and continue to talk about terms of three and four years.

Discussions won't heat up until Lowe returns from Team Canada's camp in Kelowna next week.

-- The Oilers are trying to sign London Knights defenceman Danny Syvret, their third-round pick, 81st overall, in the 2005 Entry Draft, and turn him pro this season.

Syvret, 20, the Knights captain, will get a look-see at camp once he's inked a deal, but the question is where's he's going to play.

There's not a spot in the AHL with Hamilton or Des Moines, so Syvret could end up in the ECHL. The rest of the Oilers' latest draft class is ticketed back to the junior or college ranks.

-- A new deal for goaltender Mike Morrison, who split 2004-05 between the Road Runners of the AHL and Greenville of the ECHL, is in the works, but the trick will be to find a place for him to play. He won't displace Ty Conklin or Jussi Markkanen and there's no room for him in Steeltown or Iowa.

AROUND THE RINK ... indications are Kelly Buchberger, who broke into the coaching ranks as an assistant under Geoff Ward with the Road Runners last season, will join Craig MacTavish's staff at training camp ... equipment man Chris Delorey, who lost his gig with the Road Runners when the Oilers suspended their AHL franchise, will stay on the payroll by working in building operations under Rexall Place manager Craig Tkachuk.


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