SUN Hockey Pool

Sign of the times for Horcoff

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:25 PM ET

They saved the airfare and met in the middle instead of in Toronto.

The Edmonton Oilers and restricted free agent centre Shawn Horcoff avoided a salary arbitration hearing next Thursday by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1 million yesterday.

"It was a matter of us getting together and talking," said Horcoff.

"Once we did that, it came together. I think both sides realized what the number was going to be. We got there pretty quick. Both sides are happy."

Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson and agent Pat Brisson moved closer to an agreement yesterday morning, then put the finishing touches on the deal at about 3 p.m., making a showdown in Hogtown unnecessary.

Horcoff gets a raise over the $800,000 he earned in 2003-04 and the Oilers ink a player who has improved his point totals in each and every one of his four NHL seasons and is expected to play among coach Craig MacTavish's top six forwards this season.

"It was an amicable negotiation and we found the salary range very quickly," Howson said. "We ended up at the number. I think both sides were pretty reasonable."

Horcoff, 26, pencilled in behind Mike Peca for the upcoming season, had a career-high 40 points in 2003-04 after seasons of 16, 22 and 33 points. He tallied 19-27-46 with Mora in Sweden during the lockout.

"I want the chance to be able to prove myself," Horcoff said. "I'm happy that it's done and now I can focus on getting ready for camp and getting going for the season."

Howson and Brisson discussed terms of one and three years for Horcoff, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2006-07 season if he's not re-signed. The thinking on a one-year pact is it'll give both sides a clearer picture of where Horcoff sits in the pecking order going into his final season before becoming unrestricted. "It allows us to look at him this year and see where he fits and we'll have a chance to negotiate with him again," Howson said. "It's always better when you can avoid it (arbitration)."

ONE TO GO: With Horcoff a done deal, the Oilers' payroll sits at $29.3 million, with Ryan Smyth the only player returning from the 2003-04 roster who still has to be signed. With GM Kevin Lowe back from attending Team Canada's camp in Kelowna, expect talks with agent Don Meehan about a deal for Smyth - the parties have a one-year contract on the table but are exploring a multi-year deal - to intensify next week.

REUNION IN ARIZONA: With the signing of unrestricted free agent Steve Passmore to a one-year contract yesterday, Phoenix Coyotes GM Mike Barnett and head coach Wayne Gretzky now have seven former Oilers in the fold. The Great One has Passmore and Curtis Joseph in goal and forwards Petr Nedved, Mike Comrie, Boyd Devereaux, Jason Chimera and Daniel Cleary, who is unsigned.

NO THANKS: While some fans would like to see the Oilers sign an established No. 1 goaltender this season rather than go with the tandem of Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen, the team isn't shopping for one. In fact, the Oilers had no interest in Joseph, even at the bargain basement $900,000 base salary he agreed to with the Coyotes.

ON THE DIAL ... Kevin Quinn, who did Oilers' play-by-play for Sportsnet through the 2003-04 season before being let go by the network during the lockout, could resurface on pay-per-view broadcasts this season ... Gene Principe, the affable host for Oilers' broadcasts, is in the running for Quinn's old job ... Principe has done a half-dozen or so stints as a play-by-play man at the NHL level.


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